1) Fellowship – Fellowship is where we put into practice what it says in God’s Word.
You’re a member of LBC, now what?
What Fellowship is Not
We fellowship, right? Eat, play games, eat some more? How many Christian groups do you know that have the word “fellowship” in it? Many churches have “fellowship” in their name.
In our day and age, fellowship is a very diluted word. It’s more than gathering together and hanging out and opening the Bible once in a while. It’s more than going bowling together on Friday nights because you are lonely and want to hang out with your friends. The church is not a frat, it’s not a social club. The church is not a company with a mission statement where as long as we execute and keep everyone happy and our numbers are consistently on the rise, then we are successful. Fellowship is something entirely different.
At many churches, you join the church and the leaders put the org chart hat on and try to plug you in somewhere. There are pre-defined ministries like children’s ministry or committees like the welcome committee or there are jobs like ushers or the evangelism director. There is nothing wrong with having defined ministries and committees and roles, and we will need to have a more clearly defined structure as we grow. However, even if we were large, I wouldn’t want the first thing we do when a newcomer walks through our doors is to plug them into one of these ministries and give them a title with a function.
I see those things as secondary. The church is not a company with an org chart and departments and job titles.
Several Compelling Metaphors for the Church
I think there are several compelling visions or metaphors for church. We are the bride of Christ, the house of God, a family, the temple of God built with living stones.
Body of Christ
One in particular that I find helpful is the body metaphor. We are the body of Christ.
Read Rom 12:3-8.
3 For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. 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.
We Belong to One Another – Relational Language
Various gifts are mentioned, but those are secondary. More fundamental than the exercising of gifts is v5 – so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member BELONGS to all the others. Belongs to, belonging – my child belongs to me because I’m his father. We belong to our Heavenly Father because He created us. Belonging – this is relational language.
We are one body. You could say this is my arm but my arm does not function apart from the rest of my body. Otherwise, it would be a severed limb and that’s grotesque. If my arm is detached from the rest of my body, I might refer to it as my arm in the moment that it was severed–Oh, my arm!! But a month from now, I would no longer be referring to my detached limb as my arm. At that point, it would be no more than a chunk of rotting flesh. How many Christians live like severed limbs? They are not connected to anyone else. No one else can claim them. They are not really part of the body of Christ in any practical sense.
Fellowship or church is where we belong to one another. 1 Cor 12:20-26 on your handout uses the same relational language.
Our basic posture toward one another is brother, sister, I need you. I couldn’t conceive of doing church without you because God brought you into my life for a reason. Look at 1 Cor 12:24 —
1 Cor 12
24 while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it…
God has put the body together. God put this particular body, LBC in Pasadena, together. This means, it is no accident that you are here. Why did God bring this particular group of people together?
So that together we can learn to have equal concern for each other. A couple from our church is moving into a new home this week. If they are moving, I am moving. If they need help, I’m there. We can say we are one body but if you are only concerned about yourself and your concern for others here is never expressed, then you are only part of this body in theory. Our concern needs to be expressed concretely. If one part suffers, we all suffer. That’s not theory. It means you actually feel the pain of another. Actually going to that person and offering a shoulder to cry on. If one part is honored, we all rejoice. We go to that person and say, let’s celebrate. Your joy is my joy.
This means, practically, you are going to have to prioritize church activities over many other things. We’re all busy. With school, with clubs, with jobs, with family and kids. We’re all busy. But we gather together because we believe spiritual life trumps all of my other obligations. How else can we show the world and prove to ourselves that Christ is my Lord and I would do anything for him? It starts with gathering and prioritizing this group. The early church met every day (Acts 2:46). They met because Christ was everything to them. They dropped everything. Of course, they lived in fear of real persecution and imminent death so they needed to gather to muster enough courage to face each day.
In America, we’re comfortable. Gathering with believers is an option. We do it when it’s convenient for us. If we are busy with school, school becomes the most important thing. Even clubs for many believers is more important than spiritual gatherings. Going on a recreational trip with friends often overrides church obligations. I am not saying we have to literally sell all of our possessions and move into the church. Things come up and you have to miss church activities. I get it. We try to keep our meetings to a minimum. Sunday service, prayer meeting and now a monthly bible study.
The first 2 meetings–Sunday service and prayer meetings–I am pleased to say everyone for the most part is taking those seriously as shown by their regular attendance. Discipleship is voluntary. It depends on where you are spiritually and your schedule and your desire. The rest is on you. Evangelizing, leading small groups, book clubs, that’s all on you. But as much as possible, let’s prioritize meetings that involve this group, where we are strengthening the core of the church. Okay, that’s our hope and prayer, but we are all adults. You are free to choose. I am not going to issue you a fine and make you pay extra offering if you skip a Bible study. All I’m saying is let’s prioritize church as much as possible: Sunday service, prayer meeting and a monthly bible study.
The body of Christ metaphor reminds us that we are in this together. The members here are like body parts. Having an equal concern for one another, rejoicing together, suffering together, building relationships – these are the like ligaments and tendons connecting body parts. The church is an interconnected web of relationships.