DISCIPLESHIP – TOGETHERNESS by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson
Introduction: Thom Rainer, President of Lifeway Resources, did a Twitter survey sometime back on the really strange reasons people give for not attending church. Here are a few of my favorites:“We were out of peanut butter.” “My wife cooked bacon for breakfast, and our entire family smelled like bacon.” “The pastor stays in the Bible too much.” “The worship leader pulls up his pants too often. It’s distracting.” “The church is too close to drive, and too far to walk.” “We got burned out at church and have been taking a break for the past seven years.” I’ve been pastoring this church, my only church, for the past 20 years and I’ve met people who are always looking for reasons to skip church. Today’s message is on the importance of togetherness in discipleship. You can grow alone in a flower pot for only so long. True and ultimate discipleship is long term and it happens only in the soil of community. You need others to be a true disciple.
Acts 2 42And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers…44Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common,45and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need. 46So 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, 47praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.
Question: The early church understood the value of togetherness. Do you understand the importance of being together in the body of Christ? Are you a part of the body of Christ? Are you saved? What binds us together is the same Holy Spirit? Is he in you?
Context: In the first message in our series on discipleship, I introduced the goal of discipleship in the acronym W A T E R = WITNESSES + ACCOUNTABILITY + TOGETHERNESS + ESTABLISHED IN THE WORD + REPRODUCING. We’ve already looked at the first two letters W and A and, in this message, we will focus on the third letter T = Togetherness. 3 main things we need to understand about Togetherness:
I. THE EARLY CHURCH WAS TRAINED IN TOGETHERNESS BY JESUS.
Background:When people read in Acts about how the early church was together, loving and caring for one another, and putting each other first, they assume that it was some organic movement that just happened. Not true. For e.g.When you watch your favorite ball team play a great game, you know that it didn’t just happen. You know that the coach has been training them.So also, Coach Jesus had been training his disciples on the importance of being together and they were simply living it out.
I want us to look at a major training session that Jesus had with his disciples towards the close of his ministry. You remember in John 13, after the Last Supper, how Jesus washed the disciples’ feet. Itwas unthinkable for a master to wash his disciples’ feet.Peter even tried to stop Jesus but he warned him that this was a must if he was going to be his disciple. Why was this so important? Listen carefully to how Jesus explained to them the meaning of what he had done for them – 12 “…Do you know what I have done to you? 14If I then, yourLord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you.”Don’t misunderstand:This was much more than “Y’all get along when I’m gone. Wash each other’s feet until I return.” Listen carefully –34“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” Loving one another was the mark of a disciple before the watching world. The key words here are “one another.” I can wash my own feet but that is not keeping this commandment, that is not proving my discipleship before the watching world. I can even try to wash the feet of the world (feed the hungry, house the homeless, take care of the needy) but that is still not keeping this commandment and proving my discipleship before the watching world. This commandment can only be obeyed in the context of “one another.” This is why the early church was doing what they were doing!
Application:If you are a disciple of Christ, the same commandment applies to you. Do you love others in the body of Christ? Do you care to prove your discipleship to the watching world?
II. IT IS NATURAL FOR DISCIPLES TO NEGLECT TOGETHERNESS.
Background:Very early on in the church’s life, the disciples began to drift away from each other. They forgot Jesus’ commandment of being together. A major evidence for this is found in the book of Hebrews. By the way, a key phrase in this book is “let us.”Listen to chapter 10verse 22–“let usdraw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.23Let ushold fast the confession of ourhope without wavering, for He who promisedisfaithful. 24And let usconsider one anotherin order to stir up love and good works, 25not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, asisthe manner of some, but exhortingone another,and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.” Why did the writer of Hebrews have to exhort the early Christians to keep meeting? Or why did the early Christians stop meeting? I believe for the same reasons that Christians or disciples stop meeting even today. Here are a few that I’ve come across:
- I don’t have to be in church in order to be a Christian.If you say that, you do not understand what the church is. It is not a building. In fact, it is described in different ways. Paul gives several ways in his letter to the Ephesians. He calls it the body of Christ.Ephesians 1 22And He gave Him(Christ)to behead over allthingsto the church, 23which is His body…” What if I told you, “I love you very much but I hate your body”? Other times, he calls it the family of Jesus. Ephesians 2:19“…you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.” What if I told you, “I love you but I hate your family”? Sometimes, he calls the church the bride/wife of Christ. Ephesians 5:25“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her.”What if I told you, “I love you but I hate your wife”?
- I’m very busy and Sunday is my only day off.We always find time for things that are important. Time is not the problem. Understanding is. If you understanding the value of being with other believers, you will make time for it. Also, we have services several times on Sunday mornings and even on Saturday evenings.
- There are a lot of hypocrites in church.What’s your point? In fact, what better place for hypocrites to be than at church where they can hear the truth. By the way, be careful about pointing fingers at others. As a pastor once said to someone who said that – “Come on in. We have room for one more.”
- I did until something bad happened to me.I’m very sorry for what happened to you. This is one I do understand. When I first came here from India, I went to church. Little did I expect what was about to happen or not happen. This church was known as a good church and bible believing church but no one shook my hand. I was so hurt that I didn’t go to church for almost 2 years. God had to use circumstances and people to bring me back. Here’s my encouragement to you – When you stop going for one reason or another, no matter how legitimate your reason is, you are no longer able to demonstrate your discipleship.
Application:What is your reason for rejecting togetherness with other disciples? Are you willing to give that hurt to God and forgive that person or church and let God prove your discipleship before the watching world?
III. TOGETHERNESS IS A MEASURING STICK FOR DISCIPLESHIP.
In the first message in this series on discipleship, I explained to you how Jesus moved people through 3 concentric circles.Outside the circles was the CROWD, the vast majority who were not following Jesus. Then came the first circle, the CONGREGATION.These were the multitudes that followed Jesus, heard his teachings, and saw his miracles. Then came the second circle,theCOMMUNITY. These were the 12 disciples that Jesus handpicked. You could add the 70 from Luke 10as well. He talked with them and taught them things that he did not teach the multitude. Finally came the third circle, the CIRCLE.Out of the 12 disciples, Jesus picked 3 to be part of his inner circle – Peter, James, and John. From these, Jesus expected much more. What I want you to understand is that to each of this groups Jesus had a different call:
- To the crowd, it was “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
- To the multitudes, it was “Deny yourself, pick up your cross, and follow me.”
- To the disciples, it was “Love one another as I have loved you.”
- To the inner circle, it was “Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation.”
This applies to us today:
- Crowd (people out in our neighborhood, workplaces, friends) – get saved
- Congregation (Saturday evening and Sunday morning) – commit yourself;
- Community (disciples – Sunday School and Wednesday Bible Studies) – love one another, learn to be together;
- Circle (Accountability groups) – help each other.
Invitation:Which group do you belong to? Do you understand the value of togetherness? What are you doing to move through these circles? Are you saved?