Do you have relationships that need rehab? There is help! Fellowship!
In the very first account of how the earliest Christians interacted with one another, Acts 2:42-47, we read that they devoted themselves to the fellowship? What is fellowship?
That word “fellowship” in verse 42 is defined by Louw & Nida as “an association involving close mutual relations and involvement.”
This passage describes how these first Christians practiced fellowship. They clearly had close mutual relations and involvement. Their relationships went far beyond just seeing people for an hour or so on a Sunday morning at church. They didn’t have Sunday morning church. They had no church building. Instead we read that they were together often, meeting in the temple in Jerusalem (presumably for larger group gatherings), and then sharing meals in homes. Everyday.
When you read the whole description, they were sharing not just meals, but their whole lives.
Jump ahead a few chapters to Acts 4:32-37, and here we see more information about how the first Christians shared life together. People would sell off property in order to raise cash to help those in need! They saw none of their possessions as exclusively theirs, but as capital they liquidate if needed to help the suffering.
From Acts 2 to Acts 4 our best estimates are that only a few months have gone by from the very first day of the church. That means Jesus was still very, very close in their hearts and minds. And what are these first Christians doing? They are following his teaching. We’ve seen how they are interacting with one another. Why did they do this? Jesus taught them to! What did he teach them?
In the final hours before he was arrested, put on trial and killed, John 13:34-35 tells us about the last teaching that Jesus gave his disciples: “A new command I give you: love one another as I have loved you. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, that you love one another.”
Relationships in the church, Jesus taught, should be clearly known by love. Can it be said of you that you are loving the people in your church? How do we practice this love?
In Romans 12:9-21 Paul says “weep with those who weep, mourn with those who mourn.” We need to walk with people through the difficult aspects life. We need to be there for them to talk, we need to listen, we need to allow them to face sorrow knowing that people who love them are right by their side.
In that same passage Paul also says “rejoice with those who rejoice.” Loving relationships include celebration. Lots of celebrations happen for married people (bridal and baby showers, etc). But what about celebrating people and events that would be considered unconventional in our culture? The church needs to celebrate singles as well, when you get jobs, new houses, or achieve accomplishments. We also need to spectate at your hobbies, your sports, your extracirriculars. We churches should throw more parties!
We can also look to deepen relationships. Like the early church, one excellent way to deepen relationships is to have people over to your homes. Get to know them. Start with the people in your Sunday School class. Invite them to your home! Maybe then move on to the people in your small group. Who are you doing life with? Who are you caring for in ways that push your comfort zone a little bit? Call them, text them, email them, go out for coffee. Take the initiative to care for them. Fellowship has to go beyond the structured programs.
Certainly not all people and all personalities aren’t going to be best of friends. Some personalities connect more easily with others. For example, Jesus, though he had hundreds of followers, focused on twelve. Within that 12, he focused on his inner circle of three: Peter, James and John. And even within that three, there was one who was called his Beloved, his best friend, John. But Jesus was certainly focusing on others, doing life with them, sharing meals, talking through real life issues, and he did that for more than 1 or 2 hours a week.
Are you doing life together with people like the early church did, like Jesus did?
In this Growth Process sermon series, I said in the last sermon that Jesus doesn’t just want Sunday morning worshipers, he wants people to worship with their entire lives. That means moving on to Fellowship.
But Fellowship isn’t just hanging out with people on a Sunday morning for 15 minutes, or even going to the church picnic or Family Night. The kind of Fellowship that Jesus desires for his followers must be marked by “love one another”.
I’m not saying that you have to be best friends with everyone in your church family. That’s not possible, even for a congregation that is less than 50 people. But it is possible to get really close to a smaller group.
So have you moved beyond being a Sunday morning worshiper to becoming a fellowshipper?
How does a disciple of Jesus move beyond just Sunday morning fellowship into “love one another” and “life together”?
Examine your life and your relationships. Pour your life into one other. Love and reach out to those who are more difficult for your personality to love. And to those who you are already in relationship with, seek to go deeper, interact more. Pray for and encourage one another on a new level.