Summary: Believers are called to come together as a caring community.
Last week, we made note of the fact that as a Christian community, we are called to learn together. We pointed out that this was a key element associated with the life of the early church, who "devoted themselves to the apostle’s teaching."
Now today, I want us to think on yet another characteristic of Christian community. Not only are we called to learn, but we are called to care. We are told that they not only devoted themselves to the apostle’s teaching, but to "the fellowship."
Today, when we think of Christian fellowship, we think of meeting, greeting, and eating. However, the biblical idea of fellowship goes much deeper than a covered dish. Certainly, getting together for dinners, parties, or socials, can promote fellowship, but these kinds of events are only the beginning.
The Greek word used for fellowship here is "koinonia." In its most basic sense, koinonia means "sharing" or "participating." You see, biblical fellowship is more than a superficial friendship, or casual association. It requires sacrificial commitment. It involves a personal investment in both the spiritual and material welfare of our brothers and sisters in Christ. In other words, you are not committed to biblical fellowship if you are not practicing biblical stewardship.
Biblical fellowship is about sharing or participating in the work of improving the spiritual and material welfare of my brothers or sisters in Christ. With this in mind, we need to realize that there are three things each of us has to devote to the local fellowship of believers.
1. We can devote our time.
Now, the amount of time each of us has to give will vary from person to person, but each of us should commit ourselves to giving time to invest in the fellowship of believers.
A. Time to share - v. 46
The early believers spent time together! They spent time together worshipping God, being taught by the apostles, and being in small groups.
Here at FBC, we provide the same opportunities. First Baptist Church is intentionally organized into three types of grouping designed to promote spiritual growth and promote biblical fellowship among its members. As one involves themselves in each of these growth environments, they will be helped to develop a more intimate relationship with God as well as with their brothers and sisters in Christ. I like to call them the "three Cs".
1) The Celebration level of involvement.
These are our Sunday morning services where we worship God together. In this setting, one can make acquaintances with others, but that is about as deep a relationship you will develop with other believers, if all you do is attend worship on Sunday mornings. Our celebration services might be seen as being like the foyer to your house. A foyer is the place where you first meet others, but if you are going to develop a deeper relationship, you will need to move beyond the foyer to the living room, where you can visit and get to know each other better.
2) The Congregation level of involvement.
These are our adult, student, and children Bible Fellowships that gather on Sunday morning for Bible study as part of our Sunday School. Our main focus here is on studying the Bible together. At this level of participation, a person can move beyond making acquaintances to developing friendships. When you participate in a Bible Fellowship you move to the living room, where you can get to know other believers better.
3) The Cell level of involvement.
The final level of involvement in the church is the Cell level of interaction. This is the small group of friends who have come to know each other more intimately, and consequently, open up to one another more freely. We call these groups "cells" because, just like the cell is the most basic unit of the human body, these small groups are the most basic unit in the body of Christ. At this level, folks move beyond making acquaintances and developing friendships, to experiencing family.
Some people are uncomfortable with the intimacy of a small group, so these groups don’t always form spontaneously. That’s why our church has Life Groups. Through our Life Group ministry, we systematically encourage the formation of small groups. Most people, once they have gotten involved in a Life Group, find it to be a tremendous blessing. When you participate in a Life Group, you have moved beyond the foyer and the living room to the kitchen, where best friends open up to one another and discuss their lives in a warm, caring, and safe atmosphere.
B. Time to serve.
As important as it is to spend time sharing your life with fellow believers, it is equally important to spend time serving alongside fellow believers. Which brings me to the second thing we have to devote to the fellowship.