Wednesday, May 27, 2009



There are two dimensions of the fellowship principle. The first dimension is to share in life as in being partners in life. This dynamic creates an inner security and support system for those who participate.

The second dimension of the fellowship principle is to share with others in need. This has more to do with sharing with those who are in need physically. There are several categories of people in need that come to mind. When you come together, be aware of believers in need around you. This demonstration of fellowship was an integral part of the early fellowship experience.

Remember the description of the early disciples in the 2nd chapter of Acts. They had a sense of awe of the presence of God as they gathered together and "All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved." (Acts 2:44-47)

When you come together, be aware of the needs of those around you. I am particularly struck with the way the Kingdom is practiced when it comes to the needs of those in the fellowship-they gave to anyone as he had need. This has been my experience as followers of Jesus participate in fellowship together. They have a sense of rallying around anyone who has a need and seek to meet that need. This may be financial or more than financial. When someone is sick or in trouble, when someone needs a job or when someone needs to be encouraged or challenged to make some changes.

When you come together, be aware of the needs of your teachers and those who minister to you. When Jesus called and sent out the Twelve on their initial assignment He instructed them: "Freely you received, freely give. Do not acquire gold, or silver, or copper for your money belts, or a bag for your journey, or even two coats, or sandals, or a staff; for the worker is worthy of his support" (Matthew 10:8-10). This same understanding of sharing with those who minister to you is extended in Paul's letter to Timothy: "The elders who rule well are to be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, 'YOU SHALL NOT MUZZLE THE OX WHILE HE IS THRESHING' and 'The laborer is worthy of his wages'" (I Timothy 5:17-18)

Several years ago Diana and I responded to a "calling" to follow Jesus more simply. A group of friends over the years continue to support us, so that we are released to study, pray, counsel, teach and minister to those Jesus brings our way in a full-time manner. It is a most humbling experience, yet we are free to work with anyone anywhere without having an agenda-especially a financial agenda. The monthly support is up and its down, but somehow the Lord continues to supply our needs as doors of ministry continue to open. We can think of no greater privilege than what we are doing right now.

We have also found new meaning to the term "tentmaker". Paul was by profession a tentmaker. He worked that business whenever he could in order to be free to minister to people without any hidden agenda. Also people supported him from time to time to get the job done. I am a speaker-a professional speaker, which means people actually pay for me to speak. The Lord has used this to supplement our support right when we need it. So, we do tentmaking from time to time.

However, I've come to realize that everyone who is a follower of Jesus is also a tentmaker. Your tentmaking is your occupation that you are paid to do. If you are a teacher, you are paid to teach. But in that paid occupation you have a greater calling and that is to pattern yourself after Jesus and to practice the Kingdom lifestyle. Even those of you who work for a Church are in a paid occupation-a job, but while doing your work you are to pay attention to the real calling and attraction to Jesus and the Kingdom.

When you come together, be aware of the needs of those who are sent out to do ministry outside of your local fellowship. This is especially true as God raises up leadership in other countries. You are not to just say, "We'll pray for you." You must think in terms of truly sharing with them, so that they are empowered to do what God has called them to do in the name of Jesus.

Paul says to Timothy: "Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy. Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is life indeed" (I Timothy 6:17-19). The fellowship must stand ready to share financially to underwrite and support the needs of the Kingdom of Jesus wherever it may spread.

Jesus and His early disciples were supported mostly by successful business women. Then, as the movement spread finances were always available through followers of Jesus who viewed themselves as Kingdom kids, feeling responsible to keep the Good News message and movement of Jesus spreading everywhere doors opened. When the fellowship is functioning properly, there is no need for heavy promotions. It all has to do with attraction to the irresistible Jesus and the irreversible Kingdom.



NOTE the progression from yesterday. FIRST-pattern yourself after the teachings and principles of Jesus. See what Jesus does and says and do and say the same things. SECOND-practice the Kingdom principles of life and embrace them as a lifestyle. The Kingdom is practiced anywhere and everywhere, because it's a movement. BUT how is the Kingdom practiced?

The Kingdom is practiced by participation in a community of followers of Jesus. As is deeply founded in the Godhead relationship we are to live our lives in relationship with Jesus and in fellowship with one another.

Practicing the presence of the Kingdom requires fellowship. The term fellowship is widely known, but even more widely misunderstood. It's more than a pot-luck dinner. It's not a room called the "fellowship" hall. It's more than a group of friends watching football or hunting together. The fellowship may be the most important concept you will ever learn. However, this concept is not just to be learned; it must be lived! I call it FELLOWSHIP IS A VERB.

Jesus' strategic approach to spreading His Good News message throughout the world never involved "putting up another church", but practicing their relationship with Jesus and with one another in the Kingdom. This is what the fellowship is all about!

The fellowship is the answer to becoming the genuine salt and light that Jesus intended His followers to be. My friend who challenged me to be more strategic with my life also painted a couple of vivid pictures that are now etched in my mind indelibly. He urged me to be a fountain. "You don't take the fountain to people; the people come to the fountain" he said. "In the same way, you are to be a light that attracts. Bugs are attracted to a physical light. People are attracted to a spiritual light of truth. So be a light! Be a fountain! If Jesus is lifted up, He will draw all men unto Him." The fellowship operates on the principle of attraction, not promotion. This goes against the grain of most every religious program in our world.

The fellowship is not an organization, an institution or a denomination. Fellowship is a verb that, when properly activated, has the power to change the world-one person at a time! In order to use the fellowship as a verb you must learn the fellowship principle.

The primary term for fellowship in the New Testament is koinonia. The word has the idea of communion or sharing in common with another. It's the perfect word to describe the relationship we are to have with God and with one another-a partnership. This partnership is to be entered into-to join one's self to an associate or associates in order to become a sharer.

The designated partners within the fellowship include Jesus, Jesus' followers and you. The fellowship is with God Himself (Father, His Son Jesus and the His Spirit) and with His people. The fellowship principle is the full application of this dynamic partnership between God and His people.

There are two dimensions of the fellowship principle. We'll deal with one today and the second tomorrow. The first dimension is to share in life as in being partners in life. This is more of the spiritual dimension of having a genuine partnership-a blood-brother friendship. You were created to have this kind of partnership, rather than trying to live your life alone. It's knowing that someone gives a rip whether you live or die. This kind of partnership involves the many "one anothers" taught in the Scriptures-weeping with those who weep, rejoicing with those who rejoice, praying for one another, confessing your faults to one another, encouraging and admonishing one another, loving one another, etc. This dimension may be best described by the proverb "As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another" (Proverbs 27:17).

There are, at least, four specific ways to practice this dimension of the fellowship principle. When you come together, be sure to share what you are learning and experiencing in your walk. This will emerge out of your personal study of the Scriptures and your daily walk with Jesus.

When you come together, be sure to share yourself. Share your sins and failures-your vulnerabilities and your need for God. Share your blessings and your joys. You have been created to be dependent upon God. Share how easily you can be distracted away from God's intent and become dependent upon something else in its place.

When you come together, be sure to share accountability. You need a support system of people who are going the same direction, live for the same reasons you live and care enough to hold your hand through the good and the bad. You want people in your life like Jesus, who know you and love you anyway.

When you come together, be sure to share your prayer needs. There is no greater bond on earth than when a group bows down in the name of Jesus (the Higher Power), seeking to follow a Higher Calling.

Paul must have been a southerner, because he used what I call "the y'all principle" throughout most of his writing. Take a look: "Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you (among y'all), with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God" (Colossians 3:16). Or, "I am again in labor until Christ is formed in you (in y'all)" (Galatians 4:19). Or, "Christ in you (in y'all), the hope of glory" (Colossians 1:27).

Paul is commanding believers everywhere to allow Jesus to make His dwelling place (make Himself at home) as you come together into the fellowship. The dynamite (power) of the gospel will be present in the midst of a few who are gathered together in Jesus' name. The y'all principle is the fellowship principle and the practice of the presence of the Kingdom. Making covenants to one another galvanizes a community of followers of Jesus. It is amazing how simple agreements and commitments to one another provide a bonding power among the participants. These covenants may be agreements to pray for certain things for a certain time period, going on a mission trip together, producing an event, or agreements to go through a study together. This is the fellowship principle!

This takes us back to the principle of the power of the few. This is the key to the mystery of "Christ in you, the hope of glory". It isn't Christ in you or me or he or she. Jesus doesn't make Himself at home in a single person. Jesus wants to dwell among His people. "Christ in you" is in the plural, not the singular. It is literally "Christ in y'all" as you gather together.

Jesus wasn't kidding when He said that He would show up where two or three are gathered together. It's when a few gather in the name of Jesus that His preeminence shows up. It's when a few gather in the name of Jesus that the presence of the King in His Kingdom is experienced.

The power of the few is really a complete paradigm shift. Jesus introduced an entirely new dynamic into the teaching process. Let's call it "table fellowship". Instead of one person teaching a class, Jesus spent lots of significant time around the table with food. The gospel of Luke records ten meals with Jesus. Eight of them are eaten in the flow of Jesus' ministry activity and two are eaten with the disciples after the resurrection.

In many of the meals Jesus broke several social and religious customs. Jesus was operating under a new paradigm where He broke down any and all boundaries between the sinners and the religious, the men and women, servants and masters, rich and poor. In other words, Jesus uses fellowship around the table to bring everyone together and to demonstrate Kingdom living at its simple, tangible best.

As these many meals with Jesus are examined closely, it's helpful to pay special attention to the settings. The settings vary from the homes of the highly religious to special friends and even in two tax-collector homes. Most of the time Jesus is invited and in the case of Zacheus Jesus invited Himself to lunch at Zach's place. The guest list is always fascinating-priests, sinners, prostitutes and a variety of broken people and those who are looking for that special touch from Jesus.

The simple program of Jesus for changing the whole world is to make each person He touches magnetic enough with love to draw others to love God and to love one another. This transformation happens within the relational community of a few. Are you in that kind of relationship?