There seems to be a trend within American Christianity that has me very much concerned. Many Christians have been bitten by the Internet/Facebook bug. They seem to think they can get their Christian fellowship by socializing on the computer or smart phone. What goes hand-in-hand with it is a falling away from financially supporting their local body of believers and a move to choosing charities of one’s choice or not contributing at all.
Some Christians, most dangerously, have been very vocal to speak out against the New Testament model of fellowship and offerings. They twist the Scriptures to defend their stand, and to the un-discerning Christian, seem so convincing. They claim that God is leading them on a spiritual journey and that church attendance is not a part of the equation. Some love to dwell upon the hypocrisy found in the churches. TV Christianity that became big in the 1970’s is now being replaced by a spiritually deadly intoxicant.
All of our discernment is to be in accordance with rightly dividing God’s Word, the Bible. God’s judgment itself will be according to the Bible. God’s nature itself is according to the Bible. God will never go against His Word. God is the Word!
God designed all Christians to come together in a unified, organized fellowship body that has leadership and authority set in place. There are NO prerequisites for Christians to fellowship. Also, there are NO excuses not to. The only ban to fellowship is to those who continue to live in open sin after being warned. Only in parts of the world where fellowship is not always possible, because of evil regimes, will the Holy Spirit intervene in personal lives and fill the gaps that are left because of lack of fellowhip. Many Christians throughout the ages have been killed by evil men while trying to gather together in worship because they knew the strength that flows from it. Read 1 Corinthians Chapter 12. Here are a few verses from that chapter that make it clear: A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other. The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ. This makes for harmony among the members, so that all the members care for each other. All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it. (1 Corinthians 12:7, 12, 25, 27 NLT). Common sense in dealing with these verses makes it clear that it is not about the whole ‘Bride of Christ’ Church. It is about the individual ‘fellowship of believers’ church. 1 Corinthians 14:26 makes this even clearer when it says, “Well, my brothers and sisters, let’s summarize. When you meet together, one will sing, another will teach, another will tell some special revelation God has given, one will speak in tongues, and another will interpret what is said. But everything that is done must strengthen all of you.”
If that is not enough, here are a few more verses that fully support God’s model:
1. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved. (Acts 2:47 NLT)
Notice the word ‘fellowship’.
2. As soon as they were freed, Peter and John returned to the other believers and told them what the (Jewish) priests and elders had said. When they heard the report, all the believers lifted their voices together in prayer to God. After this prayer, the meeting place shook, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit. Then they preached the word of God with boldness. (Acts 4:23, 24, 31 NLT)
Notice the term ‘meeting place’ and the fact that the Holy Spirit filled and ministered to those in the meeting. It is safe to say that those who were not there missed out on this blessing. This is at the heart of why it is so important to be part of a church where the Holy Spirit is free to operate. The blessings in a corporate environment are usually so much more than in an individual’s prayer closet. Yet both are just as vital even though different in purpose.
3. All the believers were united in heart and mind. And they felt that what they owned was not their own, so they shared everything they had. The apostles testified powerfully to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and God’s great blessing was upon them all. There were no needy people among them, because those who owned land or houses would sell them and bring the money to the apostles to give to those in need. (Acts 4:32-35 NLT)
4. Then they went from town to town, instructing the believers to follow the decisions made by the apostles and elders in Jerusalem. So the churches were strengthened in their faith and grew larger every day. (Acts 16:4, 5 NLT)
5. In every place of worship, I want men to pray with holy hands lifted up to God, free from anger and controversy. (1 Timothy 2:8 NLT)
6. I left you on the island of Crete so you could complete our work there and appoint elders in each town as I instructed you. (Titus 1:5 NLT)
7. Obey your spiritual leaders, and do what they say. Their work is to watch over your souls, and they are accountable to God. Give them reason to do this with joy and not with sorrow. That would certainly not be for your benefit. (Hebrews 13:17 NLT)
Rebellion is a stench in God’s nostrils. The Bible is filled with examples of those that wanted to do it their way. If you look you will see that many of them thought they had good arguments for their cause, but when God intervened, they found out the hard way that they were 100% wrong. Jesus stated in John 14:15, “If you love me, keep my commandments.” Those that take the commandment in Hebrews 10:24-25 and try to pervert it are treading on dangerous ground. It clearly says, “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.”
We know the day of Christ’s coming is at hand, so now is the time it is especially important to fellowship in an organized Church. Otherwise, those that don’t may find themselves grouped in the following warning:
You know this, Timothy, that in the last days there will be very difficult times. For people will love only themselves and their money. They will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to their parents, and ungrateful. They will consider nothing sacred. They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly. Stay away from people like that! (2 Timothy 3:1, 2, 5 NLT)
I would like to share one last verse:
“So if someone tells you, ‘Look, the Messiah is out in the desert,’ don’t bother to go and look. Or, ‘Look, he is hiding here,’ don’t believe it!”(Matthew 24:26 NLT)
To those that claim God is leading them on a spiritual journey and that church attendance is not a part of the equation, Jesus has already given warning to stay away from desert places. Remember, all churches have problems because of Satan’s unleashed fury against the whole ‘Bride of Christ’ in these last days. No church is exempt. Going to church is not just about receiving. It is also about how the Holy Spirit can use us to rise above the wrongs. Casting stones at the church by just writting about the problems is not the solution. We must go in and get our hands dirty sometimes. You cannot say you love God if you do not love your fellow Christians and want to fellowship with them. We are to fellowship not only to be strengthened, but also to strengthen others!