When I study the phenomenal growth of the New Testament church, there is no doubt that they
owed that growth to the divine source of the message they preached and the dedicated way in
which the early Christians spread the good news. They also believed that message with all
their heart, and that faith drove a sense of dedication and commitment no matter what
obstacles they encountered. But, along with factors like those, they grew because they needed
one another. They spent time together, not just in their assembly times, but at other times.
Luke highlights this fact. “They were continually devoting themselves to fellowship”
(Acts 2:42). “They were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart”
(Acts 2:46). “And the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and one soul”
(Acts 4:32). They got together to pray (Acts 4:23ff; 12:5, 12). They got together daily for
preaching and teaching (Acts 5:42). Though the word is used in a wide variety of contexts,
you’ll find the word “together” over 30 times in Acts.
Isolation is the word to best describe the trend in the current culture. Much of it is self-imposed,
with so many withdrawing from social contact for such reasons as the ironically-named “social
media” and technology. We have created a virtual world that, to some degree, has replaced
authentic, face-to-face interaction.
“Community” is built upon commonality and like-mindedness. Sports, politics, civic and social
interests, and the like all draw people together into circles of sameness. Nothing should compel
any of us more than our faith in Christ, the salvation He freely gave us, and the incredible,
eternal future He has promised us. What an ironclad bond, this “like precious faith” (2 Pet. 1:1)!
There is no greater bond of closeness I can imagine than spending time with people whose
hearts are open and submissive to the commands of Scripture and whose lives are lived in
faith and hope in the promises of Scripture. They can help me grow and build my desire. Or, as
the Hebrews writer says regarding assembly times, we can “stimulate one another to love and
good deeds” (10:24).
When I was a teen, I remember a song that captured this sentiment perfectly, if simply:
“Fellowshipping with one another as we’re walking in the light, when we give our hearts to each
other you can feel the love inside. For there’s nothing as sweet as fellowship as we share each
other’s lives” (Lancaster). Not bitterness, isolation, suspicion, grudge-bearing, apathy, or
disinterest. Sweet fellowship! A church that grasps this will grow and thrive, strengthened and
sustained through trials, problems, and opposition. May we be a church that’s remembered this
way–“They were together!”