How To Work And Fellowship At The Same Time
Topic: Church Life Passage: Philippians 1:3–1:6
We are going to take another week off from our study in Genesis so instead please turn with me to Phil. 1. Beginning in the fall Matt and I feel the Lord would have us turn our focus to Jesus’ call to discipleship. Jesus called people to be his disciples and it was a call that radically changed their lives. For many people, the first words they heard Jesus say were the words, “follow Me”. And the last words his disciples heard him say was the command to “go and make disciples”. Being a Christian means being a disciple of Jesus. And being a disciple of Jesus is to include making disciples of others.
ILL: At Camp Cherith after every meal each table is responsible for cleaning everything at their table up, and that means that everyone at the table has a job. But invariably one of the boys would claim to be a lazy boy for that particular meal – which meant they didn’t want a job for that meal. As disciples of Christ no one is allowed to be a lazy boy or lazy girl. Following Jesus invites us into a life of serving Jesus. Work. Ministry. Every member of the body of Christ is a minister.
Ministry that flows from our relationship with God and at the same time ministry that promotes our growth in our relationship with God. Jesus promises that if we abide in Him we will be fruitful. And at the same time being fruitful for Christ has an encouraging effect on our walk with God. It’s exciting to see God use us for His kingdom! And it’s in that place of believers serving Jesus and His kingdom together that unity and fellowship with one another are strengthened and made healthy.
All right, how many kids here are under 12 years old? Raise your hand. Usually most of you would be in children’s ministry but because in a new place, you’re here in the message. So I have a question for you: how many of you (under 12) have heard the Greek word Koinonia? (Don’t feel bad if you haven’t – just want to see how many are familiar with it). Does anyone know what it means? Fellowship.
When we think of fellowship a lot of things might come to mind: living life together, deeper relationships, laughter, sharing what God is doing in our lives together, maybe holding one another accountable. All good things. And all a part of fellowship.
But do you know that the word fellowship – koinonia – is in the verses we just read and it gives us a clue as to what fellowship really is. It’s translated partnership, but the Greek word is koinonia. Fellowship. Paul is thinking of how from the first day till now the believers at Phillippi had joined him in the work of the ministry, the promotion of the gospel, and to Paul that was fellowship. Work. Sweat. Ministry. Partnership in the gospel. All of that was fellowship. Not so much sitting around sharing, but rolling up sleeves together and working to advance the gospel of Jesus Christ in the world.
Title: How to Work and Fellowship at the Same Time
One of the challenges today is that in many churches it’s the pastors who do the majority of the work of ministry, and churches clog up either because there are few ministry opportunities for the average Joe and Sally Christian in the church or because Joe and Sally Christian don’t really want to do the work of the ministry. They would rather come to church, pay their tithe (maybe), and let the pastors do the work. And in a lot of churches the pastors don’t want anyone else interfering with the ministry and the congregation doesn’t want anything to do with the work so it’s a match made in heaven. Actually, it’s a match made from the other side (hell).
Paul describes fellowship as a partnership – a co-laboring - in the work of the gospel. You get the idea that Paul expected fellowship – the sharing of life, the sharing of God’s activity in our lives – to take place as we rolled up our sleeves together in service for the Lord more than as we tried to “have fellowship”. God has called us all to ministry. And there are three basic, simple, constant aspects to that ministry that all of us are called to:
God works through His word proclaimed by His people. When we share the gospel with a non-Christian – that Jesus came to die for our sins, was dead and buried for three days, and on the third day He rose again and ascended to the right hand of God, and that everyone who believes in Him will not perish eternally but will be saved – that is evangelism.
I’m going to overlap a little with what Matt shared last week, but when we realize this we realize that a lot of what we call evangelism isn’t. Really pre-evangelism – building relationships, connecting with people, earning their trust. All important. But it’s not evangelism until we actually speak – proclaim – the truths of the gospel. And that is where we so often fall short. Build the bridges but we never actually move anything across those bridges we build. No one is going to get saved from pre-evangelism – it is the gospel that is the power of God for the salvation of those who believe.
And our work isn’t limited to evangelism. Help each other grow as disciples by speaking God’s word to one another. By sitting across the kitchen table from someone who is going through a hard time and pointing out truths from God’s word that can help them get through that hard time. By sharing an encouraging verse with someone who is discouraged. By warning a dear friend who is heading down the wrong path with biblical warnings. Doesn’t have to be eloquent. It just has to be genuine and biblical.
The power isn’t in our words, or eloquence, the power is in God’s word and when we are obedient to proclaim it to others He uses that to make disciples – converting non-Christians to Christ and causing Christians to grow through His word.
ILL: Look with me at verses 12-14. Paul is imprisoned. Every day he is chained to a Roman guard. But rather than discourage Paul or make him think he has no ability to proclaim the gospel, he proclaims it to the Roman guards until every guard knows the gospel. Who are you chained to? Who has God placed in your life and given you the opportunity to share the gospel with? What believers has God placed in your life and given you the opportunity to encourage, teach, maybe even correct with God’s word?
I want you to take a moment and think about who God has put in your life to proclaim His word to. Maybe it’s a non-Christian and you realize that it is your responsibility and calling as a Christian to proclaim the gospel with words to them. And there are Christians in your life that God wants you to speak His word to in order to help strengthen them in their faith. If you have a pen, write down the names and commit yourself to speaking to them.
Paul prays for the believers he knows. He prays for the churches he has established. And he prays for the churches that he has never visited but carries on his heart. Paul knew the power of prayer. Prayer is a work God gives us – we neglect it at our peril. No work will be fruitful unless carried by prayer.
We pray together, but also praying individually – being men and women who have an honest and earnest prayer life. Men and women who call on God for our church, our friends, our family, the non-Christians we want so badly to see saved. Praying for a heart to care for the non-Christians we actually don’t have much of a burden for. Prayer is work – it is a work we are called to partner in.
No disciple isn’t called to pray. It is a work given to every believer. Question is, are we being faithful in it? Are we being faith-filled in it? We are called to pray.
Ultimately ministry is about people – loving and caring enough about them to speak the truth of God’s word to them, pray for them, and serve (or minister) to them for their growth in the gospel.
It’s not hard to see Paul’s affection and love for the Philippians.
I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, Philip. 1:3 (ESV)
For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. Phil. 1:8
Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved. Philip. 4:1
And yet it never became an introspective love but always had an outward flow to it – that is, their fellowship with each other was based on reaching out together to share the love of Christ with others.
We want to be like Paul when he tells the Corinthians that it is the love of Christ that compels him. Not ambition to make a name for himself. Not the drive to establish the biggest church in the world. Love of Christ. Love for believer’s that he has known for years – those he led to the Lord. And believer’s that he has never met but is joined to them by the love of Christ. And love for complete strangers, and Roman guards chained to him, and even those who persecute him in the name of God.
People. Ministry is about people – mission is about people. Make disciples. Jesus didn’t leave any church buildings or books or mission organizational charters behind. He left people – disciples – who then carried his mission to the ends of the earth. Same with Paul – didn’t build a “crystal cathedral” or start the “Apostle Paul Worldwide Ministry Campaign”. Love and ministered to people, starting churches that were simply people who were touched by God through the message of the gospel and were made disciples and were joined with him in the ministry (fellowship) of making disciples.
ILL: Most of you know that my father in law, Janice’s dad Bob Lehman, passed away two weeks ago. Last Monday night at his memorial service a young man in a military uniform stood to testify about the effect Bob had had on his life. Graham was a college student looking for a place to live for the four years he attended college in Williamsport area. Bob took him in. And led him to Christ. And for four years discipled him. And for 12 years prayed for Graham that God would provide him with a godly wife. He was married last October. And after Graham left Bob’s home Bob continued to be a man that Graham would call when he needed counsel or prayer.
When Graham was being deployed to Iraq he called Bob, and Bob prayed with him. When Graham was being deployed to Afghanistan just weeks after getting married, he called Bob and Bob prayed with him. As he stood and shared this, I realized, this is what it is about. Investing our lives and time and what little talents we have (but we don’t need to be superstars or mega-talented) in others so that they can know and love Jesus more.
How do we work and fellowship at the same time? Paul clues us in to this fact: the work and the fellowship are the same thing. Our fellowship flourishes as we work together for the gospel of Christ. In a way it’s similar to marriage. Love isn’t confined to a husband and wife staring into each other’s eyes for 70 years while they shut out the world. After a while one of them is going to say, “hey, can we actually do something more than just stare dreamily into each other’s eyes?” Called to be productive together. As Janice and I included in our vows to each other: to help you dream and accomplish.
Fellowship in the church is more than standing in a circle and holding each other’s hands while we sing kumbayah. God calls us together so that we can help each other dream and accomplish. Work, serve, minister.
Application: what work is God calling you to? What talents has He given you? What burdens has He given you (maybe you need to brush them off)? Where are there needs that you are noticing and realize you have ability to fill the gaps? What people has God placed in your life?
For our part we’re asking how we can better train and equip you to do the work of ministry. It’s what Jesus calls us to – to be disciples and to make disciples.
And if you’re not a Christian, please seriously consider the claims of Jesus Christ. He claimed to be the Way, the Truth and the Life and the only way to God the Father. If you have questions, please don’t leave here today without asking Matt or I or the person who brought you what it means to be a Christian – a disciple of Jesus Christ - and how it is someone becomes a Christian. We would love to help you in your spiritual journey.