"OUR LIFE TOGETHER" Using The Home To Build Fellowship INTRODUCTION 1. Our previous study began to focus on the "application" side of "Our Life Together"... a. By observing how the Scriptures are filled with exhortations b. Which taken to heart will nurture fellowship in the local church 2. We noticed one such example, the Epistle of James, where we found admonitions... a. On things to "avoid" 1) All filthiness and overflow of wickedness 2) Partiality 3) Misuse of the tongue 4) Selfishness 5) Speaking evil of one another b. On things to "do" 1) View challenges as opportunities 2) Pray for wisdom 3) Maintain proper perspectives about our situations 4) Be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath 5) Practice pure and undefiled religion 6) Demonstrate wisdom by your conduct 7) Pray for one another 8) Restore the erring 3. The Scriptures teach not only by "precept", but also by "example"... a. And the example of the early church provides insight into ways fellowship can be strengthened b. One such example is their use of the "home" c. I believe a study of the New Testament church shows that their success in both evangelism and in building fellowship was partly due to their use of the home [To appreciate what I mean, let's begin by observing...] I. THE USE OF THE HOME BY THE EARLY CHURCH A. HOMES WERE USED WITH MUCH FREQUENCY... 1. The church in Jerusalem, especially in times of persecution - Ac 5:41-42 ; 12:5,12 2. Aquila and Priscilla often hosted the church in their home - Ro 16:3-5 ; 1 Co 16:19 3. Another example is Philemon - Phile 1-2 4. Paul utilized homes in his ministry, both at Ephesus and in Rome - Ac 20:17-21 ; 28:30-31 B. BUT WITH TIME, THE USE OF THE HOME BEGAN TO DECLINE... 1. We know that "church buildings" began to be built as early as the second century 2. When Constantine, emperor of Rome, was "converted" in 312 A.D.... a. He designated Christianity the "official religion" of the empire b. He gave many of the pagan temples to the Christians to use as meeting places 3. Before long, people began to view the building as "the church" a. Homes were not used as much as before b. Most "religious activity" began to be centered around the building c. Such is the case today, where most "religious activity" takes place at the church building [I strongly suspect that this subtle shift of activity away from the "home" to the "church building" contributed to a decline of fellowship among many Christians. Allow me to elaborate on why...] II. WHY USING THE HOME IS IMPORTANT TO FELLOWSHIP A. BECAUSE OF THE LIMITATION INHERENT TO PUBLIC WORSHIP... 1. Public worship is certainly necessary and important 2. We have already seen that the "acts of worship" are designed to nurture fellowship 3. But there are limits to the degree of fellowship we can have during our public assemblies a. Limits on "time" 1) A couple of hours a week do not provide much opportunity to develop meaningful relationships between brethren 2) Especially since the time we actually spend talking to one another is a few minutes before and after the services b. Limits on "intimacy" 1) Sheer numbers prevent us from spending much time with everyone 2) We either spend a few minutes with a select few, or even a smaller amount of time with all -- If our "fellowship" is limited to what takes place at the church building, what fellowship we have will be shallow at best! B. USING HOMES EXTEND OPPORTUNITY FOR FELLOWSHIP... 1. We have more "time" to visit, to talk, to study, to pray 2. The informal and personal atmosphere of the home allows for more "intimacy", i.e... a. To become better acquainted b. To proceed beyond mere formalities, to where we can better know and understand one another 3. Opportunities to ask questions, provide answers, study together, are enhanced when we are willing to open our homes to one another [It should be easy to see that opportunities for meaningful fellowship can be increased through the use of the home. To encourage this idea further, here are some...] III. SUGGESTIONS FOR USING THE HOME TO BUILD FELLOWSHIP A. PRACTICE "HOSPITALITY"... 1. We are commanded to practice hospitality among brethren - 1 Pe 4:9 2. Certainly not all have the same ability to provide hospitality a. Some may be able to have the entire congregation over at one time b. Others may only be able to have a family or two c. Yet others may best provide hospitality by taking people out to dinner -- But to whatever degree we can, let us be fruitful in this area - cf. 1 Pe 4:10 3. Even if we engage in hospitality only on a social level, it can help to increase levels of communication in which spiritual fellowship can occur later 4. But consider using your home as place for... a. Home Bible studies with new converts b. On-going studies with other Christians c. Periodic devotions, such as singings, prayer meetings, etc. -- Remember the example of Aquila and Priscilla, who offered the use of their home for the work of the church, wherever they lived - cf. Ro 16:3-5 ; 1 Co 16:19 B. ENGAGE IN "VISITATION"... 1. For "hospitality" to work, it must be a two-way street a. We must be willing to accept invitations by others, and visit them b. Sometimes hospitality is not practiced, because people won't accept invitations! 2. We should also make efforts to visit those who may have special needs... a. The sick (both at home and in the hospital) b. Those new in the faith (or otherwise new members of the congregation) c. Those spiritually weak -- Making ourselves available to be of service to those with such needs is defined as "pure and undefiled religion" - Ja 1:27 CONCLUSION 1. More could be said, but I hope it is evident that expedient use of the home can greatly facilitate the sort of fellowship Christ intends for His church... a. A fellowship that is a rich one, primarily spiritual in nature b. But one facilitated through practical means like "hospitality" and "visitation" 2. Can we not see that "Our Life Together" needs to extend... a. Beyond the walls of the church building? b. Beyond the few hours we assemble together for public worship? 3. A final point to stimulate your thinking on these things... a. I often ask a congregation: "We may be a friendly congregation, but are we a hospitable congregation?" b. The distinction should be evident, which is: 1) "Friendly" describes what takes place inside the church building 2) "Hospitable" describes what goes on in our homes! The Lord has blessed us all to various degrees with our homes...let's be wise stewards and use them to the glory of God and the enrichment of "Our Life Together"!