The Stuff of Fellowship

Harmony

harmony

There is a certain balance, or symmetry, in the coordinated efforts of an orchestra and chorale, being lead by a brilliant conductor, producing the mellifluous tones of the original composer’s intent.  Whether the classical works of Beethoven, Brahms, and Mozart, to the musings and arrangements by Ray Chew and his new band on Dancing With The Stars, the tight harmonies produced along with the familiar melodies touch us somewhere deep within.  This alone makes the human being distinctly different from all other creatures on our planet.

The first title used for a congregation of believers in the first century was “church.”  It actually comes from a Greek word: ἐκκλησία  (ekklésia) pronounced (ek-klay-see’-ah).  The first appearance of this word is found in Matthew 16:18, based on Peter’s profession that Jesus is “The Christ (anointed One, Messiah), the Son of the Living God!”

Jesus response was:
“I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.”

This verse has lots of great teaching material but the word today is “harmony,” so where is this idea seen in what Jesus proclaimed?  Easy; those who truly know Jesus, and follow Him as Lord, they will allow Him to lead, and they will follow Him, which build’s the church that belongs to Jesus.  Each person working in harmony with the others, like the image Paul gave us, like a body following the lead of the head in all matters.  A hand doesn’t act independently of the foot, or the intestines of the eyes, because all engage in their own part as the head leads.  Every part of the body works in unison to achieve the great glory God deserves for our human presence on earth.  Which brings us to another word, which to me more clearly states “how” we function as a body.

1 Corinthians 1:9
God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Fellowship is really the “how” of a church identity.  When the conductor (Jesus) directs and leads the orchestra and chorale (members), each faithfully providing their contribution in work according to the composer’s (God’s) design and will; what happens is the most pleasing, peaceful, participation that it can only be described as Fellowship.

This word used in scripture comes from a Greek word: κοινωνία (koinónia) pronounced (koy-nohn-ee’-ah).  In Greek it means:  participation, communion, fellowship, but more literally PARTNERSHIP.  We are partners together with each other to follow Christ as our leader, to build His church.  Too many individual believers, and way too many pastors or teachers have fallen under the spell of believing it is “their” church.  But it’s not.  The Church belongs to Jesus.  We are privileged to be alive inside this body of believers, and to participate in God’s glory.  But the church is not ours… it is His.

Having had the great joy of singing with world-class voices, on stage in front of thousands, accompanied by a world-class orchestra, lead by a brilliant conductor, I never once thought of it as “my chorale”, or “my symphony”, or my “stage.”  I remember feeling so insignificant it brought tears to my eyes just realizing I was really there.  These memories still live and breathe within me, touching me to the core of my being.

Next time you join in a congregational gathering (fellowship) for worship, ask yourself, “Am I in harmony with what God wants to have happen in this place today?  Am I a willing participant?  What do I have to offer that would demonstrate I’m willing to bring God great glory today?”  These thoughts, from every member, bring harmony in the worship of our Creator, Savior, and Lord.

 

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C, C, & A

via Acceptance

members-only

C, C, & A …  churches, country clubs, and acceptance.  Acceptance is important to almost all of us.  We all want to be included.  We all gain a great deal of our self esteem or self-perception from those who accept us.   Or, we take a huge hit personally when we are rejected.  It doesn’t matter whether it is churches, country clubs, a sports team, a club, a university, fraternity, sorority, or picking teams for Red Rover, we all seek acceptance.   Every game, team, or group has their own dogma, ideology, doctrine, code or creed to which we must adhere in order to be accepted.  We must accept and incorporate these beliefs into our fiber of life, or we are deemed unacceptable.  The paradox of acceptance, is the challenge to accept in order to be accepted.

One would think that joining a country club would be pretty simple.  Pay the initiation fee, commit to pay the monthly dues, and adhere to the club’s rules and you’re in.  However, while this may be true in some smaller clubs, the reality is that there is a selection committee who deems which of all the applicants are worthy of club membership.  These folks determine if the applicant is acceptable or not.

One would think that joining a church would be pretty simple.  While some churches make it extremely easy, others are virtually impossible to join even when compared to country clubs.  In this case most churches don’t require an up front initiation fee, but expect and often demand a financial commitment to support the church.  Indoctrination to the church’s beliefs is standard in many churches large or small today, known as “new member orientation.”  Often before a person can have a place of leadership in the church they must attend the classes and pass inspection so to speak.  I get it.  The church wants to make sure all their leadership is on the same page doctrinally, so they don’t confuse the churches message to guests or other members.

I guess my question is:  Is this how God designed it?  Is this how it was supposed to be?  Was there supposed to be some kind of acceptance process to be included as part of the church?  You only have to go to the book of Acts in the Bible to know the answer.

In Acts 15:1-35 the Council at Jerusalem were to answer a very basic question:  “What must a person do to be saved.”  Or put another way, “Who receives acceptance into the Faith?”  The question was raised because there were those not Jewish coming to accept Christ as Lord by the thousands as Paul and Barnabas went bout preaching the gospel.  So there was dissent in the ranks of the early church about who was acceptable.  The Jewish leaders wanted to impose “circumcision” on the Gentile men coming to faith, as a condition of acceptance.  In the end, the Council determined acceptance would be based on: abstaining from food sacrificed to idols, abstaining from sexual immorality, abstain from eating anything that was strangled, abstain from blood. [See Acts 15:19-21]  This was the first acceptance criteria for outsiders (Gentiles) to be included in the largely Jewish entity known as the Church.  For my more detailed bible study on this passage click: The Council at Jerusalem Acts 15_1-35.

Acceptance in the long run is not determined by the church.  Acceptance is determined by God the Father.  His terms for acceptance of any individual into His family (what we euphemistically call The Church), is more than clear in His Word.  Here are the terms of inclusion:

John 14:6
Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”

Romans 3:23
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

Romans 6:23
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 5:8
God proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us!

Romans 10:9-10
If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.  One believes with the heart, resulting in righteousness, and one confesses with the mouth, resulting in salvation.

These passages are the entrance exam to be included into God’s family.  All who accept these conditions, commit to them, believe them dogmatically, and yield their life to these truths… receives acceptance from God.

No other earthly entity can add to these or take away from these and still be called a church.  If they do… they are a country club, social club, fraternity, sorority, or some such other thing… but not a church.  Is that harsh?  Maybe so.  But God will be straightening this out someday for everyone.  I hope it is pretty soon.