Gospel Community (Family)
And they devoted themselves to … the fellowship…. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts (Acts 2:42b, 44, 36)
“Fellowship” was once described as two fellas in the same ship– a basic definition for some form of ‘company.’ As people we are all looking for friends. We want someone else in our boat with us. For some in the church, the definition of fellowship can be described as the half-hour between Sunday school and worship service. It consists mainly of short conversations, a snack and coffee. While food helps GREATLY and social graces are appropriate, this definition of ‘fellowship’ falls far short of the biblical use of the term often translated fellowship. The Greek term koinonia describes a quality of relationships in the church. The word itself means sharing or partnering. The early church had such a high level of sharing that they freely gave of their earthly possessions to those in need. This continued on later, when the saints shared in fellowship with others through their financial contributions (2 Cor. 8:4, Rom. 15:26, 1 Cor. 9:13). They regularly ate together.
Most clearly, they were devoted to one another. The second greatest commandment called them to love their neighbor as themselves (Matthew 22:37-38) and Jesus had called them to live a high level of love for one another. (John 13:34-35).
The “One Another” verses in the Bible give us instructions to welcome, bear with, serve and encourage one another.
Building relationships takes time, effort and patience. To welcome others in the fellowship takes thinking through the needs and spiritual maturity of those who are with us. Sometimes groups in a church can become divisive, or closed to new guests.
Why Gospel Community? We use the term ‘family’ to describe ourselves as a church because our faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus has secured for us adoption as sons and daughters of God (Eph. 1:5). We are brothers and sisters. Despite whatever differences we may have (age, race, gender, preferences), Jesus has broken down the ‘hostilities’ between us that we might live in peace with one another (Eph. 2:14). Ultimately our fellowship is the outcome of our fellowship with God (1 John 1:3). We see that a declared purpose for their togetherness was the gospel or gospel partnership. (Phil 1:3). Without the gospel and gospel-obedience there is a limit to our fellowship (2 Cor. 6:14)
Questions for Reflection:
- Have you ever been in a group that was as “devoted to the fellowship” as Acts 2:42? What would you say is the closest thing to that?
- What is your greatest obstacle to ‘loving’ other believers?
- Who could you reach out to this week to show your ‘devotion to the fellowship’?
- Life Together by Dietrich Bonhoeffer – Bonhoeffer was a German Lutheran pastor/theologian/martyr who famously participated in the resistance against Hitler during WWII. His theological studies included time in the United States His first Dissertation was Communion Sanctorio or Communion of the Saints. His interest in the topic of Christian community led him to write this small book, written as a guide to community life for the small seminary he started in Germany.
- The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman – Chapman wrote this classic on ways that different people give and receive love. The five included in the book are quality time, words of affirmation, gifts, acts of service, and physical touch. Certainly there are more, but these are a good starting point.
- A Field Guide for Genuine Community by Ben Connelly – This book plumbs the depths of what it means to be a spiritual family. Small group ministry can be notoriously shallow, but Connelly shows the necessary thinking for churches to strengthen their commitments to one another. Connelly’s involvement with Saturate and the Soma Communities has helped form gospel-centered, story-formed live-giving communities.