Over the last couple of morning lessons, we’ve been considering our way as a congregation. We’ve looked at the Jerusalem church, the obstacles they faced, and the unity of spirit that existed there despite these challenges and differences. Acts 4 says they were of one mind and soul. Also, we looked at our purpose of good works – both individually and as a congregation. We examined teaching, benevolence, and edification, focusing on how we can emulate those New Testament Christians and better emulate the pattern set for us.
As individuals, we like being associated with something bigger. We feel comfort in identifying with a collective – a group. Those individuals in the first century were no different. They and we want to “fit in,” and that is the focus of our lesson today. How do I fit in to my congregation?
The problem we face is that we look for how we can socially fit in to a congregation. Which best supports my peer group? Which best fits my socioeconomic standing? The problem is, in any given congregation, you can break the membership down into several demographics, and, most of the time, no one peer group will be the majority.
This is also true of the twelve apostles. For example, one zealot and one tax collector belonged to this group. Do you think these two ever felt any contentions toward each other? Luke 9:46 records an argument between the apostles over who is the most important? Who is the most valuable apostle? In Matthew 20:20-21, the mother of a couple of the apostles asked for importance to be granted to her sons. We do the same, referring to Peter, James, and John as the “inner circle,” three Jesus seemed to lean on more than the others.
Despite any physical differences, these apostles as well as the Jerusalem church accomplished great things when they focused on fitting in spiritually. We are capable of accomplishing the same things if we lay those physical differences and annoyances aside and concentrate on the greater bond we share as spiritual brothers and sisters. We can choose to dwell on negatives, or we can make the choice to stick together.
How do you fit in to your congregation? Do you appreciate your fellow Christians? Do you look for ways you have been impacted positively by others. Do you look for ways to encourage others. We will always have room for improvements, and we will always need to work on relationships regardless of the congregation we decide to join. Ephesians 4:11-16 reminds us that we all have different ways we can contribute and that we should not act like children toward each other in those differences. Patience and love is necessary for this kind of growth, and it comes down to our focus. A spiritual focus and a positive outlook will help us fit in together and create a congregation capable of doing the work of our Lord.
lesson by Tim Smelser