LID#12- Fellowship and the Church
This is Dr. Ed Hoskins welcoming you to Lessons in Discipleship, a series designed to help new believers become established in their Christian faith. Today’s session is on Fellowship and the Church. First, let me tell you a little about myself. I’m a retired physician who spent 34 years in family medicine and student health. I became a Christian 50 years ago and was helped early in my faith by the Navigators, an international non-denominational Christian organization whose stated goal is “To Know Christ and to Make Him Known.” I have been on associate staff with that organization since 1980. Lessons in Discipleship is a compilation of what I learned from the Bible and under the guidance of the Navigators during that time. What I learned then I now pass on to you. Today’s session is “Fellowship and the Church.”
Fellowship simply means Christians being together for mutual spiritual benefit. It means expressing love to one another. It means encouraging others to grow in Christ and to do good works. Here are some questions you might have about the Church. Is the Church a building? Does it have a pulpit, or pews or a pastor? What about a stage, a choir, or 20-minute sermons? Do they pass a collection plate once a week? Or is it something much more?
Jesus Christ is the foundation of the Church. Isaiah prophesied 750 years before the birth of Jesus, “So this is what the Sovereign Lord says: See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation.” (Isaiah 28:16) In Paul’s letter to the church at Corinth it says, “For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 3:11) And in Colossians it says, “And he (Christ) is the head of the body, the church.” (Colossians 1:18) Simon Peter writes “As you come to him, the living Stone – rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to Him – you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house.” (1 Peter 2:4-5) Paul writes to Timothy, “God’s household, which is the church of the living God.” (1 Timothy 3:15)
Now let’s look at a few activities within the Church. “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” (Acts 2:42) Here are some more activities. “And let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:24-25) Others are to use their spiritual gifts to build up the Body of Christ. “It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith.” (Ephesians 4:11-13)
Another activity of the Church is distributing money to the poor. “This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of God’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God.” (2 Corinthians 9:12) It also involves healing the sick by prayer. “Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well.” (James 5:14-15) The church also sends out missionaries. “While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’ So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.” (Acts 13:2-3)
In addition, there may be some difficult doctrinal issues that the Church can settle. A good example here was the Jerusalem Council. “It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. Instead, we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood.” (Acts 15:19-20)
Let’s summarize what we have learned from this brief presentation. First, many churches have formal buildings. But the Church is not a physical building. It is the people of God. Second, the Church is the visible expression of Christ’s body. In today’s world, it is literally ‘God with skin on.’ Third, the primary purpose of the Church is to build up believers through utilizing spiritual gifts, by teaching God’s word, by prayer, by living in community, by worshiping God, and by extending God’s kingdom. Other activities of the Church include meeting the physical needs of the poor, physical healing, deciding important doctrinal issues, and sending out missionaries. Basically, we need each other in the Church.
That wraps up these 12 beginning sessions in Lessons in Discipleship. It has been a real joy having you join us. Until we meet again, keep following Jesus. He is worth it!