Thursday, July 25, 2013

What is Fellowship? Part V

During the recent discussion about the subject or topic of fellowship, a very interesting - and revealing - statement was a made. During the same discussion a very interesting question was asked. If I have "room" in today's post for both I would like to offer my thoughts. If answering the question takes to many words then we will talk about the statement tomorrow, Lord willing.

Some asked how much time elapsed between our conversion and the first true or biblical teaching on fellowship? I really think this is a great question. Let me try to answer this question and explain it under the following three (3) heads:

The Expectation

Moments prior to his ascension Jesus reiterated the marching orders of the congregation he was forming in Matthew 28:19-20:

"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always even to the end of the age." (Matthew 28:19-20, NKJV) (Emphasis in bold is mine)

Each epistle was written to counter various doctrinal or practical errors which arose in the various communities and congregations. Many times the epistles would contain explanation, exhortation, and education on "what to teach" and "how to teach" the things Christ had "commanded." In other words each epistle gives insight, instructions, and information on how to edify, exhort, and encourage one another in the faith.

The expectation is a given isn't it? Christ expects his disciples to teach all that He taught and commanded to the new disciples that each and every one of us are commanded to "make." It isn't rocket science. It is a matter of being obedient. 

What are we do do? We are expected to make disciples, we are to baptize them, and we are to teach them. Do you see the order? I don't get it when we either fail to do any and all of what we are commanded. I surely don't get it when we circumvent parts of our instruction and allow the so called disciples we have supposedly made to circumvent parts also.

We are to make disciples. We do this by being effective witnesses to the resurrection of Jesus Christ and by the proclamation of the gospel. How does by faith "come?" It comes by hearing the Word of God.

"But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; ad you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and Samaria, and to the end of the earth." (Acts 1:8, NKJV)

"So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." (Romans 10:17, NKJV)

We are to baptize them immediately. It doesn't say give them a choice, give them a class, delay the baptism or down play it. There was no such thing as an unbaptized believer in the early New Testament assembly. Why is there today? Christ's instructions are not ambiguous or confusing - make disciples and baptize them. How much more simpler did Christ have to make it?

We are to teach them. Teach who, disciples who have been baptized. Today we want to either, teach before we baptize or teach unbaptized "converts." I don't get it. You wouldn't fry the egg before you cracked it would you?

The expectation includes teaching disciples what biblical fellowship is, how to facilitate it (trusting in the power of God), and how to participate in said biblical fellowship. Having said this you would have thought that I would have been taught all about fellowship at my conversion, right?

The Experience

First, let me say I grew up in a very unusual organization. I am very surprised I was saved at all in this organization. My conversion goes to show you that God saves His elect in-spite of how badly a pastor, a congregation, or a "fellowship" can mess up His Word by humanistic methodology. 

Second, my experience will not be a blue print for your experience or the experience of other members of the body of Christ. It merely goes to illustrate my answer to the original question, how much time elapsed between conversion and the first instruction about biblical fellowship.

My home congregation and Baptist fellowship (association and/convention) was heavy on the first and second portions of what we call the great commission. At least numerically. I now look back through the lense of Scripture and gag at how many of the so called conversions were more than likely spiritual abortions. My original organization was good at decisional regeneration. They could get people to make decisions and they could get them in the water. Teachers they were not. Good, solid, Bible teaching was very few and very, very, very far between.

Our philosophy was win em', wet em' and work em'! Do it quick because many burned out in the first few months and most were gone within three (3) to five (5) years. Lasting fruit was not an expectation but a surprising rarity. 

Biblical counseling and Biblical discipleship were frowned upon and considered the enemies of "soul-winning." Soul-wining was the name and numbers was the game. One noted preacher spoke for most of the pastors when he said, "Counseling! Discipleship! You want counseling? You want discipleship? Show up at 11:00 am on Sunday mornings! That's when I counsel or disciple!

Of course what he meant by that was the morning sermon that consisted of either "agin' preaching" or soul-winning exploits. What's that? What is "agin' preaching?" Oh, sorry. It is preaching that is "against" something. You know like against sin, drinking, dancing, smoking, or chew and going with girls who do. You know preaching against TV, mixed-bathing (you might call it swimming), jeans, long-hair, an anyone not a baptist. Sunday after Sunday it was a steady diet of "agin" preaching. Preacher was sure nuff agin's sin!

My point is we were not taught to confess our sins to one another, bear one another's burdens, strengthen one another through accountability, instruction, or biblical fellowship. I attended a well known church in San Jose, CA. I then moved to Pomona to go "bible college" and joined a more well known church in Pomona. I then joined a well known church planter to help him plant a church in Upton, CA. I joined a church in Torrance, CA when I was hired as an assistant pastor. I eventually moved to northern California to assume my first church. Those of you who know my story, know I assumed that church twice. 

All this time I did not receive any teaching or instruction on biblical fellowship. Nor did I see biblical fellowship in practice in any of these congregations. 

I eventually left that church as you know because it became obvious that we were never going to get on the same page. It still exists by the way with its original philosophy and behavior.

I found a new fellowship or organization after that experience. I attended a church in Reno, NV. I moved eventually to Redding, CA where I finished Bible College. I graduated and moved to Washington to attend seminary but ended up as pastor a small failing church for six years. During all this time from my conversion on April 12th, 1972 until I became acquainted with the Bremerton Bible Church of Bremerton, WA in the fall of 1995 I never received biblical teaching about fellowship.

The Examination

Twenty-three years as a believer and no instruction about this topic. Now, I know what you are thinking and what you are going to say. And you are right! I have no excuse. I offer no excuse. I make no excuse. I should have learned it myself. I should have taught myself. After all, I studied the Bible for spiritual health, for enjoyment and even for a living. How could I miss it? I don't know.

Let me say this please:

  • it took me 13 years to realize my original fellowship or organization was biblically incorrect
  • it took 30 years to learn what real and true biblical spirituality was all about
  • it has taken 12 years to develop my biblical thinking, training, discernment, and understanding to overcome the first 29 years of faulty teaching and training
  • I have matured and grown spiritually more so in the last 12 years than I did in my first 30 as a believer
  • it has just become the past 3 months that I have come to fully understand Romans chapter 6
I have seen real, true, Biblical fellowship twice in my Christian life. Only twice. In one congregation in Bremerton and in one congregation in Vancouver. 

So, when I answered the question, how much time elapsed between my conversion and when I was first taught biblical fellowship, I answered, twenty- three years. Needless to say the group was shocked and thought I was off my rocker.

Lord willing, tomorrow I will share what I was taught and what I saw. Looks like we will have to wait until at least Monday to discuss the revealing statement that was made during this discussion. 


Pat Donovan said...

can't wait.

Gregg Metcalf said...

Pat - Thanks! Turns out it will be Monday before I can share the startling statement that was made about fellowship. Hang in there!

Steve Finnell said...


Can men living in the 21st century steal the thief's plan of salvation and be saved? No they cannot. The thief was the one and only person saved by his plan.

What did the thief do to be saved?

1. The thief obviously believed that Jesus was the Christ.(Luke 23:39)
2. The thief feared God.(Luke 23:40)

3. The thief asked Jesus to remember him when He came into His kingdom.(Like 23:42)

THAT WAS THE THIEF'S PLAN OF SALVATION! Yes he was saved (Luke 23:43)

What was not in the thief's plan of salvation?
1. The thief did not believe in his heart that Jesus was raised from the dead by God the Father.(Romans 10:9 that if you confess with they mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead , you will be saved;) The thief could not believe that God raised Jesus from the dead; because Jesus was sill alive when the he was saved.

2. The thief was not baptized for the forgiveness of sins. (Acts 2:38)

3. The thief could not be baptized in water in order to be saved. (Mark 16:16, 1 Peter 3:21)

THE THIEF DIED UNDER THE OLD COVENANT AND GOT A DIRECT PARDON FROM JESUS. Men living today can only be save by the terms of pardon under the New Covenant.
The terms of pardon are: FAITH John 3:16---REPENTANCE Acts 2:38---CONFESSION Romans 10:9-10---WATER BAPTISM Acts 2:38, 1 Peter 3:21, Mark 16:16.