Summary: Fellowship as a purpose of the church
Intro: This morning, we want to talk about the purpose of the church. We’ve been talking about this the last few weeks. When we think about the church, we remember that God set up the church. He gave a Great Commandment: to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, and strength. He also gave the Great Commission: To go and make disciples, to baptize them, and to train them.
We find in these two commands the purpose of the church. We talked in previous weeks about worship: to express our love for God and to celebrate his presence among us. We talked about evangelism: to share the message of God’s free salvation to everyone we meet. We talked about discipleship: to help members of Christ’s church to become spiritually mature. Just as a father provides teaching, correction, and tenderness, as a church we need to help one another to grow spiritually.
This morning we want to talk about the step between evangelism and discipleship: Fellowship. Once a person comes to faith in Christ, they don’t automatically sign up for a discipleship program. They need to get connected to the body in some way. That is where “fellowship” comes in.
Now, often when we think of fellowship, we think of food and fun. I think one of the churches I worked in during grad school exemplified this well. Calvary Community Church in Statesville, NC had a handle on what we traditionally think of as “fellowship”. They didn’t have “pot-luck dinners” - they had “dinner on the grounds.” Basically the same thing, but there was not “luck” about it. They spread out big tables: normally about 4 tables of meats and veggies, and two tables of desserts: and all this for a church of about 100 people!
They knew food: they also knew fun - they had a softball league in the summer that about half the church came out for. The would hoot and holler and cheer and everyone enjoyed themselves, even when they lost.
Now, listen to me this morning! Fellowship is more than food and fun. We want to look at what this purpose of fellowship is REALLY all about. In the Great Commission, fellowship is seen by baptism. What is baptism? To find out, let’s look at the scriptures. In 1 Peter 3:21 we see the example of Noah, being saved in the ark, and it says this is a picture of baptism. It says, “baptism is not a removal of dirt from your body, it is an appeal to God from a clean conscience.” Baptism is a form of identification. We are baptized as a sign for all the world to see that we are placing our faith in Jesus Christ. Romans 6 tells us that we are buried with Christ in baptism, and raised to walk in newness of life. Baptism is an act that shows we are dying to our self and willing to live for Christ. So, baptism is an act of fellowship, an act of identification in the body of Christ.
Let’s talk about what FELOWSHIP really is. Eph. 2:19 LB - Now you are no longer strangers to God and foreigners to heaven, but you are members of God’s very own family . . . and you belong in God’s household with every other Christian.
In our society today, we still show the world we are followers of Christ through baptism. I wonder this morning if there’s anyone here who has never been baptized. We practice immersion, going down into the water, and coming out to signify the change in our lives. See me after the service if you have never been baptized, but would like to be obedient in this area.
We identify with the church as a whole through baptism: we identify with this local church through membership. We see the early church was connected by local congregations.
There are three parts to the Christian life:
Believing - Acts 16:31 - believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved
Belonging - In Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the
others. Rom 12:5
Becoming - Rom 8:29 - From the very beginningGod decided that those who came to him . . . should BECOME like his son. (LB)
Our belonging is accomplished through fellowship in the body, through membership and commitment with one another. Membership is a step of commitment whereby one says, “You can count on me: I’m on board.” It’s sort of like the difference of someone who’s on a cruise and someone who is a crew member. Churches all across america today don’t stress the importance of membership enough. Not just the idea of joining the church, but the idea of commitment to the church. There an 80/20 principle. 20% of the people do 80% of the work. Are you in the 20 or the 80? Commitment and membership is a step to get into the 20%.