Acts 2:42 is a fantastic passage for seeing what some of the earliest Christians focused their attentions on after Peter’s sermon on Pentecost: “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.”
Luke, who wrote the book of Acts, notes the focus of these early believers: Apostolic teaching, Fellowship, breaking of bread, & prayers. The early Jerusalem church does a good thing in focusing on all of these issues, and we do a bad thing when we favor one against the other. Today I want to look at the problems that come with ignoring the koinónia or fellowship mentioned.
How is fellowship corporately lost? I submit that it is most often (but not always) muscled out in favor of teaching. (pause for collective gasp).
This is not to say that biblical teaching is unimportant, Luke may have been submitting an unordered list, but if he were to have put the early church’s focus in order of importance, apostolic teaching would still have been at the top. A problem does arise, however, when all a church does is teaching. If the pattern is simply show up, sit down, close your mouth, and listen to the teaching (repeat once during midweek and twice on Sundays and make it the predominant feature of any other ‘event’) and then leave, then the only familiarity will be from identifying the sometimes nameless faces. The body will become familiar with one another, but that’s about it. In college I was familiar with a bunch of people, saw them every day in class. We listened to the lectures together, but I wasn’t about to mistake that for fellowship.
This is not the way it’s supposed to be. We’re supposed to be able to rejoice with one another when they rejoice, weep with one another when they weep (Romans 12:15). This is difficult to do if our “fellowship” finds its equivalence with the people who work in the office above or below you.
“That’s what’s-her-name from the office downstairs.”
You know the face, but not the name. Or maybe you know the name too and a few trivial factoids.
“You’re the guy who likes motorcycles, right?”
That’s nothing substantial. Nothing shared. When Romans 12:15 gets applied to that sort of a situation, the best rejoicing is a half-hearted “That’s great!” or “Good for them!”. The closest weeping a temporary “That’s awful.” or “That’s too bad.” depending on severity.
This isn’t the only problem with having a church without fellowship. Christians will often seek Christian fellowship elsewhere if there is no opportunity for unified fellowship among the brethren. So, the brethren can’t find fellowship with all the church when they’re together as a church, they will often find Christian fellowship with the church members they come in contact with most often in their day to day lives. There’s nothing bad about this by itself, everyone does that already. I have closer friends than others when it comes to the church based on how often I see them, but when there’s nothing substantial at home base, those outside relationships become the fellowship that is perpetuated when the church gathers. True koinónia fellowship for one outside of a given clique seems next to impossible. The love is from without, and it’s brought within.
I propose that a healthy church develops a deep love for one another within through regular and active Christian fellowship. This is more than sitting with your family eating potluck food that someone else brought. That love spreads outside with a desire to seek and serve the lost (rather than find a missing fellowship). When the lost are discipled and come in, they join a fount of love and fellowship that exists among the body because of Christ, rather than through a clique because of work or shopping habits.
So, how to get that done? Are you part of a clique yourself? Is it even a bad thing?