Posts tagged ‘fellowship’

The Top Four Church Activities

What should “doing church” together look like? Many in the modern Christian community have pondered this and tried to pattern themselves after what they see in the New Testament. Unfortunately, with the consumer mindset of many in the West, this model is considered too basic and incapable of attracting new members to your congregation. There is a stark difference between “make disciples” and “attract people to come to church”.   But that is another subject for another time.

In the Old Testament, when giving the Law to Moses, God was very specific about exactly what should be done, what materials were to be used, what order things were to be done in, and how everything passed muster as being an acceptable act of worship. This is something Nadab and Abihu apparently forgot about in their drunken stupor before God literally fired them!

But we have no such list of specific acts and exact instructions for worship in the New Testament Church. What we have instead are principles and categories of worship that can be applied. We now have the Word written on our hearts instead of engraved on tablets of stone.  Still, there are outlines of what the early church did in worship that we can adapt for our use. The first mention of this is the general categories listed in Acts 2:42 laying out what their priorities were. Since they had the Apostles to consult directly, these categories should weigh heavily on our minds when deciding what constitutes New Testament worship.

And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.” (Acts 2:42)

Many in the past have said there were five acts of worship authorized in the New Testament. But upon close examination, those five things fit easily into the categories of activity in Acts 2:42.  In fact, some of them fit across categories!  Here is what the Apostles made a priority in the new Church in Jerusalem:

  1. The Apostle’s Doctrine
  2. Fellowship
  3. Breaking of Bread
  4. Prayers

When the church today “continues steadfastly in the Apostles’ Doctrine”, they do so by both teaching what it contained and doing what it commanded. The teaching portion can be further divided into internal and external teaching.  Part of the commission given to the Apostles in Matthew 28 was to “make disciples, teaching them”. They were not only to carry the message of salvation to the lost, but to make disciples by “teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you.”  Another way this teaching was to occur was in their singing (Colossians 3:16). We would do well to consider carefully what the songs we use in worship are teaching, and ensure it is teaching the Apostles’ Doctrine.

Fellowship has sadly become social activity in many, if not most, churches. It is relegated to a human, not a spiritual, activity. But the New Testament does not support this. Fellowship, or Koinonia in the Greek, was much more than social interaction. It is supposed to be a spiritual activity where we encourage one another and build each other up in the faith. Our shared covenant bond with God and with each other makes fellowship a truly spiritual activity. To relegate fellowship to just social time and make it something we don’t intentionally facilitate is to fail to follow the New Testament pattern. When we realize what fellowship should truly be, the arguments about whether fellowship time should be facilitated by spending money on a fellowship hall or a small kitchen become moot. A love feast, aka pot luck, where all food is held in common and shared is a spiritual act of worship where we please God and edify each other.

Breaking of Bread has two meanings. In many places it definitely refers to sharing the Lord’s Supper. When we participate in this act of worship every week, we not only remind ourselves of the sacrifice on the cross that made our redemption possible, but we also are engaging in another act of fellowship.

“The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the

communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?  For we, though many, are one bread and one body; for we all partake of that one bread.” (1 Corinthians 10:16-17)

As part of our practice of spiritual fellowship, we also break bread when we share common meals together. Once again, this is not a social function, but is rather a spiritual time of bonding and unity within the Body of Christ.

Prayers are something that we should be doing in all three of the other categories. We pray for open minds and hearts when we teach the Apostles’ doctrine. We pray for the Holy Spirit to work in the lives of each of our brothers and sisters in Christ during times of fellowship, singing, giving, and discipleship. Prayer is the lifeblood of the Christian life, when combined with the Apostles’ doctrine. Otherwise we will not know how to pray in accordance with the will of God.

In seeking to follow after the teaching and practice of the apostolic church, let us always remember the importance and spiritual significance of all four of these categories of church life.

The Fellowship of the Refreshed

Have you ever been around someone who left you feeling refreshed? A special brother or sister in the Lord whose name instantly brings a warm smile to your face? Wouldn’t we all want to be thought of that way? Paul had a brother like that in the church at Colossae named Philemon. At the beginning of this little epistle, Paul puts it this way:

I thank my God always when I remember you in my prayers, because I hear of your love and of the faith that you have toward the Lord Jesus and for all the saints, and I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective for the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ. For I have derived much joy and comfort from your love, my brother, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you. (Philemon 1:4-7 ESV)

There are a couple of keys to living like Philemon that I would like to bring to your attention in hopes that we can emulate them.

1. Philemon’s love and faith were first of all in God. The priority in his life was his vertical relationship with God, and because of that, his relationships with his fellows believers were right, too.

2. Philemon made a point of sharing his faith. We should not jump to the conclusion that this just means telling others about Jesus, although that is a part of it. His faith, according to the context here, was also shared with his fellow believers. He was living out Hebrews 10:25 and not just showing up for each assembly, but never missing the opportunity to provoke others to love and good works. The word for “sharing” in the original Greek is koinonia, and is translated in other verses as “fellowship” or “communion” and speaks of a mutual interchange of encouragement.

3. Because of the first two things, Philemon was a joy and a comfort to others. He was truly a refreshing man to be around. That sort of lifestyle is contagious and benefitted the rest of the church.

So why are we told about this particular brother? Because I believe we need to be reminded that, while attendance at assemblies of the congregation are important, it is not enough to just show up. It is also not our aim to show up in order to see what we can get out of them. Rather we are to be motivated by love for God and our brothers and sisters in Christ to come and refresh one another. We are to live out our faith in fellowship with one another, in true koinonia fashion, and so build each other up in Christ.

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Have You Prepared A Room?

Jesus and his disciples had come to Jerusalem, as the Law required, to eat the Passover together. He knew this Passover would be the last he would share with them, and desired a place apart from the crowds which followed Him everywhere, where He would have intimate time to share what was to be the first Lords Supper meal. Mark describes it this way:
“And he sent two of his disciples and said to them, “Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him, and wherever he enters, say to the master of the house, ‘The Teacher says, Where is my guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ And he will show you a large upper room furnished and ready; there prepare for us.” And the disciples set out and went to the city and found it just as he had told them, and they prepared the Passover.” (Mark 14:13-16 ESV)

Just like with his disciples today, Jesus desired a special place in which to commune with us and participate in a memorial feast. Our hearts must be a room prepared for His presence.
Our hearts and minds need to be focused on Christ and what He has done for us. This is not something that will just happen on its own. We have to be intentional about it. By our preparation we show that this is quality time, where we can slow down and meditate on Him and the sacrifice of love that was given for us.

With the preparation completed, Jesus was able to take time to establish the feast that would symbolize the sacrifice that is the basis of our fellowship together. He would show them symbols that would soon be a weekly reminder so they would never forget.

And so it is fitting that the church, brought together by the covenant pictured in the bread and fruit of the vine, would also be born in an upper room. The disciples returned as directed to Jerusalem to wait for their enduement with power from on high.
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8 ESV)
So there they were in the upper room in one accord, praying for the promised Holy Spirit. This same Spirit was the one that the Lord had promised would lead them into all truth (John 14:26).
“When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting.” (Acts 2:1, 2 NKJV). What had begun I. A room now filled the entire house, and would soon fill the earth. The truth would go forth, the Spirit bearing witness with signs and wonders to the authenticity of the message they were bringing (Hebrews 2:4). How fitting that the room that witnessed the establishment of the meal that would serve as a reminder of the covenant we have with Christ would be the place where the church was born and the Apostles would receive the Holy Spirit that would lead them into all the truth that would sustain her. And that truth is with us today, in the New Testament that was written through them.

So as you prepare your inner room, like that first upper room, for the Lords Supper, meditate not just on the new and everlasting covenant in His blood, but upon the communion that we have in that covenant and the Apostles doctrine that we have received in the New Testament for us today. Make your heart furnished and ready for communion with Christ.

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