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What Makes a Church a Church: Fellowship

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Over the last couple of weeks we’ve been trying to answer the question, “What makes a church a church?”.  Two weeks ago we looked at ministry as an essential element in church life and we talked about how you can determine your own place of ministry within the life of the church.  Last Sunday we looked at worship as a key ingredient.  This morning I want to talk about fellowship and the important role that it plays in the life of a healthy church.

I want to begin by showing a clip from a movie called, “Tuesdays with Morie” which is basically about two men.  The older man is dying with Lou Gehrig’s disease.  He was a college professor who was well loved.  The younger guy is a former student who was very fond of this professor.  The young guy has lost a close relative & been running from close relationships ever since.  What started out as a one time visit to say good bye has turned into a weekly visit on Tuesdays.  This clip is the theme for the movie and it stands at the heart of what we are talking about this morning.


Will you please stand for the reading of Scripture this morning.


God is the One who made all things, and all things are for his glory. He wanted to have many children share his glory, …

-------Hebrews 2:10a [New Century Version]

·        God wanted a family

·        That’s why you are here

·        God wanted children

·        And the entire Bible is the story of God building a family

·        God is in the business of building an eternal family

His unchanging plan has always been to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. And this gave him great pleasure.

-------Hebrews 1:5 [New Living Translation]

  • It has always been God’s plan to build an eternal family
  • God wants a family to live with Him in Heaven & worship Him forever!

Love your spiritual family!

-------1 Peter 2:17b [The Message]

·        God tells us to love that spiritual family right here on earth.

·        Even before we get to Heaven

·        Why

o       Because God is love … so loving people makes us more like God.

o       Because your physical family is going to fall apart & be reshaped … but your spiritual family is going to last forever.

o       Because loving people is good practice for eternity … for being in Heaven

That’s what fellowship is all about.  You were formed for God’s spiritual family.

The definition of fellowship is simply Loving God’s family.

I am writing [so] … you will know how to live in the family of God. That family is the church of the living God …

-------1 Timothy 3:14f [New Century Version]

·        Circle 2 words --- family & church

o       The church is not a building

o       The church is not an organization

o       The church is not a club

o       The church is a family

o       The church is a family you belong to

o       The Christian life is not just about believing it is about belonging

Four Levels of Fellowship:

Level One: Membership --- Choose a church & then show up.

This is the most basic choice in fellowship.  Finding a church and being committed to show up.

Think of ways to encourage one another to outbursts of love and good deeds. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage and warn each other,

-------Hebrews 10:24f

Some people like to say, “Well I’m a Christian but I don’t want to belong to any church.”

·        That just doesn’t make sense

·        It’s like saying, “I’m a football player, but I don’t want to be a part of any team.”

·        It doesn’t work

·        It’s like, “I’m a trombone player, but I don’t want to be a part of an orchestra.”

·        A trombone player without an orchestra is just limited.

·        It’s like saying, “I’m a bee, but I don’t want to be part of a hive.”

·        A soldier without a platoon

·        A Christian without a church family is an orphan

·        God created you to be a part of a spiritual family.

… in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.

-------Romans 12:5 [NIV]

·        What this verse is saying is that you belong to other Christians!  Think about that.  How does that make you feel?

·        The apostle Paul uses the human body as an example.

·        Now think about this: What if your liver said, “I’d like to belong to several different bodies!”?

Today there is a problem in America with the floating Christian … people who just go from church to church to church.

The week that Tony Roma’s opened people had to park in the Home Depot parking lot … but there was lots of room in the Applebee’s parking lot that week.

·        We love to jump from one new thing to another

·        From one hot venue to another

·        Hey … that’s okay when you are talking about a restaurant

·        But that mentality is killing God’s design of community in Christian churches today

·        If you tried to do that with your liver you’d just die

·        You can’t un-attach your liver and reattach with someone else & then do the same thing with someone else next week.

·        God used the illustration of the body to represent the church for a reason … my liver needs to be committed to my body!

We are not the only church in town … there are many good churches … and we are not in competition with those churches …l my goal is to see you become committed to a church in Great Falls where you can build deep lasting committed relationships to the family of God.

Fellowship = Fellows on the same ship.  And if we are all fellows on the same ship … pick a ship.  Jumping from ship to ship doesn’t work … and you just may end up landing in the water.

·        Question: when you fall over board … who is going to know about it?

We’ve had people jump ship for all kinds of reasons …

·        More comfortable seats

·        No parking

·        Announcements weren’t at the end of the service instead of in the middle

·        People have left when I’ve done a stewardship emphasis

·        Here’s my promise (I can put this in writing & sign my name to it): If you stay here long enough … this church family is going to offend you at some point!  It’s a given!

o       But my wife & kids offend me from time to time … I don’t leave them!

o       We are family

Look at vs. 2: “…make my joy complete by being likeminded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.”


Look at vss. 3f: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselvesEach of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

“Community is what happens when the person who annoys you the most always shows up.”

-------John Ortberg

Level Two: Friendship: Leave your comfort zone and be friendly.

One reason we don’t have more friendships is garage door openers … for those people that can actually get their cars in their garage.

·        Refreshment time (not coffee time)

Want to increase your friendships?  Start talking to the people around you here at the church.

“I stayed home for 6 weeks and nobody called or came by.”

“My mom says people ignore her at church!”

Can I just say 2 things?

·        Some people need to get a life!  If you want to have friends … then make friends!

·        Be thoughtful about people who are new to the church.  Make them feel welcome.  Risk being friendly.

o       Ask questions like, “How long have you been coming to church?” or “Is that a toupee that the pastor is wearing?”

o       Take time to get to know people & let them know you

Level Three: Partnership --- Take responsibility and help someone.

When you are part of a family there are family responsibilities.  One of those responsibilities is helping each other.

Country preacher > teenager struggling to load hay back onto a cart after the hay had fallen off.

“Hey there young fella, take a break!  You’re working too hard.”


“No thanks, my pa would be upset if I stopped.”


“Son, everybody deserves a break.  It’s hot & yer sweatin’ up a storm!”


“No sir, my father is going to be really mad if I stop!”


“You are making your father out to be a cruel & unreasonable man.  Tell me where your father is, and I will have words with him.”


“Well, my father is under this load of hay.”

·        Being part of a family means that when you are under the load someone is there to help bail.

·        The Bible is filled with verses about helping one another.

“…just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’

-------Matthew 25:40 [NRSV]

·        When you reach out and help someone in our church you are helping Jesus.  Period!

Mother Teresa was once asked “How do you handle all the death and disease on a daily basis?  How do you do the tough things when it comes to serving?”

Her answer was, “Every person I bathe, every person I bandage, I imagine seeing the face of Jesus and I do it for Him.”

“And all the believers lived in a wonderful harmony, holding everything in common. They sold whatever they owned and pooled their resources so that each person’s need was met.”

-------Acts 2:44f [The Message]

The secret of good fellowship is, “FIND A NEED AND FILL IT!”

·        Visit someone in the hospital

·        Offer to mow a lawn

·        Offer to make a meal

·        Offer to wash a car

·        Offer to clean a house

·        Offer to shop for groceries

·        Offer to drive kids to school

Level four: Kinship --- Love other believers like family.

Beverly Hill Billy Show

This is the deepest level.

The word that the Bible uses for fellowship is “koinonia”

·        We get our word “coin” from it (common)

·        Koinonea of the H.S.

·        Koinonea of faith

·        Koinonia of the gospel

·        Koinonia of his Son

Fellowship occurs because we have a common forgiveness and a common spirit and a common destiny.  When we realize that we have all this in common there is a transformation that occurs inside of us that says we really are on the same team.  We are partners in life.

Some of you used to dream about being part of a team that went to the Super Bowl or the World Series.  You’re part of the greatest team there ever was when you become a partner in a spiritual team…a spiritual family.

“…they were like family to each other.”[Acts 2:42 CEV]

“Be devoted to each other like a loving family.” [Romans 12:10]

How do you get to this deepest level of fellowship?  These are the words that come to mind:

·        Vulnerability

·        Honesty

·        Authenticity

·        Confidentiality

·        When you open up your heart to each other

o       “We are struggling in our marriage and need your prayers.”

o       “We are having a hard time with our kids coan you just keep us in your prayers.”

o       “My wife left me and I need to know you guys are going to be there for me.”

Someone said, “Revealing your feeling is the beginning of healing.”

God’s dream for you is that you will know you are safe in this church and there are people who put your needs even before their own.  There are people who will protect you, love you, encourage you, and will rejoice in your successes and weep with your failures.

·        That’s what a family is

·        People to share our burdens

·        To care about our hurts

·        To not judge us for our mistakes

·        And to be there in the good times and the bad times

·        Family

One more video clip this morning: Ice Age

This unlikely group of animals has gotten together & they are on a mission to get this baby back to his family.  Unknown to everyone else the tiger is plotting to kill the baby & the mammoth.


The fact is we’re a herd too … & we’re just as strange as the ice age one.

I’m glad I’m a part of the family of God!  I’m very glad I’m part of this family of faith … my church family.

·        It comes from being in relationship with you

·        Are you willing to join in?

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