Much has been written lately about the stagnation of the church in America. I don’t really see the evidence of that opinion in the many congregations that are healthy and growing, but I’m aware that there are bodies of believers out there who have felt the pain of broken ties within their church family. We should first start out by understanding that there will be roadblocks to any gathering of human beings, especially if we are gathering for religious purposes. We all have our own quirks and strongly held beliefs and opinions, and at times those differences cause a rift in our relationships with one another. There are many churches though who still seem to grow and today’s post will focus on why.
“And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.”
This picture of the 1st century church is such an insightful view into why they experienced so much growth. Even in the midst of an oppressive environment such as the one the Pharisees and Roman Empire created, we see that the early Christians were glad to gather together in the name of Jesus. Several things they did are immediately apparent:
- They were devoted to learn from the apostles.
- They were dedicated to pray for one another and their mission.
- They were strengthened by witnessing miraculous sings from the apostles.
- They communed with each other around the Lord’s Supper.
- They shared their possessions so that all needs were met.
- They were happy while praising God.
What seems to tie all of these activities together was their insistence on fellowship. This was not just a gathering of Christians on the first day of the week to worship for a few hours. There did not seem to be a schedule or order of worship that dictated how they would spend their time. Instead, the early Christian church placed importance on fellowship and being together. They made it a point to not just talk like the church but act like the church.
I think it’s perfectly clear why the Lord was adding to their number daily. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of such a powerful movement (The Way) when it was so evident in the lives of the people? We can look at any healthy church today and find a group who places fellowship as one of its top concerns. Fellowship is what keeps a family strong and the leaders of a congregation should create ample opportunities for their flock to experience it. When a new Christian is added to the church by God, we should be there to welcome them with open arms, ready to help them make the lifelong transition to being a servant of Christ. If we allow new believers to just be another number added to the membership roll and if there are no genuine friendships made with that person, they will never feel like they belong and just fall back into the world. The souls of the saved should be far more important to us than that!
The job of fellowship doesn’t just fall to the elders though. It is the responsibility of every member of Christ’s church to be active in what the congregation is trying to do. Can we attend every event and participate in every ministry? Of course not and that’s a recipe for disaster anyway. But we can definitely make more time for our spiritual family.
As an example, my congregation holds a Fall Festival/ Pig Roast every year and every year it’s a time that many people look forward to. It’s a great time to just be outdoors in God’s beautiful creation, enjoying one another’s company, and eating delicious food. Sounds like a day not to be missed right? Well, this last year’s festival was one of our lowest turnouts ever. Why? Because people are so used to packing their schedules full that they have no time to do church-related activities outside of worship. Kids have soccer practice and wives have ladies days out shopping and dads sure don’t want to miss the big college football game.
The example I see in Acts 2 was that self was set aside for the good of the church body. Every day was a day for the Lord, not just Sunday. People knew about the needs of others because they actually knew them personally from all the time they spent together. Fellowship is the glue that holds us together and our busyness is beginning to chip away at that bond.
Let’s not let the world or Satan convince us to just look out for ourselves. Let’s not give in to the lie that we must have a full schedule to be happy and content. And let’s not just save time for God and his church for a particular day of the week. Let’s make everything we do center around our love for God and others and I’m convinced that the Lord will add to our number daily those who are being saved.