They Devoted Themselves to Fellowship and Sharing Meals

[]'They devoted themselves to the apostles' teachings and fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and prayers.' This is one of the missions of the church. In our teaching series this summer, we have talked about the things we do as a church body. Today we focus on what it means, as a family of faith, to be friends and to be the part of fellowship that God calls us to be. It is more than simply the worship, it is more than just the prayers, it is more than just the gifts we bring, it is more than the sacraments we receive. God calls out to us to be a gathering of friends, to be those who gather not only within these walls, but who gather around tables in our houses, breaking bread with one another, sharing our stories, sharing our life experiences, sharing how God may have touched us in certain ways or how we see this thing that we call faith come together in our daily living. This is a calling of the church.

And the early church did not miss that. They may not have had a church building with a set style of service, an expected time to be there, and a service of a particular length (it may not have been so prescribed for the early church), but they did set a foundation for all of us. In some places, depending on where you lived in the Roman Empire, it was illegal to practice your faith in those days and you could be persecuted. So the people often met in secret. But when they met, they shared their faith with one another. They shared the teachings that had been passed on to them. And they broke bread and had a meal together. For many of us in this congregation, and some who have gotten to know each other through our Learning Center, friendships have developed, strong bonds that go beyond friendship and begin to make us a family, not connected by blood but connected together by God, connected together by a faith which gives us meaning in our lives.

Now, today it is easy for us to say, "Yes, we need to be about fellowship." In the four years that I've been here, I've said that many, many times. And we've tried new things. Some events have been successful, and some have not. But here it is in Scripture. Part of who we are to be is a church that fellowships together. So I re-emphasize to everyone here to spend time in fellowship. I know it's often enticing to hurry up and make it for your lunch plans after church, to not be able to stay for the functions we have. Even times when we have a pot-luck supper, not everyone makes their way downstairs. Often it's about half to two-thirds of the gathered body upstairs that makes it down to this time of fellowship and the breaking of bread.

But it is a part of our calling as people of faith to spend that extra time in fellowship, to cultivate the relationships that we share, for it is in cultivating those relationships that we're able to get to the deeper discussions, the way our faith impacts our lives, to ask each other the questions that are burning within us. It's in those interactions that learning takes place in greater ways than just being in the service on Sunday morning. It's by hearing how God is working in someone else's life, or sharing how God is acting in ours. And it is such an important thing for us to do. That is where deepening of spirit begins. Much of that happens within the gathering of the church in the worship service, but additional deepening of faith comes from conversations when people build friendships and relationships of trust, compassion, and respect.

So as we move through this summer teaching series about what we are called to do as the church, let us remember that fellowship is a vital part of ministry. It's not just down-time. It's not just wasted effort. It's called for by the early apostles, to make time for the breaking of bread and for fellowship. So let us consider that, and let us do that. And let us realize that church is more than Sunday morning worship. The church is gathered every time you pick up the phone and invite friends to your house, or when you meet them somewhere for a time of fellowship. So the church, or at least our vision of the church, can expand today and every day. Let us set our minds to that, in Christ.

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