What makes a church great?

If I were to ask you, “What makes a church great?”, I bet I would receive a variety of answers.  Certainly, some would say strong Biblical teaching and a dynamic music ministry.  Others would say discipleship classes and a thriving prayer ministry.  Parents would likely chime in with the need for vibrant children’s and student ministries.  Some would add the importance of strong volunteer teams and exciting special events for the community.  While I would agree that all of those things help make a church great, I would contend that the list is missing one key ingredient: fellowship.  A church can do a lot of great things, but also be missing the one thing that truly makes it come alive.  The list I gave was focused on things that great churches do, but fellowship is the spirit that binds great churches together.

When the early church was first established, we’re told “they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers” (Acts 2:42 ESV).  Those first 3,000 converts in Jerusalem built a vibrant church with some of the same important marks I just listed above.  However, they also committed themselves to fellowship with one another.  That word “fellowship” comes from that famous Greek word, “koinonia.”  It can also be interpreted as “participation” or “sharing.”  The idea Luke is trying to communicate to us is that the early Christians participated in their family of faith.  Church wasn’t reduced to a worship service they watched or a building they walked into.  Church was a group of people that shared their lives together for the glory of God and for the good of one another.

Last weekend, we hosted our “Discover ABC” dinner on Sunday night.  We welcomed about 40 new members and guests for a special evening of fellowship around dinner tables.  I loved getting to visit with some of our new folks and hear their stories.  I asked people what stood out about ABC when they first visited.  I heard multiple people say the same answer different ways.  Some said, “Y’all just have some of the nicest people.”  Others said, “we felt so welcomed by everyone.”  One told me they were “blown away by the fact that our church followed up with them after their visit because other churches didn’t.”  All of these remarks are encouraging evidence that our church is indeed devoted to fellowship. 

I truly believe we have so many people in our church who sincerely want to share their lives with others.  I watch this unfold every week through people praying for another, checking in with each other, sharing meals together, and helping one another in moments of crisis.  Only the Lord knows how many texts, phone calls, and notes are written every week by our members to encourage, check-in, and love on others in our faith family.  ABC indeed has a sweet fellowship, but the sweetest part is that we make room for others to be a part of it as well.  We will always exist as a church for those who are not here yet.  There are many outside our church walls that are starving for fellowship.  We live in a big world where we all know lots of people, yet ironically, we are known by very few.  The pandemic pushed many onto isolated islands, and I believe there are many Austinites who feel more spiritually and socially alone than ever before. If you are personally in search of fellowship, I want to let you know that ABC has lots of on-ramps for you to find it.

To find fellowship, you will have to “devote” yourself to finding it just like the early church.  They committed their lives to participating in community, and in 2021, it takes commitment in the same way.  We offer a Midweek meal and discipleship classes on Wednesday nights to give you an opportunity to experience fellowship.  Likewise, we offer BFG classes for all ages and stages of life to help people find the community they are looking for.  We host special events every month for people to come together and build healthy relationships.  We offer volunteer opportunities for people to share their lives and spiritual gifts with one another through service.  But in all these things, it takes devotion and initiative to find the fellowship you need.  In other words, you can’t be known until you decide to make yourself available to be known. The good news is, I believe if you simply take a few bold steps, God will start to bless you with the fellowship and community your soul is searching for.

The darker times get, the more important it is to gather as that city on a hill.  I encourage you to come and enjoy the fellowship of our church this weekend.  We always shine brighter when we are together, and I believe you’ll be blessed by sharing your life and participating in the lives of others this Sunday.  This weekend, we will share the Lord’s Supper together as Christ commanded us to do in remembrance of Him.  I look forward to fellowshipping with you this Sunday and pressing on in our study in the book of Daniel.

Last Sunday’s Message: Last Things – 70 Weeks (Daniel 9:24-27)

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