It was announced back at the end of October that the church I had been serving on staff at would close it’s doors on December 30, 2018. And so it did.
This, of course, left my family wondering what we were going to do in this next season of life. Would we find another church? Would we wander a little and try several churches out? Would we travel and visit people we haven’t seen in forever and attend their churches?
We just didn’t really know.
Friday night, I went to a friends house for a gathering of believers that we have been gathering with off and on since our college years. This group of friends has become more of a family. They have been a part of so much of our lives, and are a constant support. They truly represent the beauty of the Church, and for that I am thankful.
My friend, Richard, I have known and served in ministry along side of, since 2002. A 17 year brotherhood. And that night we spoke of the struggles I have been through these last 7.5 years and especially the last 2.
He encouraged me and prayed with me. We spoke of what my family was going to do next. And how we didn’t know what we were going to do. And he encouraged me to take some time to detox with my family, and seek God’s direction.
After leaving there that night, I had a long ride home, which is usually where I do most of my thinking and praying. And God put it on my heart to establish my family as the Church. (Not that it will stop with them, but rather start with them.)
So today, my family decided to take a step and conduct a Church gathering in our home with our family alone. There were 6 of us gathered around the table.
Our gathering included:
- A meal (fellowship)
- Scripture reading
- Discussion and teaching AND…
- And some more prayer, specifically for healing over my wife and youngest child who have been struggling through a nasty cold for a couple of weeks.
The morning started out with me heading to the grocery store to gather the ingredients to make some home made sausage, egg, and cheese biscuits.
As I drove, I began to ponder and actually get excited about this gathering. I haven’t felt excited about “Church” in a long time. Mostly just frustrated and hurt.
But today was different. I was looking forward to this day.
I wandered the aisles at the grocery store, considering what my family would enjoy most for a late breakfast/early lunch. Gathered them into my basket, made for the checkout, and then headed home.
I intentionally drove by several church facilities on my home. I prayed for them as I drove by.
Once I got home, the family got to work serving one another through cleaning up the kitchen together and preparing the table. I prepared the meal.
My oldest son set the table, and when the food was ready we all sat down, blessed the meal, and then we took part in a meal together.
After we ate, I pulled out the Bible, and we began a discussion on what the early Church looked like. I began with the ascension of Jesus, talked through the upper room and Pentecost, continued into Peters first street sermon, and finished with the early church forming and gathering in Acts 2:42, which says:
And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.
I broke down what the early church devoted themselves to:
- Teachings of the apostles
- Breaking of Bread (a meal, and communion)
- And prayer
One of the questions I asked to my family was, what is fellowship?
My kids almost in unison said, “It is when you welcome guests at the church during worship, and shaking hands…”
My heart sank…
THE DEFINITION OF FELLOWSHIP
I have been in the formal ministry setting for over 16 years, and my children have been in the church their entire lives, and their concept of fellowship was that time between worship and the message where we shake hands and say hello to one another.
I am ashamed to admit that I have failed my children to some degree.
But, it got me thinking…how much of the Church truly understands what fellowship is as it relates to the church? How many people honestly believe it is that time between song and word where we shake hands and say hello?
As I examine the Church Body across America, I would dare say a great many do not understand it. Perhaps I haven’t truly understood it either. Perhaps the way we have “designed church” has perpetuated this mindset. Perhaps not.
Whatever it was, I wanted to make sure my family began to truly understand what biblical fellowship looked like.
So, I took out the Noah Webster 1828 Dictionary, and looked up the word “Fellowship” and here is the definition that I found:
Companionship; society; consort; mutual association of persons on equal and friendly terms; familiar intercourse. (Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness. Ephesians 5) Men are made for society and mutual fellowship.
Association; confederacy; combination.
Partnership; joint interest; as fellowship in pain.
Company; a state of being together.
Communion; intimate familiarity. 1 John 1.
Thank you, Noah Webster!
As we read the definition, I watched my kids light bulbs coming on. As we discussed what fellowship was, and gave examples from our own life, they began to nod in understanding.
This, friends…is fellowship. What Noah Webster described is what the Church OUGHT to be doing. Look at the passages he posted (Eph. 5 and 1 John 1) and see what the Bible says is fellowship. Look at Acts 2:42-47 and see what the early Church was doing “in fellowship” and ask yourself, does the modern Church look anything like this? Is this something we can see again?
I think the answer is sadly, no, this is not what the modern Church exemplifies, but yes, we can see this again.
The reality is, fellowship is the Church doing LIFE together.
Too many churches exist where people can come and hide and not connect. There is not accountability, or follow up, or follow through. You just walk in, sit through an hour of music and a good speech, and then go home unchanged.
But the early Church walked out life together. And it happened every day of the week, not just during a one hour feel good meeting on a Sunday morning.
I know the excuses that will follow:
- I’m too busy.
- I work all the time.
- The kids have too much going on.
- I don’t need more on my plate than I already have.
But these are excuses that view the Church gathering as a burden, rather than a blessing. But the gathering of the Church…when it is doing life together…when we truly FELLOWSHIP with one another…changes from a burden to a blessing. It becomes something we long to be around and engage in.
And this is exactly what God had in mind for His Bride.
So while I still feel somewhat ashamed that I have not done a good job of teaching my children the true meaning of biblical fellowship, I am honored and excited that I have an opportunity to correct that.
And while I correct it in my own home, I encourage you to do the same in your home…and in your local church gathering.
The Bible has a lot to say about it, and gives us a good number of pictures for what fellowship looks like…lets seek to emulate the early Church and God’s plan for the Church rather than emulate what the culture around us thinks the Church ought to look like.