Hello, and welcome to this message from Pastor Skip Heitzig of Calvary Albuquerque. As these messages are shared worldwide, our prayer is that God uses them to change lives. If this message makes a difference in your life, we'd like to know. Email us at email@example.com. And if you'd like to support this ministry financially, you can give online securely at calvaryabg.org/giving.
At Calvary, we want to see as many lives as possible transformed by Jesus. That's what our series "When Lives Are Changed" is all about. And we believe lives can be transformed through gospel-centered community. In the message, "With One Another," Skip teaches us about the value of connecting with others. Now let's turn our bibles to Acts chapter 2, as Skip begins.
Would you please turn in your bibles to Acts chapter two, the second chapter of the Book of Act, Acts, chapter two. Did you know that every week in the United States of America 60 churches close their doors? 60 churches close their doors. That translates into 3,500 people every single day who are leaving the church.
Because of that reality, some churches have become very creative at attracting new people. It used to be in the old days, you could hang up a banner that says, church service at this time, revival at that time. And people would pack the place because of a sign. Well, those days are long gone.
And so churches have gotten very, very creative in marketing. One church I read about decided to transform its sanctuary into a bull ring. And for the Wednesday night service, the pastor rode on a bull until it was bucked off. He only lasted a few seconds. And then after he was bucked off, he went to the pulpit and he preached a sermon.
And I read that the sermon was terrific. Maybe he got the sense knocked into him. I don't know exactly what that was about. But that was the tactic-- a bullring.
Another church decided to serve steaks, a steak dinner, and give away guns as a door prize to people. This is a Baptist church in Kentucky. Then many churches around our country are having these interesting fights called MMA-- Mixed Martial Arts fights, especially in men's ministry. So you can get together and punch each other out in Jesus' name and have a great time.
I want to say a couple things about that. First of all, you should never have to convince God's people of their need to gather together. You should never have to do that.
Number two, a church will live or die by the people that come. If a church is alive, it's because the people who come are alive and active. If the church is dying, it's because the people who come are themselves in that state.
I actually heard of a pastor who took over a small church in Oklahoma. And it wasn't going well for him. He tried everything he could to revive this congregation, and to bolster its numbers, and to get people active. And he tried, and he tried, to no avail. Nothing worked at all.
So, finally, as one last ditch effort he announced both to his congregation and in the local newspaper, this church is officially dead. And Sunday afternoon we're going to have a funeral, a burial service, for this church. Well, Sunday afternoon, that church was packed.
In fact, they hadn't seen that many people in church probably ever before. It was so full of people there were folks on the outside on tiptoes looking through the window, trying to listen to the doorways. And so the pastor got up. And, sure enough, in the front there was a casket, even with flowers on top.
And the pastor preached a eulogy about the history of this church. And now this church is over. And it's dead. In this is its burial service.
And after he was done with the eulogy, he invited all those in attendance to come up and pass by the casket and give their last respects to the departed church. And he said, and in doing so, as you file past the casket, you will discover the reason for the death of this church. And as people got up, and they filed one by one past the casket, and looked in, they all turned away in embarrassment. For their perched just right at the right angle in the casket was a mirror so that every person who passed by saw themselves, their own reflection, in the mirror.
Well, we have a vision statement at this church. And I am so honored to be a part of this fellowship with you. We have a vision statement that says that we pursue the God who is passionately pursuing a lost world.
And we do it with one another. We do it with one another through worship by the word to the world. We have largely taken our vision statement from the second chapter of the Book of Acts. And we have honed it over the years.
We were looking at that time when we first began a vision statement. We were looking for, what were the key elements found in the very first church in the Book of Acts? Now, I hope you realize that we belong to the greatest company in the world. There are some great companies out there that have done a great job in going around the world and bettering mankind. And we belong to the greatest company in the world.
Let me explain. We have a product that works universally. Number one you can take the gospel to Albuquerque, or Afghanistan, or Argentina. And the gospel plainly and correctly preached will yield results.
We have the greatest product in the world. Number two, in this company we have offices worldwide. You can go to any country in any culture. And you will find some expression of the church in that culture and in that country.
Number three, we have great benefits. You see, in our benefit package we have forgiveness for our past. We have hope in our present. We have purpose in our present.
And number four, well, we have the greatest retirement package of any company, because when all this is over what we're going to see, and where we're going to go, and how we're going to be rewarded is unlike any company. Until that time, we do life together. We're part of this great company of the church.
And it's often been noted that church is not a spectator sport. It requires the collaboration, it requires the involvement, of all. It's a team activity.
I want to talk to you about fellowship. You cannot thrive as a Christian without fellowship. In fact, I would even say you cannot survive as a believer without fellowship. It is that characteristic that transforms the church goer into a church member. It's the difference between somebody saying, I go to church, and to somebody who realizes, I am the church. It's God's people on this earth.
Acts chapter two-- and we're going to look beginning around verse 40-- Acts chapter two is the New Testament demonstration of the Old Testament declaration when God said, it is not good that man should be alone. The New Testament church is born on the day of Pentecost. That is the demonstration of that truth, that God designed to people to live their lives together.
So this is the first church. This is the original church. This is the prototypical, the prototype, of God's people.
And we discovered that this is a group that is pursuing the God who is passionately pursuing a lost world. And we discover they are doing it with one another. Look at the wording beginning in verse 40, and with many other words he testified and exhorted them. Peter is preaching. Saying, be saved from this perverse generation.
And then those who gladly received his word were baptized. And that day about 3,000 souls were added to them. And they continued steadfastly in the Apostles' doctrine and fellowship in the breaking of bread and in prayers. And then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles.
Now all who believed were together and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all as any one had need. So continuing daily with one accord in the, temple and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God, and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.
What I want to do today is look at their fellowship-- their fellowship, their with-ness. I didn't mispronounced the word, their with-ness-- W-I-T-H. Oh, we'll talk about their witness to the world. But their with-ness will enhance their witness. So it is with us. Our ability to be together and live life together will enhance how we outreach the world. So what I want to do in looking at this paragraph is ask four questions, and answer those four questions. And in so doing, get a four-fold description of what church life was like in this early church.
Question number one, what does fellowship mean? What does that word mean? It's found in verse 42. They continued steadfastly in the Apostles' doctrine and fellowship.
What does fellowship mean? Well, I think there's probably no more overused and undervalued word in the Christian vocabulary as the word fellowship. I mean, we have managed to use that word to describe just about any activity.
We kind of think as long as we tack the word fellowship on to an activity, suddenly it's sanctified from heaven. And so we have the lawn bowling fellowship, and the weightlifters fellowship, and the vintage car fellowship. Just add fellowship to any activity.
It's come to mean just hanging out and shooting the breeze. When I was a kid, I remember going to a place called the Fellowship Hall at our church. And then it was called the rectory.
And other churches have fellowship areas, or fellowship halls. And I discovered that the fellowship hall. I said, oh, that's the place where they serve stale cookies and very bad coffee. So what does it mean to fellowship?
Well, the word is the word-- some of you know it by heart, koinonia, is it appears 20 times in the New Testament in that noun form. It appears also in the verb form koinoneo, but 20 times as a noun-- fellowship. The word koinonia translated fellowship is also translated a number of other ways. Listen to how it's translated.
Sometimes it's translated communion, other times contribution. Other times it's translated as sharing. And, finally, it's translated as a partnership. So you put all of those meanings together. And you discover that fellowship is sharing the life of Jesus Christ. It's not just a social gathering.
It's a spiritual gathering. It has as its centerpiece more than just coffee and donuts, or just a shared activity. It is a social activity. Or it's being social over spiritual matters.
In fact, I don't think it's a stretch to say that every single activity in verse 42 described their fellowship. The apostles doctrine described their fellowship. They, together, listened to an apostle preaching.
That was a shared group endeavor. Also, the breaking of bread, that was done as part of their fellowship. That's where they got together and had a meal.
They ate food together. And afterwards, they took the Lord's supper together, known as the Love feast and Agape feast. That was shared.
And then, finally, prayer, that was something they did together. They prayed one for another. Verse 44, I see it as a summary description of the very first Christians. Now, all who believed were together and had all things in koina, is the word, fellowship, or in common. They had all things in common.
They shared everything. Fellowship, then, is not a spectator event that happens on Sunday. It's a common shared life with others. When we fellowship, we gather with a goal. We gather with a goal.
What is our goal? When we gather, simply to stimulate each other to spiritual growth. That is our goal.
Now, that has never more clearly seen than in the little phrase that appears throughout the New Testament. About 60 times, the phrase one another appears-- one another. For instance, Romans 13, love one another. Romans 14, edify one another. Romans 15, admonish one another.
Ephesians 4, be kind one to another, tender-hearted forgiving one another. 60 times that little phrase occurs-- one another. You can't do a one another with just a computer.
You have to have a human being to have a one another experience with. That is part of the fellowship. So we discover very quickly that the New Testament church was intensely relational-- intensely relational. They lived their lives together. So what does fellowship mean? It means sharing the life of Jesus Christ with one another.
Second question-- why is fellowship needed? Why is fellowship needed? Now I want to answer that question by answering why it was needed 2,000 years ago by the early church, why it was needed, and then why it is needed today. And you'll discover it's pretty much the same reason.
Let me take you back to verse 12 of chapter two. You'll get an inkling of a problem that is arising. Verse 12, Acts chapter two, so they were all amazed and perplexed. They are the unbelieving world, the onlookers, who on the day of Pentecost noticed something is happening with this group of people called Christians.
They were all amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, whatever could this mean? Others mocking said, they're drunk. Or they're full of new wine.
Now, right here we get the seedling of something that's going to grow into a full-fledged problem. And that is persecution. This is the seedling of persecution.
A group of people looking on don't understand what they see in these group of people who call themselves Jesus worshippers. They say they're drunk. By chapter four, the persecution becomes intense. By chapter five, the Christians get thrown in jail. By chapter eight, it is so intense the church scatters to different parts of the country.
So the refuge for the believers was the one another experience. The antidote to the pressure the world was putting on them was to gather together in this new family that God was creating, the church. Now, nothing has changed.
In fact, we need each other more than ever before because you and I live in a world, a culture, that is increasingly hostile toward believers, and isolating of believers. And the Christian fellowship is our antidote. Listen, everything in our culture fights Christian fellowship.
This world is becoming less friendly toward us. Our society is marginalizing us more and more. And even some are on the all out verbal and legal attack. What used to be separation of church and state is now in their minds the separation of the church from the state altogether. We just don't want you around involved in our processes any longer. So that pressure that was there then in Jerusalem is also present in our own culture.
Let me go a step further. I want to add to that what mobile technology has done to us as a culture and as a Christian culture. A couple weeks ago, I talked a little bit about this. I held up my phone. And said that I had that syndrome. Remember that? It was called phantom vibration syndrome, or ringziety.
And I said that I wasn't lying. And that my pocket was vibrating. My phone, I thought, was ringing. And I didn't even have a phone on my person.
And so I discovered that's a real condition that people are experiencing with the birth and the proliferation of mobile devices. And so I used that as an illustration. But I wasn't strong enough.
Now, I believe that that little mobile device, mobile technology, has become so personalized that, in effect, it is turning us inward toward ourselves rather than outward toward one another. I read an interesting article about social media. It said, social media is not social.
That's so profound. Isn't it? Social media is not social. They said, it's more about the media, less about being social. Whether you're tweeting or Instagraming, you're essential talking at someone, not with someone. The one another experience is absent from it.
One author even said, every person becomes the creator of his own private world. It's a secret world of preferences and temptation. It's a world where you choose. You choose everything. You choose your entertainment. You choose your music. You choose your relationships.
You become God in your little world. And your screen, you create the little world that you want. You are the creator of your own private universe. And outside your own private cyberspace is the outer darkness of whatever and whomever you reject.
Now, in that world, the language of friendship has been hijacked and cheapened. What does it mean to be somebody's friend these days? Like me on Facebook. Follow me on Instagram. By the way, that is not what Jesus meant when he said follow me. He didn't mean click that little thing. And that's following Jesus.
You see, the very language itself has been hijacked. And it's been cheapened. This very virtual world is not true fellowship.
I'm not saying we're going to get away from it, or dump your phones. I still use mine. I always will. I love technology.
However, I realize its limitations. It is not what it is promising you that it is. This virtual world is not real fellowship. About all you can give someone else is what one theologian called a textually transmitted disease.
Now, think about it. If you don't like the experience you are having in the real world, you can just pick up the device and escape into your world. You've seen it in restaurants. You've seen it with families.
Suddenly, that person doesn't want to engage in the conversation that's getting a little too close to home for them. Or they're just bored with you. So they pick up their little world. And, suddenly, they escape from the reality of the real world into the virtual reality of the little screen.
Christianity is not that. Christianity is not a private personal experience. I tweet, therefore I am. Everything about the Church fights privacy.
Did you realize that? Everything about the Church fights privacy and isolationism. It's the with-ness. And it is that with-ness that will enhance our witness.
So what does fellowship mean? It's sharing the life of Jesus Christ together. Why is fellowship needed? Because of the pressure of a godless society, as well as the pressure of technology that is turning us inward. We need each other.
Third question, how is fellowship done? How is fellowship done? How is it to be done? Is there any clue in the text as to how they structured their fellowship?
Well, there is. Verse 46 shows us a two-fold structure. Notice, so continuing daily with one accord in the temple and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the Church daily those who were being saved.
We notice at verse 46 a two-fold structure-- a big meeting and a small meeting, a formal meeting and an informal meeting, the temple and the house. In the temple, the temple of Jerusalem, was a large, flat area, 35-acre area made out of pavement called-- the whole area, one section of it called Solomon's porch, not a coffee shop by the way. But a meeting area, a colonnaded meeting area, where thousands of people could gather and groups could find one corner another corner, and they could have a formal worship service.
And so they went to the temple. And that's where the apostles would preach. That's where there would be instruction and inspiration.
But then from house to house provided an informal meeting where they could discuss what the apostles said. And they could discuss what those truths mean to their lives. So in the first structure, the big meeting structure, the message was, the apostle has something to say you need to hear.
But in this second structure, the home structure, the message was you have something to say. And I need to hear what you have to say. So two completely different but complementary ways of structuring it-- in the big group, we study the scripture. In the big group, we worship God.
But in the small group, we apply the scriptures. In the small group, we learn how to walk with God. The big group meeting conveys the notion God is most high. The small group conveys the notion God is most nigh. He is close at hand.
By necessity, the big group meeting is spectator-oriented. I mean, am I right? The people all have to listen to what Peter or the apostles are saying. They're not going to participate in that when there's thousands of people. By necessity, this big group meeting is spectator-oriented. It requires listening to a message.
But the small group meeting is, by necessity, participation-oriented. It demands the discussion of those principles. Within the four walls of a home, there is the freedom to share, to emote, to get real, and for everyone to pray.
So whenever I hear people say something like, oh, I don't need Church. I don't like Church. I don't go to Church. Jesus, I'm OK with him. I really love Jesus. But I just don't want to go to Church.
And then they'll usually say, I don't believe in organized religion. And I say, what, you believe in disorganised religion? Can you be a Christian without a church? Well, I suppose so.
But you can be a football player without a team? I mean, I guess you could. You could put a suit on, and go out on a field, and throw that ball up. Whoo, this is fun. But it's not as much fun as getting on a team and playing against another team. That's fun.
Can you be a tuba player without an orchestra? Yeah, but is anybody going to want to listen to it? I don't think so.
It's the melody and the harmony of all the other instruments that make it a pleasurable listening experience. So how was fellowship done? Two different ways mainly-- big group, small group, both important.
Here's the final question and answer. When did fellowship happen? Or let's make it present tense. When does fellowship happen? When does fellowship happen?
The answer might surprise you. It may never happen to any significant degree. If you don't want it to happen, it will never happen. Some people just don't want to let anyone get too close.
They have constructed ways to put walls up, defense mechanisms up. And they have been hurt before. And by God's grace, they'll never get hurt again.
So they won't let anybody in. So you may never experience it to any significant degree. You may prefer to hide behind the safe walls of a self-constructed castle of shallow fellowship.
You may be satisfied with a superficial attachment to the group and have no significant attachment to that group. But if you want more, Jesus is ready. If you want more than a casual relationship with Christ, he is ready to give it to you. And so are we.
Now, in bringing this to a close, there's two glaring facts that I want you to notice about the early Church. Most people just sort of skip over this idea. But there's two glaring facts. And they are meant to be looked at together.
Fact number one, this was a large church. This was a mega church in the book of Acts. Verse 41, how many people in one day came to Christ? 3,000.
Up to that point, there was 120 people in an upper room. There were originally 12 apostles, 12 disciples. They got a bigger group. By the time of Jesus' death and resurrection, the Bible says there was 120 in an upper room.
So they went from 12 to 120, times 10. That's pretty good growth. But now in one day-- one day, one message-- 3,000 people respond, 3,000 people. That's a big altar call.
So there were 120. Now there are 3,120. That is a mega church. And by the way, this is the norm.
Did you know that? People say, oh, this church is astonishing. Look how big it is. That's a New Testament norm.
You read through the book of Acts it says, Lord added, the Lord added, the Lord added. Verse 47, the Lord added daily those who were being saved. He added to it.
And then you read a few chapters. It will start saying, and he multiplied. And they were multiplied, and multiplied. So it gets bigger, and bigger, and bigger.
So it was a large church. That was the New Testament norm. New Testament norm wasn't to have a splinter group break off because they didn't like Peter's preaching. And I'll start my own church down the street.
And when somebody else gets bummed out at me for that church, they'll go start their own church. That wasn't the New Testament norm. This was. So that's fact number one. It was a large, mega-church.
Fact number two-- they all had fellowship. They all had fellowship. Verse 44, all who believed were together and had all things in common. They all did.
So whether the church has 20 people or 20,000 people, everybody involved can, if they want to, have an intimacy of fellowship. One blogger that I found wrote, having attended mega churches for the past few years I can testify with perfect clarity that it's fascinatingly easy to slip in and out of them, avoiding all human interaction. Whoopee, if that's what you want, you can have that.
But that's not what they got in the book of Acts. They had a mega church with interaction with one another. They experienced koinonia. That really is up to you.
A man who has friends, the Bible says, must himself be friendly. Sometimes people will say, well, I'm leaving. I have to find a smaller church where I know everyone.
And I say, well, good, that's fine. But let me just say that I will pray that the church you go to never grows. Why would you say that? Well, because if it grows you're going to be unhappy again.
It's going to reach that point where you don't know everybody anymore. And it's getting bigger than I like it. And so I'm going to leave and find a smaller one that suits my tastes now. See, it doesn't matter the size, but the significance of the heart. You can have the fellowship, community, communion, shared experience, with any group.
Now, I did get a little bit ahead of myself. The question was, when this fellowship happened? Is there any indication in the text as to how often they had fellowship, how often they met?
Look at verse 46-- so continuing, what's that third word? Daily, so continuing daily with one accord, or together, in the temple and breaking bread from house to house. Now, don't worry. I'm not going to lay a guilt trip on you and say you got to go to church every single day.
But my point is simply this. I will say it should be more frequent than infrequent. It should be more regular than irregular. Acts chapter 20, it says on the first day of the week when they gathered together to break bread, that became their norm. They were doing it at least once a week, as well as other times. And here it says they were doing it daily.
Hebrews chapter 10 says that we've got to assemble ourselves together and all the more as we see the day of the Lord approaching-- all the more. I think it's safe to say, and it's not a stretch to say, that to fail to participate in the life of a local church is to disobey a direct command of scripture. They continued steadfastly, verse 42. Let those words just sort of seep into your heart and you leave.
They continued steadfastly means they devoted themselves. They were committed to this. They were in it to win it. There was skin in the game.
I believe we need to reject this idea of convenience fellowship. You know what that is, of course. Convenience fellowship is I will fellowship with you when it's convenient for me. As long as there isn't a game on TV, I'll be at church. As long as I don't get invited to play golf, I'll be at church.
As long as I don't get invited to dinner with friends, or lunch with friends, I'll be at church. That's convenience fellowship. If somebody in your house has to ask the question, hey, are we going to church this Sunday? Your answer ought to be, does the sunrise?
Absolutely, we are continually, steadfastly devoted to the fellowship. You need it. I need it. We need it.
When I was a brand new believer, somebody shared an illustration with me that helped me. It stuck with me. And I'm sure you've heard it. It said, Skip, let me tell you how important this is. When you barbecue in your backyard, and you light all those little charcoals on fire, if you remove a charcoal from the burning set of coals and isolate it, in a few minutes that little thing will burn out.
It needs the heat. It needs the energy of the other coals to stay ablaze. And the more those coals are together, the heat output, the energy output, becomes greater and stronger. The with-ness enhances the witness.
And that always stuck with me. He didn't say that last part. But he did give me that coal illustration. And I found that so helpful.
Perhaps John Wesley said it best. I want the whole Christ for my saviour. I want the whole Bible for my book. I want the whole church for my fellowship. And I want the whole world as my mission field.
What do you want John? I want it all. That's what I want. I want it all.
I want all of you-- warts and all, because you have to take me shortcomings and all. We're in it together. We live life together.
Lord, it is our privilege to be in your family. Like any family, there is a certain amount of dysfunction. There are always shortcomings.
There are always failures to make note of. But we would belong to no other family than the family of God on this earth. To gather together with other believers, help us Lord, those of us who push people away and keep them at bay, because we just don't want to let them know who we really are, Lord.
There's such an alienation and loneliness in that. Help us. Help us to get beyond that, to where there is a significant attachment rather than a superficial one with a handful of people where we can gather in the temple and from house to house with simplicity, with joy, with meaning, experiencing growth because of it.
Lord, thank you for this family, in this city, this expression of your infinite wisdom. The beauty of the body of Christ just in this fellowship, I have grown so to love it, so to enjoy. We're not a number. You know our name, in Jesus' name, amen.
God doesn't want us to go through life alone. And he's given us a family of believers so that we can live life together. How has God used community and discipleship to change your life? Let us know.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org. And, just a reminder, you can give financially to this work at calvaryabq.org/giving. Thank you for joining us for this teaching from Skip Heitzig of Calgary Albuquerque.