Kingdom Principle: The Church is set apart in its Fellowship, for the sake of transformation. Transformation is the invitation to the world to join in the fellowship of the Church.
The Bride is the Church, and a Buttress is one’s support or defense. However if you spend your energy defending your buttress or hiding your buttress you have missed the point having a big buttress at all. What is the Buttress of the Bride… the Transformation of lives! Sure there are many who will say the Gospel is our defense, or give the “right answer” as Jesus being our support and defense…Yes the Gospel is the power of salvation, (Romans 1:16) and it is in Jesus name that every knee shall bow and confess (Romans 14:9-12)… however we as the church (who are the Bride) must demonstrate this power for this Gospel (not defend it with words) and demonstrate our stance of worship & submission (not hide it) in order for transformation to be a defense at all.
The lives of the disciples (not just the 12, remember the women at the Resurrection and the 120 gathered prior to Pentecost – Acts 1:12-15) had been transformed. This transformation was a result of being in fellowship with Jesus. Now it was the charge of Jesus to proclaim and testify to the rest of the world to them on mission. (John 20:19-31, Luke 24:45-49, Mark 16:15-18, Matt 28:18-20) This sending is not a removal from fellowship, rather it is the testimony or expression of fellowship. To be sent is to extend fellowship, because fellowship is the means by which transformation occurs. So you see – the buttress of the church is huge… the Bride has a big Buttress, and it is to never remain sitting on its butt… (sorry couldn’t help myself)
The Church is called to be in fellowship as they are sent out as witnesses to the world who need to know and experience the power of the Gospel and the message of the Cross. Unfortunately, much of this witness has been lost in an attempt to attract people to church, rather than being an incarnational (the process of being sent out as the invitation) witness of Christ. What is more is that this witness has been lost in an attempt to increase the fellowship of the church – this increase is based on numbers rather than intimacy, yet intimacy is where lives are transformed. The resulting action of the church has been to “paint and dress up” the front door and the back door of the church has been locked.
In this (post)Easter season the lectionary addresses the movement of the Church as it proclaims what it believes because of the resurrection; both its power to visibly change lives as well as to unify those lives into one expression. (summary of the last two weeks) Unfortunately what has been witnessed more than the power of the resurrection, is the reality that the church is in fact different than the world (but this label has become increasingly negative). Rather than transformation being witnesses, the church is declaring and defending the difference. This attempt to look different is actually serving to lock the world out. Much like the disciples we need Jesus to remind us of the power of transformation granted by the resurrection. Because of this fear the “but” has become larger than the “buttress”. The “but” of the Church says, “you can join us BUT, you have to change your ways first”. This is the exact opposite of the point of the Gospel… in fact, the message of the Jesus, is that you cannot change your life without Him… so Jesus declares, “come follow me”. (John 1:43, Mark 1:16-18) Jesus continues to invite Peter to follow Him as an invitation to deeper fellowship – resulting in deeper transformation. (John 21:15-19)
Jesus is the head of the body (Col. 1:18) which is the church. (Romans 12, 1 Cor. 12, Eph. 4) Therefore to discontinue fellowship with Christ is to no-long be the body of Christ. Further our fellowship is not to be an excuse to be separate from the world, rather our fellowship is to be an expression of our separateness or uniqueness. This is the invitation not a call to preservation. When we are gripped with fear of the world. We have forgotten that the Light is in us, and there is no fear in Love. (1 John 1:7, 4:18) For this reason fellowship without transformation, leading to invitation is not healthy. The Greek word for Fellowship, is Koinonia. Chuck Van Engen – (Fuller Seminary professor, author and friend of mine) teaches that when the fellowship of the church avoids transformation and growth – it suffers from koinonitus – which is an inflammation of koinonia (fellowship). This inflammation is an unhealthy infection that turns all its energy inward to fight infection hence reducing or even removing its mission to the world.
So while the church is set apart in its fellowship, it remains in the world to demonstrate the power of transformation. In the Scriptures this week we hear, Peter speak to the Jewish leaders and fellow Israelites – and said, you are on the outside of the greatest mystery of all times – the Messiah has come; it is not too late for you… John speaks to the church as says, be pure and live without sin – for if you sin, then you are not with us. David in the Psalms often looked at those of the world and wondered why they slander and attack him – yet he knew that in the LORD, he was set apart and in the LORD he had security and safety. The disciples were caught up in fear and Jesus confronted them with truth to set them free. This is the power of fellowship with Jesus –Freedom. They had locked the door and Jesus reinstated them for mission and sent them to share the resurrection with the world, but not until they had been set apart.
The invitation to someone on the outside of fellowship was never intended to seeker sensitive, rather is was designed to be transformative. The paradigm shift of the Church is mission to the world, not a lifeboat to get off a sinking ship. – It is our confession, that the power of the blood of Jesus is loosed upon the Bride making her pure and holy. (1 Peter 1:13-16, Eph 5:27, James 1:27) As fear, shame and guilt are removed from the lives of those who follow the Way, the Truth, and the Life; others will come to walk in the same path. This is not in the power or right choices of any one person, rather by choosing to follow the One who is Righteous.
- In what ways is your fellowship with believers – separate/ unique from those who do not believe?
- How has and can fear, shame and guilt thwart fellowship? How can confession strengthen fellowship?
- In what ways are you demonstrating to those who do not believe, that your fellowship leads to transformation in your life?
At the end of the day – to be with God in fellowship is all one needs. This contemplative truth has a paradox to it – if one is in true fellowship with God, that person will be so filled in such a way that they cannot help but to overflow and spread the good news to all whom them come in contact.