Philippians 1:3-11 3 I thank my God every time I remember you. 4 In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, 6 being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. 7 It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart; for whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. 8 God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus. 9 And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10 so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ–to the glory and praise of God.
Yesterday we gave you several opportunities to come together in fellowship, and many of you enjoyed getting together and getting better acquainted. It is good to know each other and to hear each other’s stories, but coming together in fellowship is more than fun and recreation, and it is more than enjoying food together.
Coming together in Christian fellowship is deeper and multi-dimensional. The Greek word used to describe the fellowship of the early church is Koinonia. Koinonia means communion, joint participation; the share which one has in anything, participation, a gift jointly contributed, a collection, a contribution, etc. It identifies the idealized state of fellowship and unity that should exist within the Christian church, the Body of Christ. How many of you know that definition involves more than a potluck picnic or Super Bowl party?
You get a real sense of togetherness and camaraderie when you read the words of Paul in this letter toward the Philippian church. You can tell they go deep with one another. I see four aspects of fellowship in this Philippians 1 passage when God’s people come together:
Prayer-As we come together in Christian fellowship there will be an emphasis on and participation in the ministry of pray. In this letter Paul starts out by letting the Philippian church know they have a spot on Paul’s prayer list. His prayer is more than a “Just bless that church, God,” but it is a strategic prayer that the members of that church will walk deep into the waters of discipleship. His prayer is detailed in verses 9-11. Paul knew that discipleship was more than gathering for fellowship and worship at a church.
- He knew it was about developing a deep love for God and for others.
- He knew it was about developing a strategic knowledge of the Word of God.
- He knew it was about discerning how to live wisely.
- He knew it was about becoming a fruit-bearing Christian.
Their experience with Christ as they fellowshipped together as a church was supposed to produce these kinds of outcomes in the lives of their church members. These are the kinds of things we need to be praying for each other.
Paul often told churches he worked with that he was praying for them. The early Christians were meeting together often for the purpose of prayer. Let me tell you what I know about prayer. Prayer develops intimacy. You want to grow intimacy in your marriage? Start with prayer. You want to go deeper in friendship with people? Pray with them and for them, and ask them to pray for you. We know the early church was meeting for the purpose of prayer. Acts 2:42 tells us they were getting together to pray and that they were devoted to doing so. Prayer breeds a togetherness like no other. It binds us together.
Before our second service each week, our teenagers gather up front here in a circle to pray. I love to see it. God has led Sue Ragland to give them a short pep talk each week and to take the lead in that prayer circle. Sue Ragland isn’t a young counselor. Sue Ragland doesn’t teach the youth Sunday School. Sue Ragland isn’t their annual youth counselor to SYC and Spring Fling. Sue Ragland doesn’t drive a van on youth events. Sue Ragland isn’t the mother of a teenager, but through the ministry of prayer Sue Ragland (aka “Mint Mama) is growing deep in a relationship with our students. What an investment in fellowship with them! They KNOW her. They KNOW she cares. They KNOW she is one who will pray for them if they need it. There is a big age difference between Sue Ragland and our students, but they know she is part of them and they are part of her because of their weekly prayer time. It is a cool thing to watch.
I preached a few weeks ago about how when Peter was in prison the Christians he fellowshipped with got together to pray for his release. They prayed into the middle of the night when the knock came at the door to let them know God had answered their prayer. It was to that fellowship of believers that Peter desired to go when he was freed by the angel of God.
James 5:16 tells us to pray for one another so that we may be healed. That is a beautiful byproduct of Christian fellowship. You may experience brotherhood or sisterhood in some other organization of which you are a part. You may get together and enjoy food and fun, but healing and spiritual encouragement don’t come through your football team, your scrapbooking club, or your civic group. They come through the fellowship of the church as God’s people commit to praying for one another. That makes the church family, the church fellowship unique and special.
Listen, my brother lives in Indianapolis. My sister lives in Dayton. I only have one aunt, one uncle and two cousins on my mom’s side and they live in TX and FL. Y’all are more like family to me than my biological family. When I join others in this fellowship to pray for your healing, and you are healed, I am relieved and am celebrating right along with you. When I can pray for you to get a job, and you get one, I feel like I have won a victory right alongside you.
When we empty the prayer pots, when I see groups of people gathering to pray together, when fathers and sons kneel alongside each other, when people come to lay hands on someone who is preparing for surgery, when one of our women comes to put her arms around another sister in Christ at our altars, whether they know each other’s names or not is irrelevant because we are family, and that is deep fellowship, friends! Christian fellowship involves prayer because Christian fellowship involves care. Caring for others is done in great part as we pray for one another.
We see the Philippian church also prayed for Paul. He said so in 1:19, “It is your prayers that are keeping me going even as I am in prison!” Prayer was a two-way street between Paul and the Philippian church which leads me to my next point.
Partnership-Christian fellowship involves serving the Lord together and relying on one another in times of need. Paul said he was thankful for the partnership of the Philippian church, vs. 5. Paul established the church at Philippi and then moved around as a missionary to other regions. Paul kept in contact with the Philippian church and they generously gave finances to support his work. They not only supported him so he could preach from place to place, but when it was needed they gave generously to help those who were poor in the city of Jerusalem (Romans 15:26; II Cor. 8-9).
When God is at work through a unified church, Kingdom work happens. We come together to serve our community like we did last Sunday night. I had no idea there were so many varieties of chili possible! You provided amazing food! The people who helped set up and clean up and serve and talk to members of our community were partnering together to see God’s mission on the Acres move forward.
The early church had this commitment to partner together. It was intense. We read in Acts 2:44, a passage about the fellowship of the early church, that they considered everything they had common property. If Kingdom work called for something they had, they gave it. If a brother or sister in Christ needed something they possessed they gave it. In fact, verse 45 says they sold their possessions and goods and they gave to anyone as he had need! That is intense, right? You have to really trust one another to sell your stuff if someone says they have a need and by you selling your stuff you can meet that need. That is partnership to the max.
As we come together through this fellowship we need God’s help to show us how we can become partners in this venture to build the new facility. We have a commitment from one person who says God is leading them to pledge $100,000.00 to the campaign. We need about two more of those commitments. I’m not guessing many of us have $100,000.00 sitting around in some rainy day fund. It may come through the sale of some property or through one hundred thousand yards sales between our commitment Sunday and the end of the three-year campaign, but I know God is at work in this fellowship to move in us in sacrificial ways to partner together to see this thing come to pass. Thom and I may just turn 149 Beechwood Estates into a perpetual weekend flea market! I know this, we want to do our very best to partner with you to build the new facility not only because we love God, but because we love you and believe God has called us to be on mission together.
When Paul was imprisoned in Rome, the Philippian church sent Epaphroditus to Rome with a gift to provide for Paul’s needs (Philippians 4:10-20). They knew when he needed support and they personally dispatched someone to get to him. As the Philippian church worked together to support Paul there was an intense fellowship between them. True Christian fellowship is expressed not just as we gather to fish together or to have a bonfire, but it is expressed when you need something that I can supply or when you just need someone to provide some words of encouragement and support.
Positivity-As we come together in Christian fellowship there will be a spirit of positivity in our church family.
Paul says to the Philippian church in verse 6: I am confident that what God has begun in you, what God has started, He will bring to completion. Isn’t that upbeat? Isn’t that encouraging? Paul is saying, “You are going to succeed. You are going to win. You are going to grow in the Lord. God is going to establish you. God will take you all the way to victory! I am confident of it!” Who wouldn’t want to go to a church where there was a spirit of positivity like that?
I don’t want to go to a church where the atmosphere is divisive, where people have an argumentative or critical spirit, where folks gossip about one another, where there is an atmosphere of doom and gloom, where there are “in groups” and “out groups,” or where people walk out defeated. I want to be part of a Christian fellowship where there is a “can do” spirit, where people believe the report of the Lord, where faith is exercised to believe that Promised Land living is possible, and where people are challenged in an uplifting way so that they can be at their best for God.
I believe we have that kind of atmosphere here at TVCOG! I am not a perfect leader, but I am following after a perfect God. I love it when you tell me you are praying for me. I love it when you tell me God has been speaking to you through the messages. I love it when I see uplifting comments on FB about this church. I love it when I see you complimenting each other and celebrating what God is doing in and through your lives.
I love it that Tyler McGough won second place in Putnam County’s Got Talent and y’all congratulated him and have told him how you believe God is going to use him. I love that Russell Carroll won first place in a Cross Country meet at Rio Grande and that he has his sights set on the 2020 Olympics, and we have an opportunity to come alongside him and encourage him. I love it that Taylor Isaacs began today as the new worship leader at Madison Avenue Church of God, and she is one of ours! She is a “homegrown” missionary that was developed in and through this positive fellowship. I love it that Brooklyn Williams is out spreading positivity throughout our community and beyond through her post-it note ministry. I love it that Angie Williams is using the pain of her past and her love for people to provide a support group to single moms, and y’all keep outdoing yourselves with support for her ministry. I love it when I get to a hospital to see someone and the person tells me someone else from the church has already been there or when there is a card of encouragement from the church sitting next to them. I love it when I get an email from Ron White, and he is updating me on who he has just seen and in what nursing home. I love it when people hand me money, and say, “Give this to someone in need!” This is an exciting fellowship with exceptional people. Every one of you is exceptional! We have great volunteers! We have a spirit of oneness and generosity.
There is a wonderful atmosphere here at TVCOG. We have an awesome children’s and youth ministry program. I believe the students in our ministry are going to change the world. I believe in our young people. I’m not going to speak words of doom and gloom over their futures just because our world may seem chaotic and unstable. Jesus has never fallen off His throne. God is still large and in charge. We have everything we need for life and godliness, II Peter 1:3. We can do all things through Christ who gives us strength, Philippians 4:13. We are called to conquer, and we can, and we are, and we will!
Second Service Only: Young people, you are winners! We are for you. Your future is bright. You are gifted. You are smart. You are talented. You are funny. You are handsome and beautiful. You are exceptional because you are inclusive. You are caring. You are respectful and responsible. You are team players. You are prayerful. You are sincere. You have questions and that is ok! You have challenges, and that is to be expected. Lean on us. We are here for you! You can trust us! You are full of promise and we promise to support and encourage you!
I love to hear that you are with me on this journey and that you believe we will make it to the hill. This may have been a move that has been 15 plus years in the making, but we are making it. It is going to happen. We haven’t been sitting still waiting for God to bless us. We have been a church on the march, a church on the move and we have stepped closer and closer every year toward this new reality. And if you are feeling the positivity in the atmosphere this morning, just wait until next week when we can all come together under one roof at Maranatha in St. Alban’s for a TVCOG unlike anything you have ever experienced! I promise you it will be the most positive, supercharged atmosphere we have ever experienced as a church!
Paul was positive in his comments toward the Philippians. The early church had a positive, upbeat outlook. The tomb is still empty! We have so much to be excited about!
“Therefore, encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” I Thess. 5:11 Keep up the positive attitude church! Keep cheering each other on. It is God-honoring, and it is working! AND it is attractional. People keep coming and staying with us because of the positive, faith-building atmosphere. Mitchell Burch just told me recently that people aren’t coming here because of my preaching. I said, “Thank you very much!” He said, “People aren’t coming here because of the worship, although it is excellent.” He said, “People are coming because of the culture, because of the atmosphere, because of the collected, family feeling they have when they come. And I think he is right. Keep up the good, positive work, church.
Passion-When we come together in Christian fellowship we will express passion for one another.
Now those of you who aren’t “touchy feely” don’t check out on me. I’m not touchy feely either, but I am deeply in love with and devoted to you as the Body of Christ in this place, and I am not ashamed to tell you so. Paul wasn’t ashamed either. He talked in verse 3 about being thankful for the Philippians. It increases our fellowship when we show appreciation for one another.
In verse 7 he talked about how he felt about them and said that he was holding the people in the Philippians fellowship in his heart. He had a godly love for them, and in verse 8 he said he longed to be with them. He said, “God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Jesus Christ.” He just enjoyed being with them. That is the way true Christian fellowship is. You want to be together. Just this week one of our church members called me and asked me to help them respond to a conversation they had just had with some friends who didn’t think it was important to be part of a local church. Our church member expressed to me that when she misses more than one Sunday due to work or vacation she can hardly stand it. She longs to be here and to be with her church family. Listen, when you experience true Christian fellowship you crave more of it. You want to come together. You want to support each other. You want to give a handshake and holy hug. You want to tell people that you love them.
Last week as y’all came to the prayer pots, one of our church members looked at me and mouthed these words, “I love you, Pastor” and just kept walking. Isn’t that awesome? This is the atmosphere we are enjoying! Get in on it! Reach out and touch someone and tell someone you love them. Let them know of your gratitude for them and love for them. Don’t be shy about expressing your feelings in Christ for each other!
Well, that’s all, folks. When we come together in Christian fellowship there will be an atmosphere of prayer, an experience of partnership, an exercise of positivity, and a passion that is expressed.
Will you continue to come together in fellowship with me?