The Value of Gather
Right now (and it can be modified) we have written down that “Gather” is living together in community and worship.
We don’t mean actually living together like in a Commune (which might make it easier to meet in these days of bubbles) but to actually DO life together.
NOW, unsurprising This was something the early church did, and did it well! The bible refers to it as fellowship.
IN ACTS 2 starting in verse 42 its says
“And they devoted themselves to the apostles teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common”.
I don’t know if you caught the beginning of that but the bible says that they devoted themselves to fellowship. They didn’t approach at like yeah its cool to get together from time to time. They devoted themselves and intentionally sought out fellowship together.
Before we go on and talk about what fellowship or “gather” looked like in the early church, I wanted to share some stories about me and how the idea of Gather / Fellowship helped shaped my walk with Christ.
When I think of “gather”, my mine immediately goes to the small groups and relationhsips that STARTED my walk with Christ.
Before I met Julie, my life in church consisted of on and off again patterns of going to Sunday morning service. No youth groups, kids camps, awanas (I think it was). My parents did attend and host a bible study for a number of years, but all that meant for me was I went to random houses every couple of weeks and was a glorified baby sitter for primarily younger kids of the other families.
So fast forward to Julie saying that were going to attend a couples bible study 2 months after we were married. you can imagine how freaked out I was. It was a complete foreign concept to me because I had NO REAL experience with that and trust me all I wanted to do was try to get out of it and I definitley tried. I GENUINELY thought, that I wouldn’t fit in with these people.
I knew who JESUS was and I believed in God, but they REALLY knew who Jesus was and I wouldn’t be able to relate do them and couldn’t see myself doing LIFE with them.
But Julie dragged me to it (not literally like a toddler in a tantrum, she was nice about it). And surprise surprise it was not what I was thinking at all.
In a short time of being there, What I realized was these other couples weren’t here to pressure me into their beliefs, they were just seeking out individuals that were in the same place they were.
They were all Newly married and looking for a community to do life together. And these “gathering” led me to forging relationships and friendships and ultimately a relationship with Jesus.
We were fortunate enough that within this community there was a couple that saw the value of gathering / fellowship and they were constantly hosting bible studies, BBQs, friendsgiving, random hangouts, (Rock Band?) etc.
I especially remember the guy that pursued me. Walking out of THAT very first small group, we were walking to the car and he turned to me and said, “Hey do you want to go get a beer with me sometime” and that immediately chopped down the wall that I had built up against what I thought small groups were all about.
Talk about intentionally pursuing someone, we didn’t have much conversation during the get together, but for some reason he decided to turn to me and I was ACTIVATED.
This couple they were so rooted in Christ as a COUPLE and as INDIVIDUALS that my young heart saw and experienced Jesus without them necessarily talking about him.
Don’t get me wrong they would bring up Jesus to me and Julie and others in conversation (and sometimes when you least expected it) but they did it while doing LIFE together.
Looking back at it I got more out of these gatherings with other BELIEVERS than I ever did attending a church service with my family. Because I found myself getting back to my life as soon as it was done. Now I remember taking things way from the services and crunching on it alone, but now I know that I was missing a group of fellow believers to process these things together.
Seems backwards to say but I formed a relationship with Jesus through these fellowship gatherings. And the result of that was EXPONENTIAL growth in my understanding of who Jesus was and what He had to offer.
Now I’m going to switch gears a little bit and tell you a story about a time when fellowship saved me in a DIFFERENT way. Fast forward 5 years from me first attending a fellowship gathering to the moment Julie and I found out our first child had past away halfway through pregnancy.
This was a crushing time for Julie and I, a serious test in our faith and our relationship. However, the community we had formed rallied and physically gathered with us and HELPED carry the sorrow and burden that we were experiencing.
The day we found out I can still remember our living room being full of friends from our church community as well as family. Our church community was family at this point. They gathered around us, prayed over us and for us, checked in constantly, brought us food. They DID life with us.
They experienced loss with us and they didn’t go anywhere. I’m so thankful to Christ that we can gather together like this because of what he did for us. In a weird way, I can still feel the impact of their prayers because it was the first time I felt the power of prayer on my life. I could feel healing for my heart.
As we were coming through this loss, we often mentioned that we have no idea how anyone can do this without God and a community supporting you. Doing it alone seems nearly impossible to come through on the other side. I know WE came out stronger.
Gathering and doing life together led me to a relationship with Jesus. They were 2 very different types of gathering but the kingdom impact on my life will last forever. This is why God calls us to gather.
Isaiah 45:20 says,
“Assemble yourselves and come; draw near together, you survivors of the nations! They have no knowledge who carry about their wooden idols, and keep on praying to a god that cannot save.
When we turn away from God, it shows how misplaced our values can be. We would rather give our values and hearts to idols which leave us empty and alone. Because our fellowship is with those idols. Drawing near TOGETHER with Christ as the head, can keep us from going down that path.
And Hebrews reminds us about this behavior later in chapter 10:23-25
Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
And coming back to the early church in ACTS. “they devoted themselves to fellowship”.
So what is this FELLOWSHIP the bible refers to. I will tell you, because I had to LOOK it up!
The closest English word translators could use for the Greek word used in scripture is the word fellowship.
However, you really need 4 separate words to get a general emphasis of this New Testament concept. Those 4 words are RELATIONSHIP, PARTNERSHIP, COMPANIONSHIP, and STEWARDSHIP.
These 4 words together better describe the fellowship the early church ENGAGED IN.
J. Hampton Keathley puts it this way.
”Fellowship is first the sharing together in a common life with other believers through relationship with God, through Jesus Christ. Fellowship is first and foremost a relationship, rather than an activity. The principle is that any activity that follows, should come out of the relationship.”
The PARTNERSHIP describes how we are related to each other in that relationship: we are partners in an enterprise and calling in which we are to work together in a common purpose to obtain common objectives for the glory of God and the gospel of Jesus Christ (cf. Phil 1:27).
COMPANIONSHIP involves, communion or communication, interchange, intimacy, sharing and receiving. If there is going to be fellowship with God, we must first draw on the Lord’s resources as we listen to Him in His Word, as we allow the Spirit of God to talk to us through Scripture and through the various events of life and through the lives of others around us. Another way to think of it, AS KATHY MENIONTED LAST WEEK, is
THE VERTICAL COMPANIONSHIP: our communion and fellowship with God through the Word, prayer and filling of the Holy Spirit; and
THE HORIZONTAL COMPANIONSHIP: our communion and fellowship with other believers. This includes 1. Assembling together as a whole body 2. Assembling in smaller groups 3. Meeting one-on-one 4. Sharing and communicating truth together 5. Sharing together in worship 6. Sharing together as partners in the needs, burdens, concerns, joys and blessings for the purpose of encouragement, comfort, challenge, praise, prayer and physical help. The ultimate goal is to build up and enrich others in the things of Christ that we may all together experience the sufficiency of His life and tune our lives into His.
Finally STEWARDSHIP, a steward is one who manages the property of another. Its important to remember that stewards are not owners, they are managers.
As stewards we must recognize that all we have belongs to the Lord and has been given to us as trusts from God to INVEST for His purposes. Good stewardship stems from recognizing our relationship to Jesus Christ, but it also means recognizing our partnership in Christ’s reign on earth.
A lot of those were J. Hampton Keathley’s words, and it’s definitely a deep dive into BIBLICAL fellowship (or gather) but we think it’s extremely important to know how the early church regarded fellowship (or gather).
I mean they must have been doing something right because at the end of Acts 2, verse 46-47 says
“And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts praising God and having favor with all the people. And the lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.”
It’s God who adds to our numbers, not a well-orchestrated show or entertaining gathering,
But the DEVOTION to engaging in BIBLICAL fellowship can have a much greater impact and can save lives, much like it did MINE.
The question is, how do we capture this type of fellowship early believers had. Do we setup up cool venues were people can be entertained? No I don’t think so.
What if we looked into the other part the early church devoted themselves to. The apostles teachings. The new testament is full of ‘one another’ commands. Over and over again, we are urged in various ways to be involved with and caring for one another.
Like, admonish one another (Rom. 15:14), to comfort and encourage one another (1 Thess. 4:18), to worship with one another (Eph. 5:19), to bear one another burdens (Gal. 6:2),, to always seek the good of one another (1 Thess. 5:15), to be honest with one another (Col. 3:9), to show hospitality to one another (1 Pet. 4:9) and to be at peace with one another (Mark 9:50).
We desire as a CHURCH to live out these commands and provide a space for people to feel welcome. Its not hard to “DO” fellowship, but when constructed in the biblical foundation of fellowship it can ACTIVATE people for the kingdom.
To SUM things ups, “to gather” is to DO LIFE TOGETHER. At Kingship, we don’t want to create a religious place, we want to show off the Kingdom (Gods Kingdom).
His kingdom has citizens, and its not a place you wander alone and then go home.
Fellowship at Kingship is to be intentional and consistent in peoples lives so they feel welcomed because Fellowship is a relationship.
Afterall, or mission statement is “equipping all for the kingdom of God”,
Being inviting and WELCOMING is a key component. When I was writing this, I was reminded of a segment from a radio show that I think fits perfectly as we build our gather blueprint for Kingship. Let me read, what he wrote, its called “Welcome Misfits”
So what do we really want?
We want you.
The real you.
Not the cleaned-up you. Not the oh-now-we’re-talking-about-church-stuff version. We’re inviting the broken to our table, the ones who know they can’t put on a religious show anymore, because they’ve already been found out.
What, you don’t have a “daily quiet time” with the Bible every morning?
Have a seat!
You don’t pray every day? Or every week?
We’re not flinching. Sit down.
When you do pray, your mind drifts all over the place?
Tell us about it. Over dinner.
You’re a judgmental, bitter person who, deep down, wonders how God could still love him?
Ah, we understand. Pull up a chair.
You’re a cheat and a liar?
Yeah. This is the right table! Sit down, and can you pass the butter?
You’re addicted to pornography?
We’re not scandalized. Not even close. Thanks for being here.
You’re a mom who feels like she’s failing her kids?
(sigh) We know all about that. This is your place.
You privately wonder if you even believe in God sometimes?
Been there. Welcome.
You’re angry at Christians for something that happened to you?
That’s interesting. Tell us more.
You’ve been told that God hates you, because of things you’ve done?
He doesn’t. He forgave me, and I’m no better. Have a seat.
You’re not even sure what you think of this “Jesus thing”? You wonder how a man could be God? You wonder how anyone can say he’s the only way to salvation? You don’t understand why God would have rules for our sexuality? You don’t see how a loving God could allow tragedy?
Those are all good questions. We can talk about that. Or we can talk and laugh about other things, if you like, and get to those questions later. It’s up to you.
You’re lonely? You feel like you don’t fit in?
We know how you feel.
We’re oddballs, welcomed at God’s table.
And, please know… you’re welcome at ours.
Now Imagine 5 years from now Kingship has a Friday service aimed at getting these “misfits”. A place for people that feel like they don’t fit in with the traditional Sunday service (which we will still have) but perhaps a Friday service would be more inviting as they attend with family and friends. Who knows, were still figuring it out. But these Misfits need a place. Much like I did.
Look who Jesus sat with most the time. He sat with the sick, physically and spiritually. Rick talked about Zacheaus last week, he was definitley a “misfit” and Jesus invited himself over to his house!
And with that, I’m very thankful that I ultimately walked into a gathering.
Team Building question:
1. What do you envision fellowship looking like at Kingship?