“Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other.” (Romans 12:4-5 NLT)
As I tried to address in yesterday’s post, true belief in Jesus is nearly impossible to manifest as an active faith without fellowship with God’s children who together comprise the Body of Christ universal. The major ordinances of the Church: Baptism and the Lord’s Supper (Holy Communion) are designed and intended to be carried out as an activity of the Body of Christ. True, biblically based faith cannot come to full fruition apart from the Body. If you cut off your finger – sever it from your body, how useful is it? When you deliberately separate yourself from the Body of Christ by refusing to fellowship regularly with other believers, your spirit will shrivel and become useless. You can still “talk the talk,” but it’s virtually impossible to “walk the walk” effectively alone.
Belief must have an outlet of expression that grows out of fellowship within the Body. What do you think would have happened to the early believers if they’d all gone their separate ways? The Lord specifically told them to stay together and wait for the coming Holy Spirit. In Acts 2:1 Luke writes: “On the day of Pentecost all (how many?) the believers were meeting together in one place.” That set the pattern that was followed in the early church. Acts 2:42: “All (how many?) the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and prayer.”
“Fellowship” in the context of the early Church wasn’t simply the sharing of meals and time, it was the sharing of their lives with one another. “One another” is used more than 35 times in the New Testament to give expression to the ways the early believers related, served, sacrificed, and died for one another.
Yes, of course, as persecution began and the Body (the Church) was scattered, those courageous partners in ministry launched dozens, then hundreds and today millions of congregations of believers across the world who are all a part of the One Body of Christ. We can’t all literally meet in one place (until we get to heaven 😊), but each “cell” or congregation/gathering is to be a picture of what the early church looked like, in terms of how they functioned (i.e. how they loved each other and served together the needs, not only of those within the Body, but within their spheres of influence outside the congregations of God’s people).
Many churches of today, large and small, have lost their understanding of what it means to be part of the Body of Christ, and thus, have lost their connection with their biblical roots. Having served small churches most of my ministry, I understand how discouraging it can be and how unfocused carnal leaders can become in their lust to have things done the way they want them done. I grieve with those who have been scarred by so-called “believers” who were wolves in sheep’s clothing. I have often said, “some of the best and some of the worst people I’ve ever met, I met at church.”
But hear me child of God! Don’t throw out the proverbial baby with the bath water. Don’t separate yourself from the Body because of a bad experience with believers who weren’t “walking the walk.” I get it. Honestly, I do. But what saved me for the church and kept my faith strong in my determination to walk with my brothers and sisters in Christ, were fellow Pastors who had been tried by fire, but kept their spirit sweet and their love strong for Jesus and those in the Body. They are my Mentors! They are the ones whose “walk” I seek to emulate in my own life.
At God’s leading, I’d like to share tomorrow some things to look for in a prospective church fellowship, if you’ve been burned and haven’t yet reconnected.
Blessings, Ed 😊