"OUR LIFE TOGETHER" A Call To Fellowship INTRODUCTION 1. In Ac 2:42 , we have this account of the early church: "And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers." 2. Today, many churches place great importance to being true to the Word of God, observing the Lord's Supper, and being fervent in prayer 3. These things are certainly important, but what of "fellowship"? a. Do we properly understand this facet of the Lord's church? b. Are we practicing it in a way consistent with the example of the early church? 4. Beginning with this lesson... a. I want to examine the subject of "fellowship" in the light of the Scriptures b. With the objective in mind of ensuring a proper understanding and application of this Biblical subject [Let's start by first noticing...] I. THE PROBLEM OF SELF-CENTEREDNESS A. AS OFTEN MANIFESTED IN A LOCAL CONGREGATION... 1. What if an observer came to make a careful analysis of the church's life in reference to fellowship? a. Someone who was a specialist in studying how groups work together b. Who intended to compare us with other groups that have some sort of interaction among its members (like civic clubs, garden clubs, etc.) c. Who would examine such things like: 1) How we relate to one another when we assemble for worship 2) How we interact with each other away from our assemblies 3) Our group loyalties 4) Our willingness to support each other in time of need 5) The amount of time we spend in the company of others in the church d. I.e., seeking to learn how well those who sit by each other during the assembly Sunday after Sunday really know each other -- What would we expect him to discover? 2. Several years ago, some churches allowed themselves to be analyzed in this way; here is what was discovered: a. The great majority of members knew a very small percentage of the people b. Those who gathered for worship were mostly an anonymous group of worshippers c. They were not a genuine community of souls prepared to bear one another's burdens d. They expressed little interest in becoming more involved in each other's lives e. I.e., they came to worship only for the sake of their own spiritual life and personal salvation! -- "Many go to church as they would go to the movie theater" 3. The bottom line was this: a. The churches that were analyzed consisted of members who were "self-centered" b. Therefore, very little fellowship of any sort was taking place! [Please do not jump to conclusions. I am not suggesting that the same condition exists here. For the most part, I think it does not. But as we grow in number, the potential is there for losing the kind of fellowship we should experience. The purpose of this study is to ward off the kind of "self-centeredness" which can destroy the spiritual fellowship God would have us experience in the church.] B. SOME REASONS FOR "SELF-CENTEREDNESS" IN CHURCHES... 1. Most of us lived through the "Me Decade" a. The 1970's, viewed as being distinguished by self-centered attitudes and self-indulgent behavior b. A time in which there was... 1) A rapid rise of crime against others - rape, theft, assault, murder 2) An increased use of drugs and alcohol as a way of escape 3) A turn to philosophies and religions which involve preoccupation with SELF: a) "Looking Out For #1" b) Transcendental Meditation (TM) and Yoga 4) An emphasis on consumerism and materialistic gain c. A decade followed by the "Greed Decade" (the 1980's) -- Such cultural trends have produced many self-centered people! 2. We live in a highly mobile society a. New families move in, and others move away b. Many live great distances from the place of worship and from each other c. These facts do not prevent us from having proper fellowship, they just make it easier to become isolated from the fellowship unintentionally 3. Technology designed to bring us closer together, can easily move us apart a. Phones, email, etc., greatly increase our ability to communicate b. But we can become stretched out so thin through such technology that we do not develop any meaningful relationships 4. A failure to appreciate the Biblical teaching about "Our Life Together" [It is this last point that I want to expand upon in this lesson. While societal trends may be nourishing the spirit of self-centeredness, I believe God has designed the church to point us in a different direction...] II. THE CHURCH: A FELLOWSHIP FREE FROM SELF-CENTEREDNESS A. THIS TRUTH IS "EMPHASIZED" IN THE APOSTLES' DOCTRINE... 1. We are to be hospitable to one another - 1 Pe 4:9 2. We are to have a care for one another - 1 Co 12:26 3. We are to pray for one another - Ja 5:16 4. We are to restore one another - Ja 5:19-20 5. We are to teach and admonish one another - Co 3:16 6. We are to serve one another in love - Ga 5:13 B. THIS TRUTH WAS "EXEMPLIFIED" IN THE EARLY CHURCH... 1. By the church in Jerusalem - Ac 2:42-46 2. By the church in Antioch - Ac 11:27-30 3. By the churches in Macedonia - 2 Co 8:1-5 4. By the churches in Achaia - Ro 15:26 C. SUCH FELLOWSHIP IS A NATURAL CONSEQUENCE OF THE TEACHING OF CHRIST... 1. The kingdom consists of those who love both God and their brethren - Mk 12:28-34 2. Thus the fellowship we are to enjoy in the church is both "vertical" and "horizontal" a. With God... 1) We enjoy a "vertical" relationship - cf. 2 Co 5:20 2) An overemphasis on this aspect can cause insensitivity to the needs of others b. With fellow Christians... 1) We enjoy a "horizontal" relationship - cf. Ep 2:14-16 2) Of course, an undue emphasis on this aspect may cause one to neglect God CONCLUSION 1. Lessons to follow will define further... a. The fellowship that is to be enjoyed by those in the church b. The spiritual activities designed to nurture fellowship in the body of Christ c. Elements necessary to preserve our fellowship d. Biblical limitations on the extent of our fellowship 2. But in this lesson I have sought to stress... a. The importance of fellowship in the local church b. The danger of allowing "self-centeredness" to disrupt our fellowship 3. For now, here are some practical suggestions that will enhance our ability to provide the proper fellowship: a. Learn the names of EVERY member (make use of the church directory!) b. Take notice of the cares and the joys of fellow Christians (listen to the announcements!) c. Pray for those with special needs, mentioning them by name in your private prayers d. Allow yourself to have... 1) An "approachable personality" (where people feel comfortable in your presence) 2) A "transparent lifestyle" (where you are not afraid to let others know the "real you") NOTE: In preparing this series of sermon outlines I have borrowed rather heavily from a book and resource kit called "OUR LIFE TOGETHER: A Fresh Look At Christian Fellowship", by James Thompson, published by Sweet Publishing Company and distributed as part of the "Journeys Through The Bible" series.