Scripture Reference:  Acts 2: 42-44

Introduction:

Greetings and welcome to the seven message series on Authentic Fellowship put out by Dr. James MacDonald of “Walk in the Word”.  It is my hope with this series that we learn what God has to say about fellowship, why it’s so important for us to fellowship, and that by the end of this series we will be challenged to become more involved with the body of Christ.

I am humbled and grateful to be able to bring this series to you, and I hope that it’s going to be one of the best we have done so far.  If this series or any of these messages minister to you…please feel free to interact with me and let me know what God speaks to you.  I may even post your comments as a testimony to show how these messages are impacting you.

So, let’s get into this series and see what God would have to say to us about Authentic Fellowship.

Father, I thank You for drawing us to this series of messages on Authentic Fellowship.  I ask that You would speak to us.  I ask for hears to hear, eyes to see, and hearts that are receptive and responsive.  I pray that You would make my fingers as that of a pen of a ready writer…writing only that which You would have to speak.  I ask that You would allow the anointing of the Holy Spirit to come upon me to write with clarity, boldness, precision, power, and with that supernatural ability to hear Your voice that only comes by the Holy Spirit.  I ask You to change our lives, minister to our hearts, and conform our minds to Your way of thinking about fellowshipping with one another.  I ask that You would bless each and every reader…and that we would all be impacted by Your Word.  In Jesus name I pray…Amen and Amen.

Today’s Message: “The Discipline of Fellowship”

One of the things that has really been on my mind and heart lately is that if we want the kind of power the Acts 2 church had…then we need to study them and learn from them and do what they did to get it.  We have to pray like they prayed, believe like they believed, preach what they preached, and fellowship like they fellowshipped.

I am convinced that the church has become far to lacking in the area of fellowship, and that’s part of the reason why the world looks in at the church and wants no part of it.  Why would they when they can hang out with sinners, and the church can barely get up during the morning handshaking time to greet one another with maybe a hug or handshake.  Why would the world want to hang out with people who don’t want to hang out with them?  Yes…I went there in message one because this isn’t about me or what I think…but about what God thinks…and what God desires from His church.

Think about it.  Take some time to read and study Acts 2.  Study what they did.  Study how they interacted with one another…and then ask yourself a simple question…does my church do this?  Do I interact with other believers like this?  My opinion is that most of you will look at the Acts 2 church like I do and wonder why we don’t do what they did…and how we can get to a place where we do what they did…and have the power to change the world like they did.

Friends…we are in the last days.  We are going to hear that trumpet sound soon, and when that happens it’s going to be too late to decide to do what God has been speaking to us to do since His Son ascended into Heaven and sat down at the right hand of the Father.  Make no mistake about it…He is getting ready to stand up…and when He does it will be at the sound of the trumpet to take the Church out of this world…and the next time He stands up it will be to return on that White Horse.

Make no mistake…this isn’t going to be a sweet…feel good message or series.  I believe God really has some things that He wants to speak to us and me through it…and that’s why I can’t even get into the meat of the message yet because I’m still in the process of introducing this series.

As sure as I say that…I believe we are ready to go.

A lot of people don’t realize fellowship is a spiritual discipline. It’s not just something helpful, but something commanded. And one of the surest barometers of the quality of your Christian life is the quality of your Christian relationships.

Can I be transparent with you for a moment?  I didn’t know that was a spiritual discipline neither, but the more I think about what God has been speaking to my heart lately about taking the time to be more interactive with you…to be better at making sure my family and I make it to church, make it to church functions, and become more active with my church family at New Life Christian Center…I find that I didn’t realize that not only was fellowshipping a good idea or helpful…but that it is also a commandment from the Lord.

Which when I think about it in the context of what I said in the beginning of this message…I understand it’s something that we need to dicsipline ourselves to do because when we were friends with the world…it was a natural thing to hang out with the world…wasn’t it?  It’s easy to go to a bar and hang out with people, but when it comes to church…we just want to go for the three songs and thirty minute message and then get home in time for the kick off of the football game or family dinner or whatever else we do.

I often think about why it is that our pastor has to literally stop service, and tell us several times to get out of our seats and greet someone else.  I am going to be even more transparent.  I usually shake hands or hug a few people…and then I sit back down to get ready for the message.  I’m going to be even more transparent to say that I don’t always take much time when the service is over either…but something I’ve noticed is that isn’t good enough.

Friends…in order to have friends we need to BE friendly.  In order to interact with people we some times need to take the time to approach them, and interact with them because we are supposed to do that.  We are supposed to fellowship with likeminded people because when we do that we sharpen one another…we look to the world like the church is supposed to look and that’s what draws people in.

Listen.  Jesus said that the world would know His disciples by the love we have for who?  One another.  That means we as the Body of Christ are to put on a display for the world our love for one another IN THE BODY OF CHRIST so that they see that and want to be a part of it.

Think about your church for a moment.  Is there a display of love for one another or are you running out the door to get to your cars?  In Acts 2 they understood that fellowshipping wasn’t just a good idea, but a commandment…and they gave themselves to the breaking of bread.  That means they understood that fellowship was part of being the body of Christ…and that’s what we need to understand as well…Amen!?!

Acts 2:42-44 summarizes the life of the early church by saying, “They devoted (or they continued steadfastly) in the apostles’ teaching (and what?) the fellowship.” Now what is fellowship? Fellowship basically means “our common life together.”

When I think back to my younger days when I was still partying and having a good time with the world.  I think about how easy it was to fellowship with people in and of the world.  We I think about how I didn’t have to force myself to hang out with complete strangers like I do today as part of the church.  To think that it was so easy to love a complete stranger as a non-believer…and you would think that once I became a believer loving people wouldn’t be so hard…but you know what…I have been to churches where I’ve walked in and walked out and was never noticed.

Friends…that shouldn’t happen.  People should never walk in to a church and feel like their visit didn’t matter to anyone.  The church should be a place that’s nothing like we experience in the world.  I’ve been in places in the world and left them wondering if I’d ever mattered to anyone…and I never returned to that place again.  Can I tell you that is what the world does in our churches, and the reason I know that is because I’ve done the very same thing!?!

I’ve been in churches that make fellowship a priority…like the one I attend now…and there is a much different atmosphere.  It’s different during fellowship…it’s different when we meet one another at Walmart…it’s different…and it helps to create the same kind of atmosphere that was prevalent in the Act 2 church.

Friends…when two or more are gathered in fellowship in the name of Jesus…the Bible says that Jesus is right there.  So, when you have hundreds of people gathered in the name of Jesus…He is there…but here’s the key…we all have to be gathered in the name of Jesus in one accord…and when that happens the power of God falls and things happen.  People get healed, set free, delivered, and saved.

So while we may not think that fellowshipping with one another is such a big deal…but the truth is…it is a big deal…and that’s why God made a point to have Luke write in Acts 2 what they did that upheaved the world.

I kind of grew up thinking fellowship was something that happened after the service down in the church basement, with cherry punch and cheesy conversations. That’s not what made the early church so powerful. They took fellowship to a new level—the level we want to be at!

I don’t know about anyone else, but when I look at the Acts 2 church I wonder where it went.  Evangelist Josh Radford just visited us once again here at New Life Christian Center at both our Bentonville and Centerton services to speak upon Acts 5:12-16.  In this message Evangelist Josh Radford spoke about how this is the kind of church that Jesus identifies with.  The church in Acts 2 and the church in Acts 5 are the kinds of churches that Jesus Christ identifies with…and all these other things that we call the church…He not only doesn’t identify with them…but isn’t even a part of them.

Listen…I don’t know about anyone else…but when Jesus speaks through anyone to tell me what kind of church or ministry He identifies with…I want to be in that kind of church…and have that kind of ministry…Amen!  I want to have the kind of church that Jesus looks at and says…that’s the kind of church I love.  I want to have the kind of ministry that Jesus looks at and says…that’s the kind of ministry I love…Amen!?!

The Greek word for fellowship is koinonia. Koinonia is translated in the New Testament partnership or sharing. Sometimes it’s translated communion or fellowship. Fellowship is a relationship between individuals which involves (this is key) active participation in a common interest. And, as a result of our participation in the common interest, we have a residual interest in one another.

Friends…once again I find myself saying that if we want the kind of churches and ministries that were in Acts 2 and Acts 5.  If we want the kind of churches or ministries that Jesus looks at and marvels about…then we have to do the kinds of things those churches did…and we aren’t going to find it in a book on church growth or church leadership or church entertainment ideas or anything else…we’re going to find the kind of church Jesus likes in the Word of God…and the kind of church Jesus likes is found in Acts 2 and Acts 5…and that’s the kind of things we have to do in our churches and ministries in order for the Lord to say…that’s my kind of church or ministry.

Fellowship involves “active participation”.  That means when the pastor gives you time in the service to greet one another, shake hands, and meet someone who you don’t know yet…do it…and this message is just as much to me as it is all of you.  I need to learn to do these things also.  So, please don’t get the sense that I’m pointing a finger…I’m not…I am just as guilty as not being an active participant in fellowship…and that’s something that I realize I need to work on.

Harvest meets regularly on seven campuses. We are one church in several locations bound together by a common purpose. As we engage in that common purpose, the relationships that are the result of that engagement produce fellowship. What holds all of this together is the Spirit of God working through the Word of God, and our service to God binds us together in love toward one another. That is what fellowship really is; our common life together. And it deepens as we persist in our common life together.

The church I now attend New Life Christian Center has two campuses.  We also have a third location that is a discipleship center.  We meet regularly on Wednesday nights and Sundays where we have two services.  We regularly have community outreach events.  We regularly have men’s and women’s fellowship meetings.  We have life groups.  We have church picnics, cook outs, fourth of July gatherings, Christmas and Easter gatherings.  That is what active participation in fellowship is supposed to look like…and I am blessed to be a part of this body because it feels like family…like we really belong…we really love one another…and that’s why we have a need for a second campus and eventually there will be more because so many people are being drawn to our church…because we really seek God…love people…and make disciples.

It’s part of the mission and vision of my pastors to make New Life Christian Center a place where every one is welcome, where everyone gets the unfiltered Word of God, and where everyone who wants to can have an encounter with God…and friends…let me tell you…there’s not a Wednesday or Sunday service where the power of God doesn’t show up.

Can I tell you that I sincerely believe that part of the reason we experience such a powerful move of God in our services is in part because us coming together as a unified body?  You know my main belief about the power of God is because the Word of God is preached and if you live in Northwest Arkansas or Southwest Missouri and you need a good Bible believing, Bible preaching…BIBLE LIVING church…then New Life Christian Center is the place to come…because if you truly desire to encounter a church that is endeavoring to become like the Acts 2 and Acts 5 church…New Life Christian Center is just that!  You will encounter God’s presence in this church.

I believe I will close this message here…and repeat these words from this devotional series:

As we engage in that common purpose, the relationships that are the result of that engagement produce fellowship. What holds all of this together is the Spirit of God working through the Word of God, and our service to God binds us together in love toward one another. That is what fellowship really is; our common life together. And it deepens as we persist in our common life together.

I hope that even though most of what Christlike Ministries NWA does is thru Facebook, Twitter and WordPress…I hope that we can all engage in that common purpose.  I hope that as a result of that common purpose we can begin to produce fellowship, and that it will bind us together.

I hope that Christlike Ministries NWA can become the kind of ministry that the Lord can identify with, and that truly endeavors to be active participants in fellowshipping with one another.

Let’s pray and close out this message:

Father, You included fellowship as a key component of the newborn church. Forgive us for dumbing, lightening, and trivializing fellowship. Help us not to be satisfied with counterfeit fellowship, but to seek You together. Lord, we want the world to see our love for one another, and the genuine common life You intend for Your people. That kind of fellowship brings You glory and draw others to You. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

In Closing:

Have you been blessed by this ministry? Would you like to help me out?  Here are some really practical ways you can help me out.

1) Engage – I don’t always have time to reply to everyone but I read every single comment and post on here. I reply to every message and email and every one blesses me! Please do get involved and let me get to know you in the little ways we can online.

2) Share – If you love the posts here, or maybe an article on the website… please share it on Facebook or Twitter… it really helps new people find this ministry and be blessed by the good news of the gospel…and tell people about us.

3) Pray – We really value your prayers. Pray for this message to find good soil – that God would continue to bring new faces to this ministry that are ready to accept His embrace.

Thank you to everyone for your ongoing support. All of you who follow me are of great encouragement to me…and I’m grateful for all of you.

You can also follow me on Twitter: @ChristMinistNWA & also on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/ChristlikeMinistriesNWA.

Blessings & Grace to you!
Pastor Bryan Kizer
Christlike Ministries NWA
“My love be with you all in Christ Jesus.” (1 Cor. 16:24)

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