Sermons

Why Church? Week 2:
"Grow Together"

Pastor Tim Inman

07-03-16

 

Today’s talk is the second part of a six part series, exploring the question: “Why Church?” It’s a great question to ask. Apparently there was a time when people in America dutifully attended their local churches whether or not they believed, or wanted to see any change in their lives. Even today, in some cases people attend church to maintain an image, to appease a relative, or keep family tradition. Those aren’t great reasons.

There are some great reasons to be in church, but before we get into that, let’s read a description of the Christian church in its’ very early days, from the book of Acts:

 

“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to f​ellowship,​to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favour of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”
Acts 2:42­48

It’s a beautiful description of those Christians sincerity and generosity. You can sense the warmth and intimacy of their gatherings.

 

Let’s get back to our question. Why church?: Because Christian community, or fellowship,​is a fundamental part of God’s plan to transform us.

 

Like a coal briquettes in Fourth of July BBQ, Christians are useful when bundled together but fizzle out on their own

King Fredrick II, of Thirteenth Century Rome, wanted to find out if there was a universal language. He theorized that if infants were isolated before learning to speak ­ fed and cared for but not spoken to, perhaps they would revert to Hebrew or some universal language.

The babies did not revert to a universal language like he had hoped, in fact his experiment taught us that humans need more than food and care, we need interaction. These babies who were starved of interaction failed to thrive and died.

 

A Christian who thinks they can do it on their own will run into a spiritual version of the ‘failure to thrive’ syndrome, because christian community is a fundamental to our life and growth in Christ.

When we choose to follow Christ, being part of the church community is not an option, it’s a reality of our new life in Christ ­ and it’s part of the good news. To be a Christian is to be a co­citizen of the Kingdom of God. Our salvation is personal but not individual or independent. When we are born again, we are born into a family, or as the Apostle Paul puts it: we are members of Christ’s body.

 

“For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body­­whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free­­and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.”
1 Corinthians 12:13

For Christians, our fellowship with other believers becomes a tool God uses to sharpen us and an outlet serve and shine! Following Jesus is a team sport. We are in this together!

 

Fellowship teaches us to Serve and Honor One Another “Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”
GAL 6:2

This week I keep remembering an experience I had while in college. Lauri and I were newly married. I was attending Northwest University near Seattle and Lauri worked at the college. As newly married college students we were pretty strapped for cash, so when our car died we just had to do without.

We had been attending Neighborhood Church, in Bellevue, Washington, near Seattle ­ for about a year. We had been attending the Young Marrieds’ class before church, but admittedly we weren’t real close to anyone in the group. One of the couples in the group were new Christians. They found out about our car and wanted to loan us their truck to use ­ for as long as we needed it.

I didn’t know what to say! I was shocked ­ I felt a little uncomfortable, and I considered refusing the help, but in the end, we took them up on their offer. It was a beautiful expression of love from a couple who really didn’t know us very well outside of church. As new Christians they schooled me on what real fellowship looks like.

Fellowship teaches us to be sincere, considerate and humble.

“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship...” That word fellowship, is translated from the Greek word Koinonia.

“The essential meaning of the koinonia embraces concepts conveyed in the English terms community, communion, joint participation, sharing and intimacy.” ­ Wikipedia

Koinonia is also the word used for Communion across the New Testament. Remember, communion was a new practice which Christ instigated with his followers. When this was written, it wasn’t a religious sounding word about a ceremony ­ koinonia essentially means community. When we partake in communion, we are not only celebrating in our shared union with Christ, but the fellowship, the shared community we have with each other.

In 1st Corinthians 11, the Apostle Paul addressed a situation where Christians were gathering to celebrate communion, but there were problems. There were divisions.

Some hurriedly ate without considerations for others, some went hungry while others got drunk.

If you remember, Jesus was very particular about how he wanted his disciples to experience communion. He taught them to serve each other, and wash each others’ feet.

In this case, people were just going through the motions ­ they were engaged in what was supposed to be a spiritual exercise, but dishonoring one another through the process.

Paul warned them:


“For if you eat the bread or drink the cup without honoring the body of Christ,​you are eating and drinking God’s judgment upon yourself.”

If communion is a celebration of the community we share in Christ, then partaking in communion with division in our hearts or without consideration for others is wrong because it’s dishonest. It’s like showing up to the wedding of someone you dislike.

We have to take his warning serious today. It’s not uncommon for Christians to get irritated with each other, and in some cases show indifference, prejudice or preference. We have to examine ourselves and keep it real.

 

Fellowship Sharpens us.
“A​s iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” Proverbs 27:17

Sometimes fellowship spurs us to help someone with our resources, like those early Christians we read about or those friends of ours. Sometimes fellowship challenges us to get involved when a brother or sister in Christ is blowing it.

Have you ever had a friend straighten you out? Point out your bad attitude or show you

something? It’s uncomfortable, but worth more than gold. Proverbs tells us

friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.

The Johari Window

The Johari Window was designed American psychologists Joseph Luft and Harry Ingham in 1955. It illustrates how powerful and helpful it can be to have a friend or mentor walk along side and give feedback. The four windows represent what is known about a person.
1. The Known Self: The individual and others can see.

2. The Blindspot: What others can see and the individual can not.
3. The Hidden Self: What the individual sees but hides from others.
4. The Unknown Self: What is unknown by the person about him/herself and is also unknown by others

By disclosing what is hidden (to a trusted individual) and welcoming feedback, a person can shrink the blind, and hidden areas.

 

“B​rothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted.”
Galatians 6:1

 

In Fellowship We Shine

“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."
John 13:35

Love stands out.

I used to like white leather tennis shoes. When they are brand ­new, they really stand out, because they are so white and bright. I always wanted to break mine in because I

didn’t want them to stand out too much. You know like the shoes are screaming ‘Look at me!’

Once, when I couldn’t really justify buying the designer shoes I wanted to, so I went to Costco and bought their version, which were only about $20 and actually pretty high quality shoes: The Kirkland Signature Courtside Classics. When I got to the till, the checkout guy had a big smile on his face. He was pleased with my purchase. He loved those shoes. He told me that he had seven or so pairs. He was excited to tell me that his wife let him purchase one pair each month and that he kept them always looking brand new by rotating in the newest pair and rotating out the oldest pair. I looked down. His shoes were bright!

We should stand out like that guys’ shoes! Our love for one another as Christians should draw the world's’ attention, make them want to get in on it.

 

We’ve talked about how fellowship teaches us how to serve and honor each other, how it sharpens us and has the potential to put Christ’s love on display. That’s a nice sermon, but it’s useless unless we do something about it. And that’s the thing about fellowship ­ It requires intention. If it happened automatically, Paul would not have needed to correct those Corinthians.

We all probably have differing quantities and qualities of fellowship. It’s tempting to point the finger or make excuses, but in the end, our the quality of friendships usually closely relate to the effort we put in. So, instead of calling you down front for an altar call, I want to invite you to ask God to lead you to go deeper in fellowship here at Harbor Light. Maybe He’ll challenge you to jump in on an upcoming class or group. Maybe he’ll challenge you to get into a service team, or to send a letter, bake a cake, or message someone, or better yet, invite someone to your house for food.