walk in the word
. . . 9and when James and Cephas and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given to me, they gave the right hand of fellowship to Barnabas and me, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised. 10Only, they asked us to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do. —Galatians 2:9-10
Fellowship is about partnership in ministry—it’s not just about all the benefits that flow to us as a result of fellowship between us. Ultimately it’s about what God wants to do for others as a result of our fellowship.
Galatians 2:9 records some of Paul’s earliest memories about what occurred after he began to passionately follow Jesus. “And when James and Cephas (another name for Peter) and John.” Peter, James, and John—there you have it—but not the original James. This is James, the brother of Jesus, likely. These were like the main leaders in the early church. They “perceived the grace that was given to me,” Paul said. In other words, “When they figured out that I was saved,” “they gave the right hand of fellowship to Barnabas and me.”
So, what’s this right hand of fellowship all about? Notice that it’s a confirming gesture and a commissioning gesture. The leadership welcomed Paul and Barnabas and sent them out! What better an indication of their seeing God’s Spirit in Paul and Barnabas than to entrust them with a mission!
The point of welcoming new members into a local church is not to be able to put a larger number of the billboard out front—it’s to enlarge the ministry! A greater number of members doesn’t mean just more people to minister to; it means more of God’s people to minster with! New members haven’t really joined until they have found a place to actively connect; a spot where they are needed; a role where they can serve. That’s one of the reasons why folks are Harvest get plugged into a small group. Imagine the next guy who joined the Jerusalem church and was placed in a small group with James, Cephas, John, Paul, and Barnabas? You wouldn’t want to miss one of those get-togethers!
They held each other accountable for ministry. Notice how they gave each other direction (“You two go after the Gentiles; we’ll focus on the Jews”) and caution (“Don’t overlook the poor”). Their fellowship was about God’s purposes. The bi-product of genuine fellowship is effective ministry.
Father, keep me from ever acting like a parasite on Your Body. I desperately need the fellowship and ministry from Your Body in my life, but I know You intend to use me and work through me within Your Body as well. Help me not only find You, but also give me place in Your church to minister with others. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
brought to you by change partners