Scripture Reference: Galatians 2:9-10
I write today’s message after thinking a lot about the events that took place twelve years ago. I think that we took this long to get this series finished because at the heart of ministry there’s this thing called fellowship. Ministry is about people, and whenever we lose sight of that…it takes an event like September 11, 2001 to remind us that relationships are really the heart beat of life.
So, I write this message today thinking about how we rallied together immediately following the tragedy that struck the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and the plane that was supposed to strike the White House…and how 12 years later…we’ve forgotten that we in the church have the responsibility to make sure we are still preferring others before ourselves.
Today’s Message: “Ministry and Fellowship”
I didn’t think that I would have to say this, but the heart of ministry isn’t our buildings, it’s not our budget, it’s not how many programs we have…ministry is about building relationships with people. Ministry and fellowship really depend upon one another. For those of us in ministry…we depend upon our congregation to fellowship together, and with us as well. For those who are in the congregations having fellowship with our pastor’s helps us by knowing that our ministers are real people too. They have children, they have struggles, and they enjoy a football game.
Fellowship is about partnership in ministry. It’s not just about all the benefits that flow to us as a result of fellowship between us. Ultimately, it’s about what God wants to do for others as a result of our fellowship.
Do I have to tell you that partnerships cannot be had without other people? I mean that’s pretty basic isn’t it? In order to have partners…there has to be more than one person…right!?! So, ministry is about people, and building relationships with people.
Listen, as a pastor I am likened to a shepherd. So, one of the things that I did was kind of learn about shepherds, and one of the things a good shepherd does is form a relationship with his flock of sheep…and even goes deeper to have an individual relationship with each sheep. Now, I am not such a fool to believe that I’m going to have that kind of relationship with every person who is a part of the Christlike Ministries NWA Family…but I do try to interact and fellowship as much as possible. It’s different with a social network ministry cause so many people are in different countries…but the neat thing about Facebook, Twitter, and WordPress is that even though we’re thousands of miles apart…we can still fellowship.
Part of the reason fellowshipping with other believers isn’t just because the Bible tells us not to forsake the gathering of ourselves together. It’s not just for the purpose of being instructed and equipped…it’s about “iron sharpening iron”. In other words, it’s about us learning from one another. It’s about you sharing your struggles, and the testimony of how God helped you or is helping you to overcome them. It’s about me sharing my struggles, and what God has done in, with, and through my life…it’s about us encouraging one another to say that since God isn’t a respecter of people…then He can do in your life what He did in mine.
Galatians 2:9 records some of Paul’s earliest memories of what occurred after he began to follow Jesus. “And when James and Cephas (another name for Peter) and John. . .” Peter, James, and John. These were the main leaders in the early church. They “perceived the grace that was given to me,” Paul said. In other words, when they figured out I was saved, “they gave the right hand of fellowship to Barnabas and me.”
Paul had a Barnabas, Timothy, Titus, and others. They weren’t just his disciples, but people he fellowshipped with. Peter had James and John for the same purposes. I am a Timothy to the man who mentored and fathered me in the faith. We’re both the same age, but I still consider him as a mentor, friend, and brother. It’s possible that he may be coming down for my daughter’s dedication service, and if he does I’m looking forward to the fellowship time and being able to catch up with him.
That’s what fellowship is all about. It’s about establishing relationships, and then maintaining them. There’s no partnership without a relationship. I’ve never been partners with someone who I don’t have a relationship with because to be in a partnership with someone…means that there’s a trust, a loyalty, and friendship.
So, what’s this right hand of fellowship all about? The leadership welcomed Paul and Barnabas, and sent them out! What better indication of their seeing God’s Spirit in Paul and Barnabas than to entrust them with a mission!
I have met a few people since coming to Northwest Arkansas that had potential to become something of a Barnabas to me…one of them was my best man for my second marriage. However, he has become one of those people who never contacts me unless I contact him, and so I’ve learn that while he’s a good friend and brother in Christ…he’s not my Barnabas.
By the way. I realize that this is where some are going to wonder about the place of our spouses in our ministry. My wife is not my Barnabas…she is my help mate. She’s the one who encourages me, prays for me, and while we’re one another’s best friend…she’s my partner and while I understand that was what Barnabas was to Paul…the point is while our spouses are our help mates and partners in ministry…if you look at what the Bible teaches…our co-laborers are also of the same-sex.
Paul had Barnabas, Timothy, Titus…Peter had James and John. I am a Timothy to Pastor Stephen Robbins, and now maybe you can see exactly where I am going with this point. Don’t get things twisted here…I’m not saying that our spouses aren’t a part of our ministry because they are. I’ve said many a time that Christlike Ministries NWA wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for my wife’s encouragement and belief in me until I could find that belief in myself and clearly hear what God was saying to me about what I was supposed to be doing to help advance His Kingdom.
One of the greatest things I’ve learned about being in ministry also comes from Pastor Stephen, and what he taught me is people have to have the same heart for your mission as you do. In other words, my churches mission is Seeking God, Loving People, Making Disciples…the reason it’s so easy and right to be joined to this church is because my heart has a similar mission. My number one priority is seeking God, the number one thing I preach is about loving people, and the number one reason for this online ministry is about discipleship. So, my ministry has similar passions, and while we have similar passions the only difference is how I’m called to go about my business of meeting that mission.
The Bible calls this being “like-minded”. It just simply means what I’ve already explained…that the mission God placed in my heart is the same as the mission placed in the hearts of my pastors at New Life Christian Center. So, in a way, we have partnered together. They’re the teaching and preaching part…and I’m the writing on the internet part…that’s kind of how things work. I do share a lot of what I write with my senior pastor because I want to make sure what I’m writing is biblically accurate and correct…and I recently got another endorsement from him when I shared a message in this series with him because they’re talking about Culture of Community right now, and basically that series is confirming everything I’ve been writing lately…so if you’re wondering whether this is God’s idea or something that I pulled out of thin air…now you know…God is confirming it to me every Sunday.
The point of welcoming new members into a local church is not to be able to put a larger number on the billboard out front—it’s to enlarge the ministry! New members haven’t really joined until they have found a place to actively connect; a spot where they are needed; a role where they can serve. Imagine the next guy who joined the Jerusalem church and was placed in a small group with James, Cephas, John, Paul, and Barnabas. They held each other accountable for ministry. Notice how they gave each other direction and caution. “You two go after the Gentiles; we’ll focus on the Jews.” “Don’t overlook the poor.” The by-product of genuine fellowship is effective ministry.
I make it a priority to make sure that every person that clicks the “follow” button gets a thank you for following. I do my best to make sure that I thank and welcome my new followers because I know that I don’t have the best online ministry…and whenever someone chooses to follow mine…it’s an encouragement to me. So, I want to make sure they’re aware of that, and some of my most popular tweets are of me thanking people for following my ministry…because the truth here is that people like to be appreciated…and that’s just a part of loving people.
Listen, what kind of example would I be setting if I didn’t do what my number one topic is? I have been preaching for quite some time that the most important thing we can do as disciples is love people because that’s what Jesus said identifies us as His disciples. You know from reading previous messages that the Holy Ghost has had me stuck on the point that we have to treat the world like the church is supposed to if we ever want to have any hope at reaching it for Jesus.
I’ve spoke candidly about my experiences in the world, and how I’ve found it easier at times to find love and compassion from people in the bar. People who accept you as you are, they don’t judge you, and while they don’t understand the principles in the Bible…they some times do a better job at doing what the church is supposed to be doing.
Listen. People don’t care about what you have to say until they know how much you care, and that care and concern has to be genuine. If it’s fake they are going to know. I am very good at being able to discern whether someone’s love and concern for me is genuine or not. Most people are. So, if you’re pretending to love and care for them…they’re going to know. This isn’t one of those areas where we can “fake it until we make it”…love for the world and others MUST be genuine or we will lose the opportunity to minister to them.
I think that’s a good place to wrap up this message. I’d like to simply encourage you to think about how you treat people. Let me say it to you this way…and I promise I will close with this point.
Would you treat Jesus the way you’re treating the people in and of the world? I think you already know that if you wouldn’t treat them that way…you already are. Remember. Jesus said that what ever way we treat the least, the last, and the lost…it’s like we are treating Him that way too. So…
How are you treating Jesus?
Man. I don’t know about anyone else, but that last point really makes me think about what I’m doing and how I’m treating people…Christian or not. It doesn’t matter to God whether they’re saved or not…we are to treat people the same way He would and does. Jesus didn’t say that it’s okay if we don’t love those who don’t love Him…in fact He says just the opposite. Look…we all know the cliché…love the sinner…hate the sin. However…a lot of us have the idea that we are supposed to judge the sinner because of their sin, but I would like to add-on another cliché that I’ve heard often lately and that’s if we’re judging people…we’re not loving them.
Listen. Judging someone’s sin is NOT telling them the truth in love. It’s judging someone because of their sin. I’m not going to sugar coat that, and if you want someone who will…then you can click the unfollow button. Judging someone isn’t loving them it’s standing in our religious pride like those who brought the woman they caught in the act of adultery to Jesus.
I am convinced that when He was writing in the ground He began writing the sins of the people who were there in the crowd. One by one as they realized He was writing down their sin…they dropped their stones until the only One Who had the right to judge and condemn that woman was left. He showed us in that moment how we are to treat those who aren’t walking the same way we are…maybe they don’t sin like we do, maybe they have a different struggle than we do, but we’re supposed to have compassion on them…and LOVE them.
I am so sick of Christians who say that they’re speaking the truth in love when they’re attempting to confront the speck in your eye when they have a big log sticking out of their own eye. They condemn you for drinking a beer, but they talk about every member of their church behind their backs…and not everything they have to say is nice. They condemn you for struggling with an addiction to pornography, but they are struggling with something themselves…that’s not the truth in love…it’s judging someone else’s sin to make you feel better about yours.
Goodness, I was trying to close this message, and instead I went on a bit of a side journey didn’t I? I guess I will just ask this question again, and close this message with this question.
What would Jesus say about the way you treat people? Would you treat Jesus the way you treat other people whether they’re Christians or not? If you aren’t sure or if your answer is “no”…I would suggest you ask God to forgive you, and then ask Him to help you overcome that…because if you think God is okay with the way you’re treating His children…you’re wrong. If you think you’re one of His…and you don’t treat and love them like He does…you’re not.
I would just like to encourage you to take a look at how you treat people…and then ask yourself if you would treat them differently now that you know however you treat people…you’re treating Jesus the same way.
Let’s close with this prayer…and say it out loud with me!
Prayer – Father, keep me from acting like a parasite on Your body. I desperately need the fellowship and ministry from Your body in my life, but I know You intend to use me and work through me within Your body as well. Help me not only find but also give myself to my place in Your church. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Blessings & Grace to you.