Gospel Communities | Devoted Rightly 1.3 | "Fellowship"
“And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” – Acts 2:42
Here is our final of four post this week regarding GC reorientation.
The disciples prioritized the word of God, breaking bread, and prayer. Lastly, we must address a somewhat obvious point: they devoted themselves to fellowship, to being together as the church. While fellowship will be addressed more thoroughly under the next principle, a few short points must be made as we finish our discussion of devotion.
The word fellowship has been used in a number of different contexts and means many things to many people. However, the word used in the original language emphasizes a particular type of togetherness – an intimate bond that unites followers of God. To this end, it is the duty of the church to be devoted to providing venues for this to take place. Anthem is to provide venues, through weekly gatherings of gospel communities, for this intimate togetherness to be initiated. We are to be welcoming and hospitable, modeling in our words and deeds the inclusive call of Christ – all who labor and are heavy-laden can find rest through relationship with Christ, and we must strive to provide a place for this journey to begin (Matthew 11:25-30).
Our devotion to fellowship must complement this inclusion with adherence to our calling to more of Christ. Notice that the original language emphasizes an intimacy between believers. It is well and good that members of the group feel loved, supported, advocated for, and protected. This should always be true of every gospel community. Intimacy, however, also requires consistency and growth.
Remember that the word devotion refers to a continual practice. Continual does not mean meeting just once a week, if we are even attending our communities that much. While we as a church try to provide frequent times for fellowship, the truth of the matter is that part of this devotion to fellowship must take place outside of the weekly meeting. Our intimacy with one another must be consistent, which requires outside initiation. If you feel on the outside, let somebody know. Invite someone over for dinner. Go take a walk with someone after work. Arrange a playdate for your children and the children of another family. Visit with members of other gospel communities frequently. If gospel community leaders could orchestrate lives in a way that ensured all people always felt connected, they would, but it is simply not possible, nor would it be healthy. It is definitely the group’s job to seek out relationship with you, and it is definitely your job to seek out relationship with others in your gospel community and in the church. The intimate bond of biblical fellowship will never be strong if we are passive in our pursuit of deeper friendship and connection.
Secondly, intimacy requires growth. Jesus calls all of us to receive rest from him, and often times this takes place when we first time to community. We are served, cared for, loved, and supported, and of course this rest and service should be experienced by us if we are a part of a healthy community. However, there must come a moment of growth, for each of us, where we come to our gatherings not with a heart to receive, but a heart to serve. Jesus does call us to rest, but he also calls us to be like him, the Son of Man who came not to be served, but to serve (Mark 10:45). Jesus tells us that if we are to follow him, we are to deny ourselves, pick up our crosses, and follow him (Matthew 16:24). Jesus tells us that if we lose our life, we will find life (Matthew 10:39). At some point, we must consider the love and support we have received and we must seek, by the power of the Spirit, inasmuch as we are able, to turn around and serve others in the same way. Only if we embrace the call to serve one another as Christ served us, providing the loving venues we once experienced, will we take part in embodying the deep bond of fellowship that we all long to share in.
This service is a calling, not a suggestion. This love is a commandment, not a mention. This must happen. We always have access to the throne of grace, we always have the comfort of the Spirit, we should always have the love of brothers and sisters, and we are to enjoy this fellowship of God and others all the days of our lives. However, will we rest content to take and take some more, with no holy burden to reciprocate? If no desire to serve others in real, tangible, and sacrificial ways exists in our hearts, we must take serious steps in prayer, fasting, and confession before the Lord. He gives more grace, and loves you just the same, but there is significantly more of Christ to be found in sacrificial service than in complacent consumption.
In summary, our fellowship, our deep, intimate bond as followers of Christ, must be bookended through consistency and growth in service. We will cover more details of fellowship when we discuss being together frequently.
The disciples devoted themselves to the word of God, to prayer, to communion, and to fellowship. May we be followers of their example, and may we thusly look more like our Lord and Savior through our obedience.