The 1st child said, "I'm Jewish, and this is my family's menorah."
The 2nd child said, "I'm Roman Catholic, and this is my Mom's rosary."
The 3rd child said, "I'm Greek Orthodox, and this is an icon of my patron saint."
The 4th child said, "I go to the Sumas Advent Christian Church, ///and this is my casserole dish."
After looking over the photos on our church Facebook page, somebody left a comment, “sounds like all you do is eat…” I love our church! I love being with you. I like MOST of you ~I mean~ ALL of you… I like Potluck Sundays… best cooks in the world! I may not understand all of you. I don’t get all the things some of you do…some of you probably think I’m quirky, too! You think I make odd decisions. That’s ok. I like all of you as you are, and I hope and pray we all grow in our faith, our Christian walk….
I say to that: BALDERDASH! You understand the word Fellowship because it means exactly what you think it means and we are already good at it Fellowship means hanging out together. Today I am speaking to those who know what fellowship is but fall short of practicing fellowship. I’m speaking to the folks in Sumas, the Foothills, Everson/Nooksack and Lynden that needs THIS Church. I’m speaking to those who know they need to make changes in their life, they want more of God ~ add the discipline of fellowship… You don’t even have to like everyone when you fellowship because we aren’t after a cookie cutter church where everyone thinks alike. A Christian fellowship means we strive for a safe place for people to gather, a place where we do our best to include everyone. Fellowship may take place with the whole church, WOW, Women’s ministries, the all church picnic, the Men’s breakfast, the Princess Club.
When you practice the spiritual disciplines you are more likely to hear from God. Fellowshipping with other Christians is a safe place where the conversation may be ordinary, yet because the Spirit of God is present you never know what impact a casual word may make. Fellowshipping together means we are available to each other. and because we are available to each other, the profound takes place too…decades ago, growing up in this Church, the ultimate example of the importance of fellowship was a woman that never spoke, she could not hear a thing: She was known kindly as deaf and dumb Mary…. [describe her and how she obviously found meaning]
Fellowship. It is a Spiritual Discipline in which you purposefully be with other Christians in a safe place. We all need it. Don’t give up meeting together as some are in the habit of doing, it says in Heb. 10:25. You don’t need to know the Greek language to understand how important it is to be together, spend time together.
Can I brag on you folks? I invited people to share on FB what they appreciated about the church family… Shelly said, I walk through the doors and feel at home, I can be myself and this is an amazing church family! Cathi wrote, There is just something profoundly uplifting in worshiping our holy God with like-minded people. Linda C. adds, I feel safe and loved. I also came to realize that I do need other people in my life!! Being accepted and welcomed at the church and clothesline has opened my heart for all the good things the Lord intended me to have!! I agree! I am proud to call you my church family. // I grew up in this church, from a small family, but I had a dozen grandmother type women that loved me. I don’t remember Arvilla Allingham saying or doing anything remarkable and profound, she just loved me ~ made the best fried chicken and banana cream pie ever, a wonderful example.
I hope most of you can identify personal heros that are a part of this church family. Find them. The main verse today from Hebrews is simple: “Let US hold unswervingly to the hope we profess” “spur one another on” “encourage one another” (a good idea is that if you want to do a full study of what it means to be in fellowship with other Christians, do a study of the “one anothers” of scripture. That is also what Church membership is about at it’s core….) In the middle of these “one anothers” of Hebrews the Bible says, “Do not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing.” The point is that the only way to encourage each other, spur one another on, fill each other with hope is by spending time together.
In Hebrews the problem is Christians were being persecuted ~ authorities were attempting to crush the young movement by dividing and scattering…that is still Satan’s greatest tactic…Christians fighting with Christians, divide within, tension among God’s people. When people tell me they were hurt by a church, I get it. Yet God says to take a risk, even if it is a calculated risk. I don’t expect anybody when they start coming to our church to immediately bare their heart ~ it takes time to trust. Why would anyone trust me?....Until you know me!...
Yet our greatest strength, apart from Christ himself, is our togetherness. I could never be a bold person in the community without you. I need encouragement. I need to be spurred on toward love and good deeds. I hope I provide the same thing for at least some of you. We need each other to remain focused. When you are ready, take a risk, take a risk, take a risk.
Fellowship is a strength of our church. We enjoy each other. We do our best to have high standards of what it means to be followers of Christ ~ I hope we become known more and more as a community of faith that affirms traditional Christian values. And we must always strive to be an open group, welcoming new people. Fellowship is a general word. After the elders meeting ended at about 9:00 last Wednesday, I think it was about 9:30 when the first person left ~ we were talking. Isn’t that fellowship? When I left Jack was still bugging Larry and Barb! Small groups, potlucks, fellowship time, informal gatherings, men, women, youth… It’s all fellowship. And the more you hang out in a safe place with safe people the more you will hear from God, you will find strength, you will find encouragement, you will find accountability.
All Spiritual disciplines make it more likely that you will hear from God, that you will find peace in your spirit through His Spirit. Fellowship is incredibly important. I have learned to make no apology to people in the community: Come to Church. You need the Church. Yes, you need Christ as your personal savior, but the church is God’s idea, warts and wrinkles and all to grow in Him. You will never find a perfect church with perfect people. As the old saying goes, If you find the perfect Church, don’t join it.
There are many reasons we all need the church: public worship, teaching, using your spiritual gift and fellowship. I think of the Christian Disciplines as the foundation for a Christian life. Once you become a Christian, your world will change. If there are no changes then faith is nothing but theory. The disciplines such as studying the Bible, worship, prayer, service, fellowship and many more are the new patterns you adopt.
Compare the Christian life to a basketball team: the Christian disciplines are the fundamentals like how to play sound defense, blocking out your opponent, how to dribble the ball… Each Christian is also given spiritual gifts. This is different from spiritual disciplines because different people have different abilities given from God. Some folks on the basketball team are far better at shooting a three point shot, those that are good at blocking shots play near the basket. Some Christians are good at administration, teaching, encouragement, and many more. Disciplines are the foundation: everyone needs a church family, everyone needs a church to gather together under the banner of God. Spiritual disciplines are for everyone. Spiritual gifts help place each of us within the church. Then we also sometimes talk about Spiritual fruit. How well the basketball team practices the foundational skills (spiritual disciplines) of playing the game and assigning each person to a place on the team according to their skill set (Spiritual Gifts) determines the ability of the team to score points (Spiritual Fruit). The fruit of the Spirit is the result of how well we practice the spiritual disciplines, put each person in places that fit the gifts God has given them and the result is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control (Gal. 5:22-23). That’s how I think of spiritual disciplines, spiritual gifts and spiritual fruit…
The other scripture I chose today is a classic scripture about church fellowship, Acts 2:42-47 READ. Together, together, together…all the things that take place while the church family is together… prayer and eating together and learning… together is emphasized at least four times… much could be said about each of these phrases, but one that stands out to me is the last line: “And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” This line is the capstone to a paragraph about Christians being together, spurring one another on, loving each other, enjoying each other, learning together, walking together, meeting in the public square and private homes… and then it says, “the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” Two things stand out to me about this amazing statement:
1) A healthy fellowship of God’s people is constantly changing. We always need to embrace seekers of God, new Christians, growing Christians, mature Christians ~ that is the richness of God’s people. I love it. What I believe one of the best things we as a relatively small church can easily do so much better than a large church? Get people together so much easier in fellowship opportunities that are so different from each other, different ages, backgrounds, experiences, Christian walk…
2) We often think of evangelism as a one on one conversation in which people are walked through the steps of confessing sins, repenting and embracing Christ. That’s good. You can find examples in the Bible. But for many people that it is abstract. The way I read this scripture: many people come to know Christ by becoming part of a fellowship of Christ’s people… those who are not yet Christians, or young Christians, when they fellowship with us, they see with their own eyes what it means to live for Christ. The fellowship of God’s people is a perfect setting for people to meet and interact with Christ followers! May we never forget that as we fellowship together, there are people at all levels of faith, the Lord added daily to their numbers those who were being saved! Bring people to church so they can see Christ among us. Be in a safe place. The Church fellowship is a place to meet Christ, know Christ, see Christ at work… May our fellowship have the richness of Christ in our everyday ordinary people who simply love God and love and accept each other. May those who do not yet know Christ within, discover how close He really is.
Fellowship. Getting involved in the richness of the fellowship of the church family will change you. Fellowship is a foundational need to strengthen your walk with Christ. Challenge yourself to grow through Fellowship. Amen.