And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread and in prayers…. So continuing daily with one accord in the temple and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people (Acts 2:42-47).
When a church of 120 members set out to assimilate 3,000 new additions into the life of the congregation, they ranked “fellowship” toward the top of the list as a critical step in accomplishing the task.
Koinonia is the Greek word. Literally, it refers to a sharing of life, or a partnership, which doesn’t tell us a lot about what it meant in the follow-up program in the early church. So, in the absence of anything definitive from Scripture on the precise meaning of the term, I submit for your consideration my own definition: Hanging out.
The “fellowship” quotient of a church–whether the members love the Lord and one another–is one of the most telling features of a congregation, one of the most dependable indicators of the health of the church, and one of the best predictors of its future usefulness in the Kingdom.
Here are 10 aspects of the fellowship of your church worth carving in stone, or better, engraving on the hearts of your leadership and membership.
Dr. Dorsett is a bivocational pastor and church planting missionary in Vermont. He is the author of Developing Leadership Teams in the Bivocational Church and Bible Brain Teasers: Fun Adventures through the Bible. He also serves as a church planting catalyst with the North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. He has a passion for helping the next generation discover a meaningful faith and become leaders in sharing that faith with others.
This series looks at the importance of bivocational ministry and bivocational ministers in today’s church. The previous articles in this series are:
Part 1: Bivocational Ministry is a Growing Method for Ministry.
Part 2: Lay People Are Willing to Help Pastors – But Only If They Are Trained.
Part 3: Rethinking Our Perception of Bivocational Ministry.
Part 4: Bivocational Ministry is Normal.
Part 5: Bivocational Ministry Is More Common Than Most People Realize.
Part 6: Bivocational Pastors Must Learn to Delegate.
Part 7: Bivocational Pastors Sharing Leadership Results in Healthier Churches.
Pastors who work a job in addition to their church are often referred to as bivocational pastors because they have two vocations: the church and something else. Though few pastors would choose to be bivocational in a perfect world, the majority of pastors will spend at least a portion of their career in bivocational situations. Therefore, all pastors should learn how to handle the challenges of this type of ministry so they will be prepared for it.
Since writing the book, Developing Leadership Teams in the Bivocational Church, I have had ample opportunity to discuss both the advantages and the challenges of bivocational ministry with pastors, denominational leaders, and ministerial students. Based on those discussions, as well as my own experiences as a bivocational pastor, I have developed this list of challenges that bivocational ministers face and some ways in which those ministers dealt with those challenges.
Challenges bivocational pastors deal with regularly:
Evangelism and spiritual harvesting are not for everyone calling themselves followers of Jesus. Fruitbearing is for the obedient. Believers aiming to obey the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-10) should not miss one huge fact: No one not living as a faithful disciple himself can make someone else a disciple of Jesus Christ. Only disciples make disciples. Only the faithful can bear fruit. Put another way: No one can teach others to “obey all the things I have commanded you” who is not obeying those things himself.
The church which is rebellious or wayward or chronically immature or systemically sick has no business trying to convert outsiders to what they are doing and how they are living. (Note: “Systemically” is not “systematically.” When the sickness is throughout the body, we say it is “systemic.” The problem is not with one person or two, but throughout the body.)
The sick church should get well first and then it will be able to help others.
Here are several churches that have no business sending soul-winning/visitation teams into their community or hosting evangelistic crusades.
1. Until Clearview Church leaders and members stop fighting and learn to love one another, they need to cancel all outreach.
I saw Clearview Church run off a pastor and half its members. They then proceeded to call a new preacher who walked in, saw all those empty pews and announced, “We need an evangelism program around here.” They scheduled a meeting, brought in an evangelist, papered the town with posters, and held their gatherings. All to no avail. Even if the new preacher did not know the character of his congregation, the community did. They wanted none of what that bunch had to offer.
Jesus prayed, “I pray not for these (disciples) alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word, that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me and I in You; that they also may be one in us, that the world may believe that You sent Me” (John 17:20-21).
The Savior who redeemed us and reigns now as Lord has laid down a fundamental law here: if we expect people to believe in Him, we must live in love and unity.
No wonder our efforts fall pitifully short.