We find one more purpose for our fellowship in Acts 20.
Acts 20:31-38 says, “Therefore be on the alert, remembering that night and day for a period of three years I did not cease to admonish each one with tears. And now I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified. I have coveted no one’s silver or gold or clothes. You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my own needs and to the men who were with me. In everything I showed you that by working hard in this manner you must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.'” When he had said these things, he knelt down and prayed with them all. And they began to weep aloud and embraced Paul, and repeatedly kissed him, grieving especially over the word which he had spoken, that they would not see his face again. And they were accompanying him to the ship.”
Let us note several aspects of Paul’s ministry to and with the Ephesian pastors. First, love drew him back to these dear brothers in Christ. He had spent three years among them, which was a long time in Paul’s ministry. We as a fellowship have the privilege to have several pastors who have ministered in one church over the period of several decades. Love is a commitment, and you cannot minister in one location with longevity for any other reason but love. I appreciate the ministry these men have had to me as a direct result of this preacher’s fellowship. Their support of the fellowship lies behind our gatherings. They know and understand that mutual encouragement is a vital part of church ministry. Without their support, this fellowship would have folded long ago.
Verse thirty six tells us that Paul prayed with the pastors. An old hymn says, “Prayer is the Christian’s vital breath, his native air.” Prayer is a vital part of our ministry, and it is a vital part of our fellowship as well. We have had several meetings dedicated to prayer, and they have been the sweetest fellowships we have had in the HAPF. One of the pastors in our fellowship prays for each of us and our churches from his pulpit every Sunday. The next time you are at the fellowship, and a brother begins to commiserate about the problems he is facing, pull him aside and pray for him. If we cannot pray with and for each other, can we truly say that we love each other?
Note verse thirty-one. What love Paul must have had to move him to tears as he ministered to the pastors of Ephesus. We see also in verse thirty-seven that this parting was one which was bathed in tears of parting joy. Either Paul was a drama queen, or he had genuine, deep love and compassion for his brothers in Christ and co-laborers. I don’t write this so that we can grab our hankies every time we see each other. My point is that this love was deep and full of grace. When we have this kind of love, we will naturally be drawn to each other. This is not to say that attendance at the fellowship is a litmus test of your love for Christ, but a mutual love is something that possesses an attractive force. The Father, Son and Spirit share in an infinite love, and it provides an all-consuming satisfaction. This is precisely why the Son dreaded to be separated from the Father as He prayed in the Garden. He did not dread the Cross; He dreaded the loss of infinite joy, even if only for a few hours. Our love ought to be patterned after Christ’s in that we look forward to being with each other to show our love for each other.
The links for the first seven articles are below:
Purpose #1 — The Encouragement of Unity
Purpose #2 — The Support of Connection
Purpose #3 — The Prevention of Isolation
Purpose #4 — The Cooperation of Ministry
Purpose #5 — The Preparation for Persecution
Purpose #6 — The Proclamation of the Gospel
Purpose #7 — The Defense of the Faith
Purpose #8 — The Education of Ministry