We’ve been on quite a journey throughout the last week as we talked about this topic of “Fellowship.” Today, I want to conclude by challenging your perspective on this thing we call “church.”
If you haven’t been following this series, I would recommend reading at least the first two articles. I’ve listed all seven of the previous articles here to make it easy:
There was a time when I was very dissatisfied in my local church. I read things in the Bible about fellowship and couldn’t figure out how to make them happen in a Sunday meeting. The instructions that everyone should contribute just didn’t seem possible.
So I swung the pendulum of my church life in the opposite direction. I started devoting all my efforts to small group ministry. I started what many would call a “house church.” This was working just fine for a while. But over time, I began to get a little dissatisfied even there! I realized that there were good things about the Christian organizations we call “churches” that it would be a shame to lose.
For instance, we have denominations and networks that fund missionaries all over the world. That’s not an endorsement of denominationalism, but their effectiveness in funding and sending gifted, qualified, and educated missionaries can’t be overlooked. Then there are the large-scale outreaches that organized churches put on like Christmas plays, vacation Bible schools, picnics, and other such things. Statistics may show that few people come to lasting salvation at these events, but they certainly maintain the Church’s presence and respect in the community.
For that matter, consider the benefits of having a building for large prayer meetings, worship gatherings, ministry training, and other such things. And then there’s the ability for large-scale teaching, preaching, prophesying, and apostolic direction to impact many people at once. And where else but our church organizations do people turn to in the midst of crisis? Remember how packed the American churches were after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001?
Our Christian organizations can be incredible tools for God’s Kingdom! Dissatisfaction only comes when we look at the Biblical definition of what it is to “be the Church” and try to squeeze that into our rigid molds. I’ve come to see that in Christ’s 21st-Century American Church, it’s often a “both/and” scenario rather than “either/or.” Some Christians may only function outside of organizations, and some will thrive within them. But in all cases, we need fellowship! This is all part of His plan.
At this point, I want to define “church” for you. Today, we tend to plant an organized ministry and call it a church. But it’s not. It’s an organized ministry of the Church. The Church is the Body of Christ. A Body is an organism, not an organization.
Notice that I’ve been capitalizing “Church” in reference to the Body of Christ and lower-casing “church” in reference to ministries and buildings that we call churches. This will help as you read the following paragraphs.
Imagine how the face of Christianity would change in America if we started to define “Church” like the Bible does and started viewing our current “church” establishments as “Christian organizations!” Realistically, we’re probably just playing a semantics game here–our Christian organizations will probably always be called churches. But dream with me for a moment. Seriously: what would happen if we stopped thinking that sitting in a pew on Sunday fulfilled the basic Christian need to gather with others for fellowship?
Would attendance at our organizations drop? Would funds start disappearing? Possibly; but I don’t believe this would be the case. On the contrary, I believe the Gospel would spread more rapidly! I believe Christians would mature faster and stronger! I believe our denominational walls would start to overlap! And as a result of all this, I believe the many Christians who passionately love Christ would joyously gather together in our organizations to celebrate who He is and receive instruction and teaching. The organizations with the healthiest spiritual dynamics will thrive, and the man-centered ones will start to dissolve. Now tell me: is that so bad?
If we are going to spread Christianity at wildfire speeds, then we need to see things from a Biblical perspective. Our Christian organizations are not churches—they are institutions that help facilitate the Church’s role in society. The Body of Christ is an organized organism—not an organization! There’s nothing wrong with organizing our efforts; but if all we do is meet in the context of rituals and forms, then we are not experiencing real fellowship or communion with one another. Church organizations can be good and meaningful, but the Church Organism is essential to our Christianity!
Fellowship is the key to strengthening and edifying the Church. When we fellowship with other Christians, we see the Church Organism become stronger; and as a result, our organizations grow stronger too. If we’re going to see the Kingdom of God spread like wildfire, then fellowship must be put into action!