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Devoted to Fellowship

So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. And they devoted themselves to…fellowship… (Acts 2:41-42)
At the root of the word “fellowship” is the idea of sharing. There’s a sacrifice, a generosity, a gifting of fellowship with one another. New Testament authors will use this word, in its verbal form, to describe giving a gift of benevolence to those in need (2 Cor. 9:13; Heb. 13:16) or sharing the gospel itself (Philem. 6).

This sharing can be material, as in sharing money, resources, or goods. It can also be the sharing of time, or an experience, of a sin that needs to be confessed, or something for which we are grateful. Basically, fellowship is sharing life together.

The idea is that I freely share what is mine so that I can experience it together with another. The compound interest of those shared experiences is a deepening trust and delight in the person with whom I share. So the sharing becomes the means of participating in and enjoying the relationship. Fellowship isn’t the making of a new relationship, but the savoring of an existing relationship.

The Gift of Fellowship with God

The greatest, most magnificent, most unbelievably true fellowship is fellowship with God, a gift of grace made available in Christ and by the Spirit. Scripture has much to say about this fellowship, this sharing of life with God.

Christians are given fellowship with God the Father: “…and indeed our fellowship is with the Father…” (1 John 1:3). Christians enjoy fellowship with God the Son: “God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord” (1 Cor. 1:9). Christians delight in fellowship with God the Spirit: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all” (2 Cor. 13:14).

The gift of this relationship, ours to actively enjoy, is the center of the gospel. The goal of my ministry, for however many years God allows it to persist, is to call myself, my family, and this congregation actively to treasure the gift of fellowship with God above all else. This is the only thing that can satisfy our souls. It’s what we were designed for, and what we will remain restless without.

We cry out with the psalmist: “Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. For behold, those who are far from you shall perish; you put an end to everyone who is unfaithful to you. But for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord GOD my refuge, that I may tell of all your works” (Ps. 73:25-28).

Visible and Invisible

But the question remains, how can we enjoy tangibly what is intangible? How can we see what is yet invisible? How can we savor now what we will only know fully upon Christ’s return? The Apostle John draws a straight line for us between the glorious and invisible reality of our fellowship with God and a visible, tangible experience available to all of us.

In the beginning of his first letter, John told his readers that he proclaims the good news of all that he witnessed “so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:3).

Do you see the connection? The fellowship that we have together is a collective fellowship with God. And when a blind soul comes to behold the glory of Christ, they too share in that fellowship with us. After all, we were first reconciled to one another and then reconciled, one new humanity, to God in Christ (Eph. 2:14-16).

In other words, the most tangible experience of the invisible fellowship we have with God is fellowship within the local church. It’s no wonder, then, that the first church in Acts 2 made fellowship a habit. They devoted themselves to acquiring a set of shared experiences whose agendas were simply to be together and to enjoy it. With all our quirks and imperfections, all our sin and need, we enjoy what is a gift from God, a small taste of the coming visible fellowship we will enjoy with God when Christ returns.

Fellowship at Creekside

We have many spaces for fellowship at Creekside. The main space is our Sunday service. We gather in a shared space, sing together, approach a common Table, because Sunday is not just about content. Sunay is about fellowship.

Two years ago, when we determined it was safe to do so, we ended our livestream, because consuming some music and a sermon in isolation was never God’s design for a local church. We must be devoted to fellowship. I say this without an ounce of critique for other churches who continue to livestream their services. I’m simply anchoring our choice in this habit that the Acts 2 church modeled for us.

Once a month, we provide a pizza lunch after the Sunday service. The goal is to create a space for us to enjoy each other. We’re devoted to it. And there’s something about eating a meal together that slows down our interactions, puts us on the same plane, and invites a deeper connection. Maybe you haven’t considered staying for a pizza lunch lately? Join us. The fellowship we enjoy there is a small taste of what we have in Christ.

We provide One Another Groups, small groups of more intimate fellowship during the week. We schedule those meetings, rather than leaving them to spontaneous occurrence, because fellowship is a devotion for us. If you’re not in an OAG, let me encourage you to reach out and explore a group. Be devoted to fellowship with us.

We have other fellowship events throughout the year: Easter Breakfast, Summer Pool Party, Fall Dinner. Each of these are completely free of any agenda other than to enjoy each other. Why? Because the gospel compels us to devote ourselves to fellowship. It’s all over our calendar, our budget, our website, our philosophy.

The Trap of Authenticity

These planned spaces are particularly important in this cultural moment. Whether explicitly or implicitly, we are told only that which is spontaneous is authentic, and everything else is fake. If you have to plan to call you mom on Mothers’ Day, do you authentically love her? If you did, would you have to make a plan to reach out?

In my time as a pastor, I’ve observed many who feel disconnected within the local church. Often their disconnection emerges from this misunderstanding of authenticity. They can’t manufacture relationships in the church; these relationships should just “happen.”

The result, whether motivated by fear or lack of proper priority, is that such a person never pursues and initiates that which they ought to enjoy in the church. The lack of connection is then internalized (I’m not likable; there’s something wrong with me) or blamed (this church is unfriendly).

I don’t write this to blame any person for their felt sense of disconnection within their church. Rather, I want to encourage introspection, the careful consideration first of whether or not the fault exclusively lies with the community. And then to encourage initiative to pursue what is yours to enjoy in Christ.

The Deep Mercy of Human Fellowship

But make no mistake, fellowship within the church isn’t always happy. And I don’t have to tell it to most of you. 

There are significant differences between our fellowship with God and our fellowship with each other. God is constant, we change. God is holy, we sin. God is wise, we are foolish. God will never leave us or forsake us, people move or leave churches for other reasons. To devote ourselves to fellowship in a local church is to open ourselves up to relational pain. 

And yet that pain we feel, when we feel it, is a deep mercy from God. It reminds us that we were designed for a world of permanence, where the relationships we enjoy never end. And that world is coming with Christ. So in a way, the pain of relational loss in this life is designed to cultivate a longing for Christ’s return. 

Therefore, if we protect ourselves from that pain by drawing back from fellowship, we miss out on the grace of God. If we press in, open our lives, and sacrifice our comfort for the mingled joy and pain of human relationship, we long all the more for the ultimate Fellowship that can satisfy us. We know it now in part, but then we will know it fully, even as we are fully known.
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