Experience Corporate Fellowship

Experience Corporate Fellowship

Chapter One

Experience Corporate Fellowship
Devoted To The Fellowship 9 Communion With God Through Hymns 17
I Choose To Attend Church Regularly 11 Reverence In Corporate Worship 19
Are You Regularly At The 'Family Table'? 13 Circle The Wagons 21
A Church Of The Rank and File 15 Discussion Questions 23

Acts 2:41-47

Devoted To The Fellowship

Luke paints a somewhat ideal picture of the early Church in the book of Acts. It is majestically better than Paul's description of the Church in 1 Corinthians, for instance. But he describes what the Church looked like and ought to be doing in order for it to be healthy and vibrant. My uncle is a gifted professional photographer. He is able to tell what is good and bad about a picture, and what separates a good picture from a great picture. They usually are little things that the average person cannot put their finger on, although they might sense that a particular picture is good or is somehow lacking. Luke is doing for us what my uncle does for photographs. He is pointing out particular aspects of what makes a great Church as opposed to just a mediocre assembly. One of these qualities of a healthy Church is fellowship. God works in us as we are part of a community of faith, as we walk in the light and "have fellowship with one another." (1 John 1:7)

The term "fellowship" in and of itself is not exclusively a Christian word. But as we apply it to the Body of Christ, it gathers a distinct meaning separate from its secular use. It comes from the Greek word, "Koinonia" which means "to share something, to have in common, to give a part, or to participate." It is both a verb and a noun, but the essential quality is something we have in common and experience in community. In our culture we pride ourselves on our individualism. We have the maverick attitude that we are self-made and control our own destinies. Freedom has displaced faith, hope, and love as the cardinal virtue for living. And ultimately we define freedom individualistically and privately. Perhaps you have heard the phrase, or even said it, "What I do in the privacy of my own home is my business." While there is a helpful way of appropriating that statement legally and for the protection of the individual, it is neither a healthy nor a biblical way of framing the whole of the Christian life.

One of the primary aspects of Christian faith is that we devote ourselves to the fellowship of others; they are responsible for us and we are responsible for them. We participate together in this community of those who follow Jesus and we are called to hold each other accountable. We spur one another on toward love and good deeds. We encourage each other.

If we have understood a major aspect of our Christian commitment, we know that our lives are not our own because Jesus is now our Lord. In a similar way, since we become

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part of the Body, we live not just for ourselves or for God, but for each other. It is more biblical to say: "We have personal lives, not private ones." We are individuals who live in community, in fellowship. It is also true that we cannot be part of "the" family of God, unless we are part of "a" family of God. God, in his grace, called us into fellowship with Him and with one another. That is a blessing and a means that God uses to form us in His image.

"Father in heaven, I thank you that you call us into relationship with you. Thank you for my family of believers who encourages me and challenges me to serve you."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: By God's grace, I will participate positively and meaningfully for the good of my brothers and sisters in Christ in my local Church.

– Martin Adamson –

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Hebrews 10:25; Luke 4:16

I Choose To Attend Church Regularly

Perhaps you have heard people say, "I believe in God but I don't have to go to Church." I go to Church because I believe in God. It has become a habit with our family, a lifestyle. When a family activity was being planned, I commented that I could not attend on Sunday because I had to go to Church. My sister corrected me and said "You don't have to go to Church, you choose to go to Church." The more 1 thought about it, the more I knew she was right. Regular Church attendance is a choice.

It was not always easy to feed and dress six children and arrive at Church on time. I remember one Sunday morning when we could not find the baby's shoes. We turned the house topsy-turvy, Needless to say, we were all flustered when we finally arrived at the van where Dad had been sitting, honking the horn. We climbed aboard and I started putting the baby's shoes on him. My husband got out of the van and went into the house. After several minutes, I became concerned and went into the house looking for him. He was sitting in the rocking chair, slowly moving back and forth, drinking a cup of coffee.

"What are you doing?" He started singing. "Hallelujah, it's quiet, hallelujah, amen. Hallelujah, it's quiet, it won't be again." Thereafter it became a tradition at our house to line up everyone's shoes against the wall on Saturday night so "Dad could polish them."

I choose to attend a Bible – believing Church because, since I became a Christian at the age often, I have hungered to know God's Word. For my eleventh birthday, my sister picked berries and bought my first Bible. Since then, 1 have worn out several Bibles. The more I study, the more I want to learn.

After Sunday School, a friend commented, "I really enjoy your comments in class discussions. Did you attend Seminary with your husband?" Although I typed his papers and listened to his discussion of subjects he took, I actually learned the Bible mainly by faithfully attending Sunday School and Church down through the years.

I attend Church because I need the fellowship of believers. The "popcorn" testimonies were always enjoyed in the evening service when young and old alike shared what God had done for them. Some people shared a favorite Bible verse. After we moved to Iowa, my husband and I took our young children with us to the State Association Meetings.

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My four-year-old son whispered something to me that I really did not hear, but I said, "Yes," as mothers sometimes do to placate their children. Immediately he stood up and said, "Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel." Of course, I was embarrassed and reached for him, but the moderator thanked the young man and continued discussing whether or not to consider financing certain missionaries.

I attend Church to worship together with other believers. Church is a place of praising God in song, exhortation from God's Word, and prayer. Hebrews 10 exhorts us, "Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another."

"Thank you Father, for the fellowship of believers. Thank you for a God-fearing pastor who. studies and preaches the truth from your Word, the Bible."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Attending Church is a wonderful channel that God has given us to help us become more Christlike.

– Laura Drewer –

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Hebrews 10:19-25

Are You Regularly At The 'Family Table'?

When we become a child of God, we become a member of God's family. We are blessed with many privileges. One of those is that of growing up in the loving, caring atmosphere of the "family' (Church). As a child, raised on a Nebraska ranch, the most special time in our day, after a big day of working in the field, was meal time. Our meals were served at regular times, the food was delicious, and the fellowship was great! We were all expected to pull up our chair to the table to be together at meal time. As a Christian, the special time with my 'brothers and sisters in Christ' is at 'meal time'. It is at this time that I am strengthened by the Bread of Life and encouraged by the joy of the fellowship, in order that I will be a better worker in the Harvest Field. In our local 'Family of God' the meal is served regularly, several times during the week. Around the Family Table is a chair bearing the name of each of our family members. A meal is served at Sunday Morning Worship, Sunday School, Sunday Evening Celebration, Christian Growth Group, etc. When we fail to 'pull up our chair' when the meal is served, we most likely will become weak spiritually and will eventually become ill. Not only do we suffer, but also do our family members. No one can fill our chair but us. When we are not present at the 'meal', we are missed because we are loved. I think I understand more clearly now, having experienced the sorrow of some family members' chairs not being filled regularly, why my father insisted that we all be present at meal time. Our presence was a sign of health and made the family complete. We needed each other after a long, hard day of work. The laughter and the joy over the meal were so satisfying and drew us even closer together. Brothers and sisters in Christ, we need the nourishment served at 'meal time', and we need each other. When we are not present at 'meal time', we become weak, our chair is vacant, and other family members are concerned because they love us.

As one who wants to be present at each meal served to our Church Family, I have noticed that one of the first signs of spiritual illness, is the lack of 'pulling up' to the table when the meals are served. Often we feel tired and weak after a day of working in the heat, battling the obstacles of life. The enemy of our souls, the author of spiritual illness, delights in seeing our absence at the table. Sometimes I would tell my mother 'I'm too tired to eat'! She would respond with 'Come and join us, you'll feel better'. And I did! When you feel weak and tired, I urge you as a family member, to 'pull up your chair' to the table. You'll feel better. Some day we will be invited to the table where the meal of meals will be served (Revelation 19:9). What a thrill to pull up our chair to the

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grandest meal of all with Christ and the Family of God! I believe our response to the regular meals with our Family here on earth will influence whether or not we will be blessed to receive that grand invitation to the Meal of Meals.

"Father in heaven, give me a 'hearty appetite' for the Bread of Life. Help me to realize both my responsibility and my privilege to 'pull up my chair' to the Family Table."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: I resolve regularly to take my place at the Family Table!

– Venita Christian –

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Revelation 3:7-13

A Church Of The Rank and File

The landscape of England is dotted with Saxon Churches that date from the first millennium. One such Church is Holy Trinity in Bosham on the English Channel. The tides from the channel floods part of the village twice a day.

At Holy Trinity, an invitation to pause and pray is posted on the Church door: "Will you join in the eternal stream of prayer and praise which is still offered here by the people of this parish?" As we entered, I noticed crosses etched like graffiti on the stone door jams. An explanation was posted which informed visitors that the crosses were imprinted by knights returning from the Crusades. They would rededicate themselves to peace by blunting the points of their swords before entering the Church. If you closed your eyes and listened, you could almost hear the clinking of armor and the scratching of metal on stone.

The east end of the nave was flanked by two stone coffins. The one on the left contained the bones of a strong man. The one on the right contained the remains of the eight-year- old daughter of King Canaute. To one side in the rear of the Church, light streamed through a window illuminating a portable cork bulletin board. On it was a collage of photographs showing the local teenagers enjoying the activities of the Church. It was refreshing to realize that this ancient Church was not a museum but an active Church which had been proclaiming the love of God to young and old, weak and strong for more than a thousand years.

I had expected to be awed and inspired by the great cathedrals of England. I did not expect to be so profoundly moved by the simple and quiet dignity of those little out-of- the-way places that have been faithfully teaching and preaching the Word of God for so many centuries.

Time tests all things. The glitz and glamour of the mega-Churches that have mushroomed at the close of the 20th century cannot hold a candle to the heritage of the "little brown Church in the vale."

"Heavenly Faith, thank you for the rich and deep heritage which we have as disciples of Jesus."

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AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Each little Church in each little town will warm my heart by its witness.

– William Jenkins-

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Psalms 72:1-20, Psalm 90:1-17, Psalm 100:1-5

Communion With God Through Hymns

His name was Isaac Watts. A precocious child, he could have attended Oxford University, but instead learned Latin, Greek, French and Hebrew as an elementary school student. He could have attended Oxford University, but instead of this great university, he studied "philosophy, etc.," in a nonconformist academy at Stoke Newington near London. His father was a notorious Dissenter, opposing the State Church to the degree that he spent three terms in jail and then was compelled to leave his home and hide himself.

As a child, Isaac's precocity manifested itself in versifying. He constantly spoke in rhyme, until his father, in exasperation, once started to whip him, and he cried out in tears: Oh father, do some pity take, And I will no more verses make".

His schooling had prepared him for Christian ministry, so at age 26, he received appointment to his first Church, Mark Lane Independent Chapel in London.

The Rev. M. Isaac Watts was afflicted, however, with chronic poor health, so that an assistant was hired to do most of the parish work. For the next 22 years he continued, as he was able, in this ministry, the only Church he ever served.

A leading layman in that Church, Sir Thomas Abbey, thought highly of his sickly pastor, and invited him to spend a week at his estate. Isaac Watts accepted, and stayed thirty-six years, until he died.

We might think he would be little known in these circumstances, but such is by far not the case! His ability to put deep thought into verse was his God-given gift.

He wrote original hymns and, more, he 'Christianized and modernized' the Psalms to be sung in worship. Hundreds of songs poured from his pen in his lifetime.

Some of his more familiar hymns that are still in use:

When I Survey The Wondrous Cross 
Jesus Shall Reign Where'er The Sun (Psalm 72) 
O God, Our Help in Ages Past (Psalm 90) 

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Joy To The World, The Lord Is Come 
Am I A Soldier Of The Cross? 
Come, Ye That Love The Lord. 

In the hymnal I have used for over 40 years, I find Isaac Watts second only to Charles Wesley in the number of hymns attributed to him, 20 in the 1951 edition of the Hymns Of The Living Faith.

His songs are still blessing the body of Christ.

"O Lord, let my heart sing, as Watts taught us, 'the glories of our God and King.'"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: I will let the great hymns minister to me, helping me to understand better God's love for me.

– Eugene Stewart-

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John 2:12-16

Reverence In Corporate Worship

To speak of the anger of Jesus seems like an oxymoron. The one who said "suffer the children to come unto me", who saved the adulteress from stoning by saying "Let him who is without sin cast the first stone", who took the taunts of his persecutors and reviled not, of whom it was prophesied "a bruised reed he will not break" – if he was anything he was gentleness personified. Yet at the Temple during Passover his anger flares and we must ask ourselves why.

First, He was obviously angry because His Father's House had become a place of merchandise, a "den of thieves". Worshipers were expected to pay a yearly temple tax equal to two days' wages. Those paying the tax using foreign currency had to pay another day's wages in conversion fees. The oxen, sheep and doves used for sacrifice had to be bought from temple Docks at inflated prices. All of this was taking place in one of the sacred temple courts.

The subject of reverence in the place of worship is an important one. When my wife and I were missionaries in Japan, the Japanese taught us much about reverence in worship. After the last Amen is said following a prayer, their heads remain bowed a few moments longer as though savoring the wonder that we have just had an audience with the Almighty Creator of the universe.

We spent a year in the mountains of central Japan for language study. Some Sundays we worshiped at a village Church. One morning I was sitting beside a young bachelor farmer dressed in blue work pants. He had received Christ while living and studying on an American farm owned by a Christian family. As we began to sing "Holy, Holy, Holy", the young farmer began to quiver. Thinking he must be ill I moved slightly away from him. Finally I realized this man was simply overcome by the awesome presence of God in the house of worship. Since then I can never sing "Holy, Holy, Holy" the same again.

How do we sing the hymns? Is it only mouthing the familiar words without thinking? Or is it using the hymn as a vehicle for encountering and praising the Living God?

How do we sit in the Lord's House? As one slouched before the television masticating a wad of gum? Or as one who is in the presence of a King – the King of Kings?

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What we defend as "spontaneity" and "freedom of the Spirit" may violate the boundaries of reverence in worship. For example, I think of the-use of touring singing groups in the services of worship. It can lend itself well to the spirit of celebration and praise. But such groups may lack spiritual sensitivity and sometime seems more appropriate for an old vaudeville show than worship of the Almighty. A warm greeting to friends and visitors before the worship service is appropriate but continuance of conversation during the worship service destroys the spirit of worship.

A. W. Tozer once wrote: "The heaviest obligation lying upon. the Christian Church today is to purify and elevate her concept of God until it is once more worthy of Him — and her. In all her prayers and labors this should have first place."

"Dear Jesus, in light of your cleansing the Temple of insincere and irreverent persons, I repent of the times I have entered the place of worship detached and unaware of your Glory. Amen."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: A true understanding of the holiness of God is the beginning of all worship.

– Dale Bidwell –

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Acts 2:41-47

Circle The Wagons

In the earlier days of the American frontier, pioneers traveled westward in wagon trains. They went to settle in the new lands and begin new lives. They went in search of new opportunities and new adventures. Most importantly, they followed their dreams. It wasn't always easy to follow dreams; as a matter of fact, it was almost always hard.

There were many dangers along the trail of the wagon trains. Often, Indians would attack the trains, determined to stop the expansion westward. When this happened, a cry went throughout the wagon train, "Circle the Wagons! Circle the Wagons!" This maneuver provided protection from the present danger. After the danger was past, the wagons continued on their journey.

In the life of the Church, there are those times when we need to "Circle the Wagons!" By this I mean the necessity of facing obstacles and gaining victories through united efforts.

We need to Circle the Wagons for Prayer: Everyone praying for each one and each one praying for everyone. Prayer provides energy for the journey.

We need to Circle the Wagons for Worship: Coming together as the body of Christ, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves for the worship of God. In these times we are reminded that we are not alone. Worship provides inspiration for the journey.

We need to Circle the Wagons in Giving: Honoring God with His tithes and our offerings; letting go of what is not rightfully ours to keep. Giving provides the necessary supplies for the journey.

We need to Circle the Wagons for Service: Making available such talents, resources, and abilities as are ours for the strengthening of the Church. Doing what we can when and where we can. Service provides leadership for the journey.

We need to Circle the Wagons for Witnessing: Sharing your faith in God; telling the story of your spiritual journey; inviting people to Church and encouraging them to know Jesus. Witnessing provides more wagons for the journey.

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I have noticed that one or two wagons do not make a circle. Three wagons make a triangle. Four makes a square. Many wagons are needed to make a circle. This- means that each of us is important in strengthening the Church and advancing its progress. Let's defend ourselves against the enemies of apathy, discouragement, lethargy, weakness and whatever else might attempt to hinder us.

It is time to "Circle the Wagons!" And recommit ourselves to prayer, worship, giving, service, and witnessing.

"Dear God, give me that wisdom which refuses to break away from 'The Wagon Train.'"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: My habits will be the holy habits of Jesus.

– William Jenkins –

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Discussion Questions

  1. Why do you think that there is a general 'maverick' attitude in our American society that suggests that we are self-made persons who can control our own destines? Why is such an independent attitude a "violation" of the Biblical concept of "Freedom"? Should believers be "free to do their own thing", or "free to serve others unselfishly"? Are you personally (and presently) living in a "responsible" and "accountable" relationship with fellow Christians within the context of a local Church? What does it mean to you (as a believer) to "live for others", instead of independently for only yourself? Is it possible for a committed follower of Christ to be a part of "the" family of God (i.e., the "Invisible" Church) if he is not a part of "a" family of God (i.e., a local "Visible" Church)? Why or why not?

  2. List reasons why you choose to attend the worship and educational services of a local Church? What specific benefits do you derive from regular attendance of Church services?

  3. Share your personal response or reaction to the following statement (found in the article entitled "A Church of the Rank and File"): "The glitz and glamour of the mega-Churches that have mushroomed at the close of the 20th century cannot hold a candle to the heritage of the little brown Church in the vale."

  4. Share how your use of the Hymns (in either singing or reciting them) has enhanced your own spiritual growth. Do you own a Hymn book, and (if so) do you regularly use it during your daily "Quiet Times"?

  5. What can you personally do to "heighten" the awareness of the Divine Presence, during your participation in corporate worship services? What can you do to rid your local Church of those "distractions" which violate a "spirit of reverence" during its worship services?

  6. What "activities" can you personally participate in which would help the fellow members of your local Church to overcome spiritual obstacles, in order to gain personal and corporate "victories"? Spiritually speaking, what does it mean for you to be a participant with fellow believers to "Circle the Wagon"?

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  7. Match the following "activities" with _the corresponding "benefits" (as understood within the corporate setting of a local Church):

    __ A. Giving 1. Provides energy for the journey.
    __ B. Prayer 2. Provides inspiration for the journey.
    __ C. Worship 3. Provides the necessary supplies for the journey.
    __ D. Service 4. Provides more wagons for the journey.
    __ E. Witnessing 5. Provides leadership for the journey.

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