By Israel Steinmetz
The modern Church is in crisis. We do not lack the power, presence or purpose of God. However, we do lack the unified fellowship to fully utilize His power, experience His presence, and accomplish His purpose. The unity of thought, spirit, practice and faith that was so evident in the New Testament Church is severely lacking in the modern Church and the effects are devastating.
In part one we established that the crisis of the modern Church relates to our understanding and application of New Testament fellowship. Part two examined the particulars of New Testament fellowship as it was practiced by the early Church. And part three explored the principles that can be derived from the study of New Testament fellowship.
Now that fellowship has been examined and derivative principles have been extracted we can propose a solution to the crisis in the Church. Our goal is to take this newfound understanding of fellowship and to apply it to every area of “Church life”. But how can that be done? What practical steps are necessary? How can principles be transferred into practice?
STEP #1: THE FULLY INTEGRATED CHRISTIAN
The first step is for individual Christians to realize that the issue of fellowship is not optional. This is clear from the first and fifth principles that were examined in part 3. When a person comes into a relationship with Jesus Christ they come into a relationship with His Body, and become dis-fellowshipped from unbelievers. As has been commonly stated, there are no ‘lone ranger’ Christians.
Each Christian is called to be an active member of the local body of which they are a part. This does not simply mean attending three services a month and tithing. It means sharing liberally with believers in need, praying for and working together with other believers in order to accomplish the will of God. It means putting their spiritual gifts to work and filling their place in Christ’s body, whether that be through administration, giving, serving, teaching or any other gift that the Holy Spirit has given them.
Christians must be aware that if they think they are in fellowship with God, and are choosing not to be in fellowship with other believers, they are deceiving themselves. The Body of Christ only functions to the extent that its separate parts function together as a whole. 1 Each Christian must ask themselves the questions, “Am I making the Body of Christ sick and lethargic? Am I helping to make the Body of Christ alive and vibrant?”
STEP # 2: THE FULLY COMMITTED CHRISTIAN
Christianity is not simply a religion or spiritual activity. Christianity is a way of life, it is life. And more, it is a shared life. Christians must increase daily in their commitment to God and His purposes. This will be accomplished through renewed vigor in prayer, obedience to whatever level of Biblical truth has been learned, and deeper revelation of God’s plan and purpose for the Body of Christ. Christians must be fully committed, not only to God, but to one another.
This commitment cannot simply be expressed in “accountability partner” relationships and prayer breakfasts. Christians must know and love one another to the point that they would willingly die for one another and through this loving commitment choose each day to live sacrificially for God and one another. Christians must ask themselves the questions, “What am I willing to give up for my brother or sister? Would I be happier with more entertainment and toys, or by giving that money to see God’s will accomplished in someone else’s life? If Jesus looked at me and told me to sell all that I had and give to the poor would I gladly do it, or would I walk away saddened like the rich young ruler?”
STEP #3: THE UNIFIED BODY OF CHRIST
Finally, we must realize that all of these changes are wasted if the time, understanding and effort being expended is limited to individual Christians. The true mark of fellowship is not that individual Christians have become more involved or more committed, but that as a collection of individual believers, the Body of Christ has become more involved in and more committed to the purposes of God. The Body of Christ must function as a unit, working together, giving of itself to Christ and to what He wants to accomplish in the earth.
At this step the individual identity of the believer is completely sacrificed in order to serve the greater purposes of the Body of Christ. It is not simply a matter of individual believers giving of their gifts and talents, but of all of the gifts and fruit of the Holy Spirit being expressed in beautiful harmony through the universal Body of Christ. This is true New Testament fellowship, and this is the place at which the Church of God can truly function as the Body of Christ.
The unity of thought, spirit, practice and faith that was so evident in the New Testament Church is severely lacking in the modern Church and the effects are devastating. Today the modern Church is fractured, with hundreds of denominations and non-denominations competing with each other and falling apart from the inside out. The modern Church is full of division and schisms. She lacks the spirit of hospitality and generosity seen so vividly in the early Church. She moves slowly and lethargically along, often seeming completely unaware of her purpose. If one were to look at the modern Church compared with the New Testament church they would scarcely recognize that the two were even intended to be of the same breed. And the most outstanding element that is severely lacking in the modern Church is that of true fellowship.
Against such a bleak and discouraging backdrop the Church is confronted with a solution that is as simple as it is profound. If you want biblical results, you must apply biblical principles. God has called believers into fellowship with Him. He has called them into a mutuality of identity, a joining of two into one, similar to the fellowship experienced in marriage. It is no mistake that the Church is referred to as the Bride of Christ. The intimacy of the Church’s fellowship with Christ should be that of a husband and wife, that of two becoming one flesh.
But the fellowship that believers are called to with Christ is also a fellowship with one another. Christians are called to live and work and pray and serve together, accomplishing God’s will upon the earth through sacrificially giving of their lives to one another. This is true biblical fellowship. It is a unity of resources, a unity of spirit, a unity with God, resulting in a unity with His divine nature, separated eternally from the world.