Wednesday, August 25, 2010
“And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” (Acts 2:42, ESV)
This is one of my favorite verses, in the midst of one of my favorite paragraphs in all of the New Testament. This is what it takes to build a fellowship of believers where Christ is present in person and power. Here are the ingredients for the recipe of church growth.
You can throw out George Barna, Rick Warren and the Purpose Driven formula, the false premise of the emerging church, and any and all church growth programs. Since that is just what they are – programs. And not just programs, but man made programs.
John MacArthur in 1969 when he accepted the pastorate of the Grace Community Church of Sun Valley began a traditional response. This traditional response is now repeated by every honest and authentic shepherd charged with the responsibility of tending the flock of Jesus Christ. When asked what was his plan for church growth, Pastor MacArthur stated that he didn’t have one. Jesus Christ promised to build His church and MacArthur stated he wasn’t God and it wasn’t his church so he was going to stay out of the way and let Christ build His church.
If you were to call me today to a church pastorate and if I were asked this question my answer would be the same. I would direct the pastoral search committee to Acts 2: 42-47 – again, my favorite paragraph in the New Testament. Here you have Christ’s plan for building His church. Not very impressive is it? No worship teams, no light shows, no couches, no gimmicks, no “ministries”, no indoor rodeos, and no glitz. This may not have anything to do with my post today but I have to slip it in. A commenter on part three of my series, Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing made this comment – “how offensive to God it is to promise glitter and glamour instead of grace!” This is what the majority of our man-made church programs consist.
Of the four items mentioned in verse 42, fellowship is probably the hardest to come by. Churches do not fellowship, they socialize. You say what a minute, just hold your horses! We have fellowship halls, we schedule fellowships, it is in our bulletin, and we encourage our people to come early to fellowship. OK, what normally happens? Conversations that revolve around children, jobs, vacations, trips, health, trials, tragedies, and grandma are what happens. (Now, settle down, I love grandma and I am not picking on her)
Here is why fellowship rarely happens. Fellowship is a spiritual activity not a social activity. Let me share with you five (5) elements of biblical and spiritual fellowship:
Intimacy - we must come to know one another in the body and develop a bond beyond casual friendship. We must bear one another's burdens. We are brothers and sisters. We must trust one another and develop intimate relationships governed by the Scripture.
Vulnerability - we must trust one another and be willing to honestly open ourselves up and share with one another our sins and our struggles. At some point we must "take a chance." We must use discretion and discernment but at some point we must become vulnerable. If not, we squelch honesty. We live behind masks and robes. How different are we when we do this than the Pharisees Christ condemned?
Humility - we must get past our own ego-centric pride and self preservation and open ourselves up to those who are mature in Christ. We have so many admonishments to become and be humble. A proud man will not learn nor will he grow. Only in humility can we confess our sins to one another or ask for help or prayer.
Accountability - we must realize that we are accountable to each other and for each other and will give an account to God. We can't look the other way and ignore our brothers and sisters who have fallen in this race of faith. We cannot be like the priest and the Levite who ignored the man who had been beaten, robbed, and left for dead. Yet, in many "churches" week after week we have our own brothers and sisters who have been robbed by Satan, beaten by his minions, and left for dead and we cross to the other side of the aisle.
Ministry - we must minister God's grace to one another. God mediates much of His grace toward us through the gifts of the other believers in our body. Paul said in Galatians that we who are spiritual must restore and bear burdens. Each one is gifted with at least one (1) spiritual gift to serve one another in humility, empathy, sacrificially, and in Christlike love.
Posted by Gregg Metcalf at 3:00 AM