The Church in Fellowship
This study is from our series on ministry, the how, why and what of it.
Here is a look at the fellowship of believers, what it is and how it is done in God's economy. This is a foundational look at this subject and can keep you from much confusion in the future.
(Mat 18:20 NKJV) "For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them."
What are the key elements here?
· More than one person
· Together in HIS name
· He being in their midst
Does “He is in the midst of them” mean by His Spirit within us? Yes, but also by His manifestation of Himself in power and revelation to those assembled. This is the Heart of Christian Fellowship
Let's look at another verse:
(Acts 2:41, 42 NKJV) Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them. And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.
Now we are beginning to see something of the heart of these people and their intent in meeting together. Notice in the next few verses some of the things that are evident in a fellowship.
(Acts 2:46 NKJV) So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart,
(Acts 2:47 NKJV) praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.
(Acts 20:20 NKJV) "how I kept back nothing that was helpful, but proclaimed it to you, and taught you publicly and from house to house,
(Acts 20:2NKJV) "testifying to Jews, and also to Greeks, repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.
Look at their hearts and then where they met together. They were in "one accord". In one accord about what? Their love for Jesus. In all these situations the people had come to know Jesus, they had fallen in love with Him and they wanted to be with others who loved Him also in the same way as they loved Him. That is "church"!
"Church" is believers who love Jesus sharing together in that love with Him and with each other but always about and around HIM. Jesus is the ONLY point for fellowship of real believers. True fellowship is one minded agreement in our love for Jesus. When we come together in that mind, He is "in our midst" and we are open to His manifesting Himself any way He chooses. Now that means all of us individually being of the same mind as all the others in our love for the Lord. HE and only He is our focal point…I mean that literally.
When we come together only because of Him and to share in our love for Him that puts us in a frame of mind to really worship Him and to be open to the moving of His Spirit. When that happens we WILL see the things we long to experience because His love will pour out, in, through and upon us, individually and corporately. All the rest is mere form and usually man’s attempt to seize control of what God is trying to do for those who love Him.
Anything less is mere religion. No man is in charge and no one is the focus of the meeting except Jesus.
Now, they gave themselves to the Apostles' doctrine and prayers. That looks like activity or "liturgy", it is not. It is hungry hearts receiving from the Lord what He shares in a given time and place. He uses those who are yielded to Him and anointed for special ministry to the believers as HE wills.
Where did they meet? They met in homes and in the Temple. Notice they met in Solomon's porch, which was part of the Temple; they also met house to house. The place is not important, anywhere two or more gather in His name He is there to minister to us and to receive ministry of worship from us.
So “church” is "Bible study" in your home with fellow believers or two people praying together on a street corner or a group having worship and fellowship in a park or in some building.
(Acts 2:4NKJV) And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.
Breaking of bread is two things, eating a meal together and what we would call "communion", often it happened at the same time. Remember the “last supper”, that was a meal and the Apostles followed His example a closely as possible in all things.
What is the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship? They “continued” in it, what was it? They consistently, in one accord, listened and received revelation...just as some do on the Internet chat room. The rest of the time they walked it out in the world, they lived their reality in Christ and they gathered together to learn about their reality in Christ. Then they went out and lived more of it, and so on and so on and so on. That is God's "church" and His idea of a REAL church.
Do we need a “new” move of God?
We hear a lot these days about the "new wave" or the "new" anointing or "new" power God is releasing at such and such a time. That is nothing more than God doing exactly what He did here in Acts, what He has been doing ever since. What happens is that sometimes a few people actually catch on and live in it until someone decides to take over and "perfect" what God is doing. This apparent ebbing and flowing seems to be "moves" of God. A few "get it" and live for awhile in His purpose and provision until someone "takes charge" and turns it into a marketable "movement" at which time God gets pushed out and man moves in. At that point is seems to wane again.
God hasn’t stopped His work in the Earth, man just chooses to go on his own strength and pride. The inevitable result is what we see today in many “dead churches” or shallow programs that started pure and became perverted into works of flesh.
“What shall we do?”
How do we avoid doing that "marketing"? We avoid the mistakes by never taking charge, by never letting anyone else take charge, by being single minded to just worship Jesus. We keep it pure when we determine to just "show up and breathe" and let Jesus be Lord all the time. We avoid being seduced into building ministries and programs and buildings. We do it by simply meeting together in one mind to love Him, keeping Jesus the ONLY point of our lives and fellowship.
We must avoid allowing the focus to be shifted to man, by being just like these early church Christians. Remember, this is not about us; it is about Jesus Who He IS and what He HAS done.
What is our focus and purpose?
Some of you may find this a bit confusing, what if you have family members who are ministers? Am I saying we should not have an organized church? I'm saying man has perverted God's perfect order of things. If they are in a church building preaching the Truth then Bravo! The key is where their ministry and vision is focused. Is it building an organization or edifying the Body of Christ in His Love?
The point must always be Jesus, not our own ministry or denomination. Church does not equate to a building. In the early "church" they met "house to house" unless they met in the local synagogue for a time. We can build buildings for convenience but when that becomes the point of our "ministry" we have left our first Love. God is in us, and we are His Temple. If you have a building, use it, if you don't, have church anywhere you can, anywhere you are. Don't let buildings and numbers and money be the focal point and don't let man take the power out of the ministry of Christ among His people.
When you minister, make HIM the focal point, speak only what HE gives you to say. If there are needs in the fellowship, sell what you can and help the others. Don't live in poverty yourself and don't let any other true believer live in it either.
Who ministers and how?
Remember what the Word teaches you, each person has a place in ministry. Don't let titles confuse you. In Christ there is neither male nor female. If He gives you something to say, say it in an orderly way at the proper time.
So we don't need permission from the 'priest in charge' to share something from God? Well, think about it, if God gives you something to say won't He also tell whoever is moderating things He has done it? If that person doesn't know that you have something to say then I wonder whether they are listening to God or just running things on their own. This gets real doesn't it? Sort of makes us all responsible for listening to God and being aware of what He is doing.
I don't suggest interrupting the speaker in the middle of a word or a sermon or teaching. If he is hearing from the Lord, at an appropriate time he should let you speak. Sometimes people try to speak out of their own hearts or to be seen as “spiritual”. If you are overseeing a time of fellowship, you should not allow such a person to interrupt. You have to discern the spirit of the person and hear what the Holy Spirit tells you.
This all goes back to one on one intimacy with the Lord. What you see in Acts and in Paul's instructions to Titus and Timothy for example is our model. We ALL have a place in the Body of Christ. We ALL have individual assignments to minister to those around us as they have need and the Holy Spirit moves us. We are "living stones" remember? Each member of the body ministering to the joints and ligaments as needed. We are "cells" in His Body, each one is vital to the overall health of the whole. We must be where we are found by Him and stay in that place until HE moves us someplace else. It is NEVER our choice to become a "minister" or work our way up to Apostle or Prophet or whatever. Remember Stephen, one of the greatest men of faith and ministry in the Bible. He served tables as a deacon.
What qualifies a minister?
A bible college degree is not a call of God. Should you learn? Yes! Should you think that equips you for ministry, no. Only the Lord can call and equip you. Does that paper anoint you for ministry where GOD calls you, no. Paul was used of God to prepare Timothy and others giving instruction and mentoring them in the faith. Then he left them to help churches in the places he went. What human organization ordained Jesus? or Paul? or Peter? They were called, prepared and sent of God.
Man made the church a governmental organization full of the same politics and power mongering you see in any corporation. Should we cooperate with each other, of course! Should things be done decently and in order, yes! But always and only with Christ as the active Head of the Church and the Holy Spirit the ONLY one in charge of our assemblies.
What lies beneath our drive to succeed in preaching the gospel to the ends of the Earth? For some it is to be recognized, for others to build a new denomination, and for others the genuine desire to serve Christ. Why do we get into trouble even when our hearts are pure toward Him? When we mistakenly believe He can’t do it without us, or isn’t moving it along quickly enough to reach everyone. That is arrogant impatience and impatience is lust. Do we need to live the gospel? YES! The problem often is that we don't believe God will do it without us or we don't believe He CAN without us.
How do we do this God’s way? The short version is "show up and breathe". Live in Him and let Him live in and through you ALL the time, as much as you are able. Then people will see Him in you, they will want to know why and then you can give them an answer. Stuffing anyone into an organization will only tell them they have found another corporation to have to please with all the politics and pressure. Show them the Lord Jesus and they will fall so in love with Him they can't imagine ever living without Him. Preach Jesus or just preach about Him?
We can't love what we only know as information. If we only tell people ABOUT Jesus...they will never have more than hearsay, a "jigsaw puzzle Jesus" constructed from the collected musings of men, not the True Savior. You can't have much of a relationship with an idol - only with a real Person.
Those who have shared in the ministry of The Threshing Floor have spent the last several months or even a few years now being made aware of HIM. It has revolutionized their lives. All the religion and all the head knowledge and all the doctrines of men have fallen by the wayside and now they have JESUS! To them He's real, He's alive and He’s intimate and personal! Because of this they are not the same, they KNOW He is alive in them and they are alive in Him.
Many of them heard this first through what many call the devil's tool, the Internet! God has done it ALL! He can use a donkey and He can use the Internet!
He is doing this just because they asked to really KNOW Him. Because He LOVES them! It isn’t even a normal "church"! Yet it IS church, REAL church! HIS church! Living, real, honest, powerful and intimate! Spirits have been born again, healings have occurred and souls are being set free. It is time to take stock of your relationship with Jesus and His people. It is time to make some choices.
Are you being told here to stop worshipping with other folks in church? NO! For those of you in a conventional chuch here are some questions you should ask yourself about your current place and style of worship. (These questions are not for the faint of heart. Ask them at the risk of being set free.)
· Is it worth going there?
· Are you being fed?
· Is it God's word or man's words? Do you know Him enough to tell the difference?
· Is Jesus the real focal point?
· Is the only real desire to minister first to Jesus then to each other?
· Is it full of people who just love Jesus so much they want to be with others who do also?
· When you are together, do you all share among yourselves as someone has need?
· Do you even care?
· Is it all about a new car or clothes or what you can get from God?
· Is your spiritual walk with God judged by your money or success?
· Are they sitting on gold chairs while single moms are not able to feed and clothe their kids?
· Is the power of God present to heal and deliver and move the unsaved to repentance?
· Has there ever been anyone born again while you all were together?
· Do those who claim leadership know when you have a need? Do they even ask?
· What is the quality of ministry to those who are hurting?
· Is everything blamed on sin or the devil?
· Can you honestly answer these questions without rationalizing to make it “ok” to stay there?
Am I getting too personal here? It has been said that I “quit preaching and get to meddling”. *Grin*
Examine your hearts, know why you are there. Ask the Lord if HE wants you there and do what He says. He may say, "stay child, I have work for you here" or He may say "time to come apart alone with Me for a time". Do as He says, whatever it may be, YOU worship in spirit and in Truth or just sit there and stop pretending. Do not be a hypocrite! Find somewhere you can be with like-minded believers who love the Lord, minister to them, receive ministry from them and learn of Him, more importantly learn FROM Him!
Jesus is LORD! It is time to act like it, ALL the time.
Strong enough for you? Those of you who know you are called to minister, could you minister in this strength if He wants you to? You will face the challenge one day.
(Col 1:27 NKJV) To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.
(Col 1:28 NKJV) Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus.
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