“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who 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 2:42-47 NIV
In its early days, the Church spread like wildfire throughout Judea and the surrounding region. While the teachings, signs, and wonders of the apostles got the attention of many, the true impact of the Church was in the everyday living of the believers.
The word “fellowship” used in Acts 2:42 is the Greek word “koinōnia,” which can be translated to fellowship, community, or joint participation. Fellowship. Community. Joint participation. Fellowship and community both certainly ring true. Who doesn’t love some time in fellowship? Joint participation, however, is the most interesting definition here to me.
Fellowship requires joint participation. A community only thrives if there is a communal sense of ownership and participation.
Looking at the believers of the early Church, they were ALL IN. They came together to listen to the Word, to break bread together, to pray (v. 42). They gave freely to those who were in need (v. 45), coming together daily with hunger and sincerity to praise God and be with one another (v. 46-47).
Their faith in Christ wasn’t contained to a once-a-week gathering in which they showed up, participated, and then left and went on with their lives. It was an all-encompassing focal point on which everything else in their life was fixated.
A couple of chapters later, the story is told of Ananias and Sapphira, a couple who took advantage of the well-meaning sincerity of the fellowship of believers. While God dealt with them swiftly (Acts 5:1-11), their story tells as a warning against being a part of the fellowship of believers for ulterior motives. It’s a struggle that we all need to face because we are all imperfect sinners. We will fail. We will hurt people. We will get hurt by people.
The fellowship of believers is not perfect, but it is a beautiful representation of how we are to live our lives. After that initial encounter with Christ where we declare Him our Lord and Savior, we are called to enter this joint participation.
We cannot expect to grow in our faith in Christ if we are not participating in the fellowship of believers (aka the Church). Wherever you are in your walk with Christ, there is a deeper challenge to grow.
Do you come to church for the worship/message and then leave, or perhaps you attend online weekly? Come, and stay after service. Grab some coffee and strike up a conversation with someone.
Maybe you attend church weekly and participate in some of our weekly ministries. Do you have a small group of people that you meet with regularly, eat meals with, and pray for each other?
Or maybe you can consider giving some of your resources to help others? Whether it be financial giving, cooking meals for those in need, or even helping fix a friend’s car, there are countless ways to steward the skills and resources you have to help those in the Church.
Joint participation in the Church means joining together as we all pursue the same mission: being more like Christ and making Christ known to others. It’s a tough mission, which is why we can’t do it alone.