What it means to be a church member, part two

4 May

What are you committing yourself to when you commit yourself to a church?

We are looking at Acts 2 in order to see how the first believers would have answered that question and we have seen first, they committed themselves to the teaching of God’s Word.

Now, second.

Luke says.

These early Christians devoted themselves to.

Verse 42.

 “The fellowship.”

 Which is kind of a funny sounding way of putting it, the fellowship, but it basically means, each other, they devoted themselves to learning from God and they devoted themselves to one another. The word Luke uses is a Greek word, you maybe have heard it before, it’s koinonia, and it’s translated in the Bible as sharing, contributing, taking part, participating with one another.

And at the very least, Luke’s saying here, being a member in a local church is not supposed to be, I don’t know, like going to eat at a restaurant.
Sometimes when I travel, I’ll have to eat an airport restaurant.

And, you know, there are usually lots of people there, eating at the tables that are all around me, and yet, I am going to be honest, when I am sitting there at an airport restaurant, I am just passing through and I don’t feel much responsibility or even connection to the people all around me.

We just all happen to be at the same place.

And usually, honestly, I am so tired, I just want to kind of eat, and be left by myself.

Which of course is very different, than the way I feel, when I get home, and I finally get to sit down at my table, to eat with my family.

These people matter to me.

There’s a connection.

With my family, we are not just all happening to eat at the same place at the same time, we are not just passing through, we are in this thing together, we have a relationship, and that’s the way it is supposed to be, when you really are part of the church.

These people matter to you.

You know, if you are at a restaurant and somebody is not there, you don’t feel like, oh, man, I can’t believe they are not here today, I don’t even know they didn’t show up, but if you are with your family, you know when your wife is missing, she matters, to you.

There are some restaurants, and I don’t know if you have ever seen this, where if it’s your birthday, the waiters will all gather around your table and sing, and I hate that personally, because those waiters don’t care that it’s my birthday, and when I am at a restaurant and it’s someone else’s birthday and they are singing, I am happy for them, but it’s not the way I feel, when I am at home, enjoying the birthday of one of my kids, because those people are strangers, and these people are family.

Like the church.

We are all different obviously, I know, so some of us are really quiet and we like to be by ourselves most of the time, and others of us are loud, and we want people around us at every moment, but what Luke’s talking about here is not a matter of personality, or culture. It’s just a matter of reality.

If my son happens to be quiet, I understand that, and if he likes to be by himself a lot, I get that, but that doesn’t excuse him from his responsibilities to the family.

I mean, if he never comes to any meals, he never helps out with anything around the house, if he’s always in his room, if he never reaches out to his brothers and sisters, and I say, son, what’s going on, and he says, you know, my personality, I am quiet, I don’t say, oh, that makes sense, no I say, son, I love you, and I am not asking you to be this loud crazy guy, but you have to understand you are part of a family, that’s just reality, and there are certain responsibilities that come with, which is also, I am saying true of the church.

And these believers, way back, at the beginning of the church, got that, that’s why they devoted themselves, they made a commitment as they were added to the church, first to learning from God’s Word, and then secondly to partnering with one another.

Third.

 Luke expands, I think on what he means by fellowship.

 And he says, they devoted themselves to the breaking of bread.

 And it’s hard to say absolutely what Luke means here.

There are two options.

And they are not all that different actually, but the first option is the most obvious.

And that is that these early believers ate a lot of meals in each others homes. We’ll see later he definitely is talking about that in verse 46, where he says they day by day, they were attending the temple together, and breaking bread in their homes, receiving their food with glad and generous hearts. And I guess the reason they described eating meals together as the breaking of bread, was because back in the early days, with Jewish people, the father would often begin a meal, by breaking a piece of bread, and then passing it around to his guests, to share.

Some think, and this is the second option, that Luke’s being a bit more specific, and they say this because of the connection to the next phrase, the prayers, they think Luke’s specifically talking about the Lord’s Supper here, when he talks about the breaking of bread.

I actually think it doesn’t matter so much, because a lot of the time, when the believers got together to celebrate the Lord’s Supper, it actually also was a supper. When someone became a member of the early church and they said they devoted themselves to these believers, that wasn’t just a matter of words or theory to them, it made an impact on the way they lived their life, and one of the specific ways it impacted them, was that they started getting together a lot with other believers to eat, and sometimes when they would get together as a church to eat, they would focus specifically, on remembering the Lord’s death on their behalf. And I don’t want to get all deep and we miss the point, which is, you know, when you become a member of a church, as we are saying you are saying I am part of this family, and that means, you need to find ways to spend real, time with other people.

Not just when you have your ties on and you are smiling here on Sundays, but in each other’s homes.

You can’t just shut your door, this is my private space, no man.

To me, you need to feel this as a responsibility, whether you are a good cook, bad cook, whether you have a big house, small house, whether you have a lot of money or no money, you need to find ways to share meals with other believers in the church, on a very, very regular basis.

The early church did.

This was part of what they saw as being a church member.

First.

They committed themselves to God’s Word.

Second.

They were committed to each other.

Third.

They committed to spending time eating with one another.

And fourth.

“The prayers.”

 Obviously, every member of the local church was hopefully committed to their own personal prayers, but Luke here’s not simply describing what they were doing at home or by themselves, he’s using a plural form of this word, which means, he’s talking about something a group of people do together.

The early church would often get together to pray.

Acts 1:14.

“All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer.”

Acts 6:4.

“But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the Word.”

Acts 12, after he was released from prison, Luke writes that Peter, verse 12, “where many gathered together and were praying.”

Which I think is something people where I come from could learn from people who part of churches in other parts of the world, because unfortunately, people where I come from, often talk more about prayer, than they actually get together and pray. Obviously, one way, we’ve tried to improve on this as a church, is by setting aside some time at the beginning of our service every week, just to join together and pray, but hopefully, that’s just the start. The challenge we face of course is that we only have this space on Sundays for so long, but that just means we are going to have to get creative, and I think one simple thing, you can do to help the church pray more together, is just to have people from the church over, and pray.

I find that sometimes people are part of the church and they are not so happy with the way things are going, and so they’ll be like why doesn’t this church pray more, and then they just sit there, and don’t do anything; when maybe what they should do is say, how can I help this church pray more, and there are probably a million different ideas of ways a person could come up with to help with that.

This is one of the commitments you are making when you become part of the church.

Being part of a church is bigger than just sitting there for a few minutes, every Sunday, it involves making some deliberate commitments.

To the Word.

To other believers.

To hospitality.

And to prayer.

And these kinds of commitments, need to be more than just words, they should have a very real and practical impact on the way go about your daily life.

It definitely did in the early church.

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