Can I be honest? I hate deadlines! Deadlines seem to drive my procrastination up. If I know an absolute time in which something has to be done, I have the natural tendency to wait til the last moment. I know it’s not healthy, but it just drives me crazy to have a circle on a calendar. You know what else comes with a deadline; an increase in responsibility to accomplish the task at hand. And when it’s all said and done, and the project has been completed right at the right time, I think to myself if I wouldn\’t procrastinate and just plug away, what greater levels of excellence I might have in that project; a new level of work ethic might be reached and maybe just maybe the reward would feel and seem to be a bit more exciting to achieve rather than exhausting. Those feelings are what you might say, a lack of or a waning of impetus in my life. I would dare say that we all have a share in this same lack.
Impetus: a force that causes something (such as a process or activity) to be done or to become more active; a force that causes an object to begin moving or to continue to move; stimulation or encouragement resulting in increased activity.
So what is the IMPETUS for Fellowship, and what’s it going to take?
Hebrews 10:25 “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Jesus is returning and we have a job to do. That job is more than just meeting four to five times per month and calling it ministry. It\’s more than just placing your tithe and offering in the basket at the right time and calling that caring or \”duty\”. Fellowship truly requires a deeper sense of connection and intent. Here is what I think in summation of what it will take:
1. Intentional concern for one another.
Scripture tells us in Romans 12:5 “So in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.” In other words, the strength of the church is not found in its music, or the preaching and teaching, but in the bond we have with one another! The body of believers as individuals should be so heavily connected and inter-connected that we truly are forming the \”one\” body which is Jesus. We use the same scripture concerning rejoicing with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep (Romans 12:15); we must be connected to the point of empathetic re-imaging. Science tells us that we have what they have termed the \”mimic gene\” which basically means that we have within us the ability to “feel” the pain and joy that others feel, and mimic their reality. Take infants for instance: have you ever smiled at one and they smile back? Now have you ever looked at one with a look of crying or hurt? They respond in kind don\’t they? They don\’t know you, yet they can sense the pain and anguish that you are feeling and they respond in like fashion to how you are feeling. God created us with the same ability, there is a purity that is in children, so empathy comes much easier, but that is mostly because we as adults have \”matured\” away from the heart of a child.
The key to this scripture is found in the phrase “IN CHRIST”. We have to remember that our differences no longer exist, whether they are differences of color or origin, position and finances, employer/employee, single, married or widow(er). As believers in Jesus we are now all cut from the same cloth. He is the fabric! This means that we operate with the same thoughts as he did towards one another. Scripture also tells us that we have been baptized into Christ (Romans 6:3 & Galatians 3:27). The Greek word “baptidzo” expresses that we as believers have been submerged into Jesus; that when we come out of that baptism, his essence and fragrance and life remains in us that it has become us, not just a part of us. This truth is expressed most powerfully in the selfless serving of one another in love and peace. Psalm 133 says “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity! It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down on the beard, running down on Aaron’s beard, down on the collar of his robe. It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion. For there the Lord bestows his blessing, even life forevermore.” The power of “in Christ” is revealed as we are serving one another in the bond of fellowship and unity. It’s the fullness of an anointed priest set apart for the work of the ministry here on earth as representatives of God himself (or being Jesus with skin on). This concern would include discipling, teaching and preaching, praying for one another, not walking in offense, and being willing to strip off my identity for finding it in Christ and in one another.
2. Intentional pro-activity in the community and in combating issues in the world
The church has been quiet on the issues of the community for too long. Let me say that there are more issues than gay marriage and the latest atheist driven quest in Hollywood to downplay the power of the Word of God. Every 30 seconds somebody is taken from their family and thrown into the sex slave trade. Poverty and homelessness runs crazy. The fatherless and widow is being abandoned. The preciousness of life is no longer of concern. Crime knows NO color…I could go on and on. The bottom line is that the church says we care, but what are we doing?
There is a story in Luke 10:29-37; it’s the story of the Good Samaritan. Jesus is questioned about the greatest commands and he responds. The Scribe who started the conversation seeks to stump Jesus and asks “who then is my neighbor”. Jesus gives this parable. This parable asks a hard question and gives an even harder statement: 1) Where are the Samaritans of today? and 2) we have let the world take up the charge to combat the issues that Jesus talked about the church should be combating. In answer to the scribes’ question, Jesus basically says that the neighbor is the one you are willing to engage. Pro-activity in the community and world is summed up in the word ENGAGED! Ministry is no longer viable if it only takes place within the four walls of the church. We have attempted to be that way for far too long. Luke tells us something along those lines in Acts 3, when Peter and James go to the temple at the hour of prayer. The lame man had been outside the church his whole life. How many times did people pass by and because he wasn’t “fit” or the paradigm of ministry was only for those within the walls, they never reached out to him? This is why people think the church doesn’t care about them. We have to get outside the walls of the church to see the harvest. The harvest doesn’t come to us to be harvested; you have to go to the field. Simple, profound, and yet…..
3. Intentional FAITH!
We must resolve to be full of faith and walk in that faith. It begins with taking the Word seriously and believing what it says about who we are, and the authority that we have been given. We are children of the KING! and authority has been conferred upon us through Jesus, who has been given ALL AUTHORITY! Intentional faith continues in our connection and belief in one another. There is this movie that came out several years ago called Mystery Men. A scene in the movie has the would-be heroes in a “training” session with their “hero-coach”. He has them chanting, “I believe in my powers, I believe in the power of my friends.” These guys were forceful with their belief in themselves, but the strength of their belief waned when it came to believing in each other. Faith has to encourage us to see the potential and love each other through believing in each other as much as we believe in ourselves. However, it is hard to believe in others when we don’t believe in ourselves, especially according to the Word of God and what he says about us. This brings us back to intentional concern. Intentional faith completes in our endurance of the trial we face and the issues we have, to trust in the saving grace and power of God through the blood of Jesus. The world has to see the church as an inspiration, with people enduring hardships and maintaining faith that sustains. The miraculous of God happens in the atmosphere of the endurance of his people. If I believe in the Word of God and I, through believing in the Word, encourage my brethren whom I believe in, NOTHING can stop the power and influence of fellowship.
The end result of fellowship that runs this deep is preparation for the “such as should be saved” influx of people. It will be an influx of those who are hurting and in need of a savior and finding it in an authentic, spirit-filled, bible-believing body of Christ. One which is connected, engaged and full of faith.