Do you think that it is sinful for a believer not to be fully engaged in a local church? Have you ever failed to attend church? Is it necessary to attend the church? With the many failures of the church, many believers feel justified not going to church. Many would rationalize by giving all sorts of excuses. They would say that they were ‘required to work’ by their bosses (not by the Saviour and Creator!) or, “I have not found ‘a good church’”. Or, “I would leave the church enraged and bitter, because of what is preached”, or, “the church is made of ‘cliques’ or groups so I feel out of place”, and now most recently, “I attend my church on TV or Internet”! While we may appreciate these and many other reasons, we should consider this question very seriously. As I write many churches are closing down in Europe because people do not attend church.
The Wikipedia tells us that several research studies in the USA and Europe found that church attendance practices of parents, especially fathers can be highly influential in forming church attendance practices of their children. It is true that if you do not regularly attend church and demand that your children must go, they may soon drop out as they grow older because they will take cue from your bad example. Therefore, this is so important for yourself and family. But what does the Bible say?
And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers… And all who believed were together and had all things in common… And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, (Acts 2:42,44,46)
After Peter’s convicting sermon on the day of Pentecost, the Spirit-filled church is constituted with the 120+3000 members! Their distinctive identity is their commitment to the meeting of brethren to enjoy the means of grace provided. So they devoted themselves to these means – they were available, eagerly listening and learning from the doctrine of the Apostles, who were delivering to them what they also received from the Lord. They immersed and soaked themselves to the Scriptural teachings from the apostles. This was the first distinguishing characteristic.
The second mark is the subject of this article – fellowship. They also devoted themselves to the breaking of bread, a token given by the Lord to believers to remember His death and resurrection until He comes. In this regard, it is a foretaste of the marriage supper of the Lamb, isn’t it? They also devoted themselves to prayer.
How was their devotion revealed?
They had like precious faith (2:43). This faith was the foremost, for it was because of their belief in Christ that they met. They were only united with one another having been united by Christ. So it is recorded that all who believed were together.
They were together. There cannot be fellowship when apart. The meeting of believers is the most important as we see from the very first congregation. Their meeting was not by remote but they actually met and felt each other’s warmth.
They had all things in common. Their relationship, springing from the same heart, faith and proximity, extended to ownership so that they did not have a problem sharing or fellowshiping in their belonging. This way there was no one who lacked the needs of life. They were well-provided. While we appreciate that there was history of persecution around this time, so that there was such a great need to share, yet a total rejection of this vital practice breeds materialism, a rot so prevalent in the church today!
How was their attendance? It was day by day attendance, meaning it was not erratic – it was organized and consistent. They met formally for worship in the temple, and this extended to their homes. They were generous to one another, since God had been generous to them in giving them His Son. Those who were recipients of this generosity were grateful and glad to their benefactors as well as to the Lord.
The implications of this passage: The spiritual growth of a Christian and the numerical expansion of the church is dependent on the provision of the means of grace to the church by the leadership. Pastors must aim at making available apostolic (Biblical) doctrine to the church. They should be very deliberate in breeding, encouraging and nurturing meaningful fellowship among the membership of the church.
The members must endeavour to cultivate a genuine desire for community with other Christians within the church. A heart for self-sufficiency must be taken to be a weed that has to be pulled out. Having all things in common, means that, very practically, some will not live like kings while others live as paupers, yet subscribing to the same faith, being in the same family and saved by the save Lord and Saviour.
Fellowship meals ought to form an integral part of the life of a church. In this passage, we see the emphasis of breaking bread (v.42, 46), and that they received their food (v.46). In our family we join together for meals, don’t we? In the same manner as the spiritual family of God, we should meet together not only to break the spiritual bread of life, which is the Word of God, but also the physical food. Where there is failure to recognize that meals enhance fellowship, you will soon discover Christians will feel neglected. They will seek out to fellowship with others of biological or tribal descent and there will be lack of attendance in the church!
Fellowship being one of the means of grace, is called Koinonia in Greek. Meaning, the sharing together, the communion, the fellowship in God and one another and the partnership for the course of Christ. This is a powerful tool for the church. It is also used of the Lord as an evangelistic tool because the passage ends with the fact that the early church found favour with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved (v.47). Could it be farfetched to say that when you fail to attend church, you are communicating to the unbelievers that salvation is not important? On the contrary, when they see your commitment and devotion to the Lord and His Church, they are encouraged to think that salvation is the most important thing that can happen to them? This is something for you to consider very seriously.
And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. (Hebrews 10:24-25)
We must not assume that because of the benefits of the devotion to fellowship, therefore church attendance will always be automatic and a delightful thing to do. The human heart is sick and desperately wicked. It is naturally inclined to abhor that which brings spiritual good. And the Lord understands this and so we have the exhortation from Hebrews 10:24-25.
It is our Christian duty to stir, or encourage others to this devotion to good works. The tendency to Christian duties is neglect. Neglect, like rust upon iron does not need an invitation letter. Neglect springs up from the heart and it is not long before we see this rust corroding a vibrant spiritual life, and could lead to backsliding, or even worse apostasy! Diligence and carefulness is expected of every Christian and you know this. Yet with all self-watch, if there is no encouragement from other brethren, you will discover that your default mode is self-deception. Christians are to be not only diligent on self-watch but also prudent in watching over others. Mutually we are to observe other brethren’s character, spiritual gifts, experience and virtues leading to good works. This can happen where there is meaningful close fellowship.
This means that when you fail to be in fellowship with brothers and sisters who are so committed to your spiritual good, you do yourself a great disservice. You notice that neglect, though appearing as something idle, yet it is a deliberate effort towards a direction that a person desires. Other Bible translations call it ‘forsaking’ (ASV), ‘giving up’ (GNB), or abandoning (LEB). For this reason, this is not something that falls on you by chance, it comes upon by your own effort, or lack of it!
When you miss the fellowship once, whether on a Lord’s Day, or prayer meetings, or any gathering of saints, you need to be very wary. Once will turn to be twice and develop into habit. When such habits are perpetuated, they end up disastrous to the faith. Such habits are infectious, if those around you do not admonish those perpetuating it.
To be without fellowship is dangerous. It must be pointed to any Christian who finds himself walking in a solitary path, that sooner than he expects, the devil who is a roaming roaring lion will devour him and will not be able to strive with it by himself. Heed the counsel of the Lord, two are better than one… woe to him who is alone, when he falls and has not one to lift him up! A threefold cord (of two believers and the Saviour) cannot be broken (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12). As iron sharpens iron, one man sharpens another (Proverbs 27:17).
It is particularly important that we stick with one another and be united because that great Day, of the coming of the Lord is drawing near. He is coming to unite us in eternal fellowship with Himself and His Father as well as with one another.
I plead with you now to seek a biblical church and be a member of it. Use all the means of grace provided for your good. If you are not baptized, then request for baptism.