Pursuing Answers to Questions of Faith & Life

Monday, March 10, 2008

Sermon-- 3-9-08 - Vision for Fellowship

At a meeting of the American Psychological Association, Jack Lipton, a psychologist at Union College, and R. Scott Builione, a graduate student at Columbia University, presented their findings on how members of the various sections of 11 major symphony orchestra perceived each other. The percussionists were viewed as insensitive, unintelligent, and hard-of-hearing, yet fun-loving. String players were seen as arrogant, stuffy, and unathletic. The orchestra members overwhelmingly chose "loud" as the primary adjective to describe the brass players. Woodwind players seemed to be held in the highest esteem, described as quiet and meticulous, though a bit egotistical. Interesting findings, to say the least! With such widely divergent personalities and perceptions, how could an orchestra ever come together to make such wonderful music? The answer is simple: regardless of how those musicians view each other, they subordinate their feelings and biases to the leadership of the conductor. Under his guidance, they play beautiful music.
Today in the Word, June 22, 1992

Awakening a Heart for God in the Heart of Macomb with
Empowered Worship
Emboldened Witness
Expressive Ministry
Enlightening Discipleship
Expanding Fellowship

There is great confusion over what Fellowship is

Too often we think of Fellowship in relation to the Fun things that we do together. While those are important actions to be doing—we are doing them together not to create Fellowship, but because we are a Fellowship.

Fellowship is not just the things we do together—even the fun things—be they picnics, game night, lunches after church, or even the greeting time during our service.

Fellowship is the Faith we Share Together—without our faith we would not be a Fellowship—we are a fellowship

United Under the Lordship of Christ
Bound Together by the Indwelling of the Spirit of Christ
Working together for the Glory of Christ
Continually until the Return of Christ

What we do together has far less to do with our Fellowship and everything to do with Jesus Christ.

1 John 1:3--We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.
1 John 1:7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.
The Greek word for fellowship comes from a root meaning common or shared. So fellowship means common participation in something either by giving what you have to the other person or receiving what he or she has. Give and take is the essence of fellowship, and give and take must be the way of fellowship in the common life of the body of Christ.
Christian fellowship is two-dimensional, and it has to be vertical before it can be horizontal.

Here are some things that through our actions, activities and Faith—will prayerfully strengthen our Fellowship. We need a…

Vision for Fellowship that Expands Sincere Love for One Another

Acts 2:42 They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

It’s good to know that not even the early church could do things together without food. But one thing that I think is missing from our fellowship is the part about doing things together in their homes.

This fellowship both came from and produced Glad & Sincere Hearts. What is a sincere heart? What does it look like? With Sincerity, there is Trust.

In most cases, true fellowship is established and tested not in the good times, but during the difficult times, the times of suffering, the times of struggle.

2Corinthians 1:3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. 5 For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. 6 If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. 7 And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.

We need our Fellowship to Expand a Sincere love for each other—one that is not superficial

A Vision for Fellowship that Includes Testimony, Teaching and an Opportunity to See God’s Hand at Work

Acts 20:7 On the first day of the week we came together to break bread. Paul spoke to the people and, because he intended to leave the next day, kept on talking until midnight. 8 There were many lamps in the upstairs room where we were meeting. 9 Seated in a window was a young man named Eutychus, who was sinking into a deep sleep as Paul talked on and on. When he was sound asleep, he fell to the ground from the third story and was picked up dead. 10 Paul went down, threw himself on the young man and put his arms around him. "Don't be alarmed," he said. "He's alive!" 11 Then he went upstairs again and broke bread and ate. After talking until daylight, he left. 12 The people took the young man home alive and were greatly comforted.

As much as I love getting together with each of you—we must have Fellowship With Purpose

They were coming together to hear teaching & testimonies--Together to pray

They were coming together to Grow together in their faith. You and I cannot be duped into believing that a strong fellowship can be built once a week with a couple of minutes of greeting.

True fellowship requires much more than that—and it must be centered around the faith that you share. While I don’t expect every conversation to be dominated by spiritual issues—we should not let moments pass by when we can encourage each other’s faith—pray for one another, support one another.

There are many church members around the country and here that will not talk about spiritual issues with each other except at a church meeting. There are many that aren’t interested in spiritual conversations—that are bored by them, turned off by them—want to get away from them. And if that is the case, you don’t have true fellowship.

A Vision for Fellowship that Empowers God’s Love in Us

Did you know that the power of God is greater when we are together? That we understand better the Love and Grace of God when we come together as the body of Christ.

Power Together--
Epheians 3:14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge--that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

We understand God’s love more, His forgiveness more, His grace and joy more and that will translate to discipleship – translate into our ministry which will translate into our evangelism.

Alone, there’s only so much I can do—my strength and ability can only do so much and in reality—it’s actually very little. However, my strength added to yours accomplishes much more. That’s why you and I have been given the gifts of the Holy Spirit—so that the Body of Christ may be Strengthened and Empowered

Romans 12:4-8--4 Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5 so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. 6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man's gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. 7 If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; 8 if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.

1 Peter 4:10 Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms. 11 If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.

Apart from Christ—outside the fellowship we can do nothing
As an individual, you are only capable of so much—you join a group a team to contribute to something greater than you can be by yourself.
Fellowship is truest in the sense when we are contributing ourselves to something greater—but the Fellowship itself becomes greater by your joining.

A Vision for Fellowship that Encourages the Best out of Us

Hebrews 10:23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. 25 Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another--and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

If the only fulfillment of Fellowship you are getting is the few minutes of greeting during the service or even the conversation following, I can say with confidence that you are severely lacking in your fellowship with other believers. We are not the body of Christ on Sundays only. You are not getting your fill in the amount of time we are here together.

I don’t know about you, but there are few things that I really prefer to do alone. I hate playing volleyball by myself. I really hate playing catch by myself—I really hate playing chess by myself.

I also don’t like eating by myself—I don’t like talking by myself. In the same way, there are things that we need to do together—visiting each other—witnessing together—praying together—studying the Word of God together—showing patience and love and ministry to difficult people together—resisting temptation together.

We need to Spur Each other On—to Love & Good Deeds

Purposeful in our Fellowship
Unifying in our Fellowship
Strengthening in our Fellowship

Colossians 3:12 Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

Colossians 3:15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.

The Fact that Paul mentions Patience, Bearing With, Forgiving grievances—says that these things will happen—what makes us a Fellowship is how we respond.

So as a result—we must be intentionally

Protective of our Fellowship

A Vision to be Protective of Our Fellowship

Deliberate Avoidance and Breaking of Fellowship due to Pride (Loves to be first) & Gossip (maliciously) is never satisfied until it gets others to join with them

3 John 1:5 Dear friend, you are faithful in what you are doing for the brothers, even though they are strangers to you. 6 They have told the church about your love. You will do well to send them on their way in a manner worthy of God. 7 It was for the sake of the Name that they went out, receiving no help from the pagans. 8 We ought therefore to show hospitality to such men so that we may work together for the truth.

3JN 1:9 I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to be first, will have nothing to do with us. 10 So if I come, I will call attention to what he is doing, gossiping maliciously about us. Not satisfied with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers. He also stops those who want to do so and puts them out of the church.

Who’s kingdom was really hurt by all of this? John’s kingdom? No. God’s kingdom was hurt.

Fellowship that Is Expanding— Acts 2--the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.—

When We are Being the Fellowship God Called us to Be—He will Expand and Grow our Fellowship—because we will be faithfully fulfilling our calling

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