I woke up this morning and started to think about the sermon I had prepared. I realised that it was too dry. I was preaching on the church fellowship at the end of Acts 2. I remembered that Francis Chan had a couple of illustrations that would work well. So I spent some time adjusting things and I included the following stories.
A former gang member started coming to a church in the States. He was heavily tattooed and rough around the edges, but he was curious to see what church was like. He had a relationship with Jesus and seemed to get fairly involved in the church. However, after a few months this guy stopped coming. When asked by someone why he didn’t come anymore, he gave the following explanation: “I had the wrong idea of what church was going to be like. When I joined the church, I thought it was going to be like joining a gang. You see, in the gangs we weren’t just nice to each other once a week—we were family.” Francis Chan who tells that story comments, ‘That killed me because I knew that what he expected is what the church is intended to be. It saddened me to think that a gang could paint a better picture of commitment, loyalty, and family than the local church body.’
The elders of the church where Francis Chan was pastor began to ask the question “why don’t we live like the believers who made up the first church?” What followed their discussion was a beautiful time when the laid everything at one another’s feet. We surrendered the keys to our cars, homes, and bank accounts. The elders looked Francis in the eyes and said, “What’s mine is yours. If anything ever happens to you, I will support and care for your kids as much as I would care for my own. I will be your life insurance.”
From there, they began going to some of their friends in the congregation and expressing our commitment to them. This mentality began to spread. New life began to permeate through the church as new life as individuals began to back up their words with sacrifice. Cars and homes were being sold and given away. Expensive holidays were joyfully replaced with caring for others. People were being welcomed into other’s homes—not for meals, but to live. ‘This is a small example of the kinds of things that happen when people start to walk with the Spirit and ask the Holy Spirit to affect every part of their lives.’
I don’t know about you but I yearn for that sort of community. And when I think of the sacrifice that it would take to live like that there is the realisation that in one sense it is no sacrifice at all. For what would be gained in terms of fellowship and joy surely outweighs whatever is given in terms of possessions and self. But for such a community to really enjoy this fellowship, for such sharing to be more than going through the motions, it needs to be a response to God’s working through the Holy Spirit. So cry out that the Holy Spirit who now dwells in each of his children would grab our attention and change us, and so our fellowship together would be enriched beyond our expectations.