Appalachian Connection

 

WHAT A FELLOWSHIP!

 

David W. Dillon

Superintendent, Appalachian District

©2012

  

I am about to commit an all too common sin of preaching as I use these words from the old song of the church, Leaning on the Everlasting Arms. I’m going to take them out of context! (Preacher, don’t look so shocked. We’ve all done it at least once.)

Consider for a moment the incredible blessing of fellowship—not the kind where we get together and enjoy each other’s company (usually with food), but something much higher than that, something which the Bible clearly speaks to and elevates as a high priority of God and one that He expects to be a high priority of His Church. And since you and I are members of this fellowship called the Assemblies of God (AG), I’m going to make my remarks within that context.

In First Corinthians 12, the Apostle Paul pens an incredible illustration of the fellowship God intends to be evident within the Church, the body of Christ. He uses the human body and its intricate design to show God’s plan of community and interdependence for the Church. The foot needs the hand. The ear needs the eye. The eye needs the hand. The head needs the feet. Get the picture? Every member/part of the body is important and has a role to play (even those considered to be “less honorable” and “weaker” have been placed by God and are essential to the overall well-being and function of the body). No part can fulfill its divine design on its own and by itself. Verse 25 of this passage brings it all home when it says, “God’s purpose was that the body should not be divided but rather that all of its parts should feel the same concern for each other.” WE NEED ONE ANOTHER and EVERYBODY MATTERS!

Sadly, even within a fellowship as great as the Assemblies of God there are some pastors, ministers and churches violating this core value of the Bible. They choose to keep to themselves in a spirit of isolationism. And while this may be their right within the culture of this fellowship (the AG, a voluntary cooperative fellowship), their action is totally self-serving and contrary to the biblical concept of community and interdependence we’ve just examined.

All of us need each other because each member/part of the body/church brings a unique gifting and ability that has been given to it by God for the benefit of the body/church as a whole. Such is true for every pastor, minister and church as God has gifted each with skills and abilities that others do not have. And these others have been gifted similarly with skills and abilities not possessed by their ministry colleagues.

All parties can benefit from and assist the others. Each pastor, minister and church has been raised up by God to reach a particular area in their unique style and emphasis. Because of this, there’s much they have to share and there’s also much they can learn from their fellow pastors, ministers and sister churches. Isolating ourselves from fellowship is to do so to our own detriment (as we cannot receive from others) and to the detriment of the body/church as a whole (as we cannot share with others).

And just as the proverbial chain is only as strong as its weakest link, even so the entire body of Christ is hindered when any member suffers (v. 26). It’s only through the connectivity of our fellowship that we develop the personal relationships that will enable us to love one another, to pray for each other, and to encourage our brothers and sisters in their times of trouble and seasons of hardship. (This truth cannot be missed when one considers the next chapter of First Corinthians, perhaps the greatest in the entire Bible, what some have called The Love Chapter. And in the gospels Jesus himself made it clear that it is our love for each other that will let everyone know that we are his disciples (John 13:35)—not our ministries, our titles, our accomplishments, our facilities, our reputation or good standing within the community, none of these things.) We can’t love people, we can’t love one another if we do not connect with our fellow members of the body/church. We cannot truly love whom we do not know, plain and simple.

Again, this is what it means to be part of the body of Christ that you and I are part of as members of the Assemblies of God. It’s a great fellowship, one that God is using mightily in our region and beyond. (At the 2011 General Council it was announced that every seven seconds a soul comes to Christ somewhere in the world through an Assemblies of God ministry. PTL!) I encourage you to take advantage of the connections and opportunities available through your fellowship, beginning in your section and continuing to your district and national fellowship. It will help you to be better equipped to the task to which God has called you. And who doesn’t want that?

 

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