The Seed ,

The Sower,

The Gospel-

...and Home Fellowship

The church of God is experiencing an explosive growth in home fellowship groups. This trend will no doubt continue and enlarge over the next several years. Members of these new house churches, many of which came from larger church organizations, wonder what their roles and responsibilities are in spreading the gospel. Brethren grapple with this question against a backdrop of leaders in larger churches deriding this new movement of Godís people. Their chief criticism lies in the belief that small fellowships do not do "the work." Some ministers feel that a home fellowshipís role is at best irrevelant and at worst a hindrance to those "truly" active in Godís great commission delivered to His people (Matt. 28:16-20).

In an overlooked statement by Jesus and the words of the apostle Paul we discover the responsibilities local fellowships bear. Jesus, talking to His disciples after a discussion with the women at the well in Samaria, said, "Do you not say, ĎThere are still four months and then comes the harvestí? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest!" (John 4:35, NKJV). Jesus goes on to declare "And he who reaps receives wages, and gathers fruit for eternal life, that both he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together. For in this the saying is true ĎOne sows and another reapsí. I sent you to reap that for which you have not labored; others have labored, and you have entered into their labors" (v. 36-38).

Notice that the disciples were sent to harvest that which they did not sow or plant! It was the righteous men and women that toiled before them, and the words and deeds inspired by God and written in the Old Testament that sowed the seed of truth (1Peter 1:10-12, Acts 15:21). The disciples were not the first to enter into the harvest field of the world. They did not personally know the workers that came before them. Godís work is one where laborers expend their efforts at various times in the field.

The apostle Paul offers us insight into how God distributes jobs in His work. Paul, in correcting the Corinthian church not to have contentions, said "Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers through whom you believed, as the Lord gave to each one? I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase." (1Cor. 3:5-6). He goes on to state "So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase. Now he who plants and he who waters are one, and each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor." (v. 7-8).

Paul was stressing that all workers in Godís work are critical to the successful implementation of Godís plan of salvation. ALL are to cooperate to reach a common goal whether they plant seeds of truth or later water by encouraging spiritual growth in others. Each person who puts his hand to the plow in Godís work is rewarded according to the effort they exert.

A significant contributing factor to the confusion and criticism about responsibilities in the gospel derives from an obsession with numbers. The number of members or ministers we have, the moneys we collect and the volume of requests we receive through media outreach are some of the figures used to verify who "really" is active and producing in Godís work. We must be cautious however not to put greater faith in numbers than in Godís plan. Noah, a preacher of righteousness, taught Godís way for 120 years and gained not one convert. Many of the righteous prophets of old did not live to fully see the fruit of their labors (1Peter 1:10-12). Regardless of numbers, we must never overlook our Christian calling and commission. The manifestation of the ultimate fruit of our efforts may not come until the future.

Home fellowships can play a dynamic, rewarding role in the commission to spread the gospel Jesus gave His church. It may be our skills and talents lead us to be sowers of Godís truth in the soil of the mind of another whom He has prepared to accept His word. We may be waterers, encouraging others on their road to accepting Jesus as their Savior before their baptism or giving spiritual nourishment to those already converted. We may also labor as harvesters who gather the fruit of the sower and waterer into Godís church. God however reserves for Himself the ultimate gathering of the harvest of souls at His resurrections (Matt. 13:24-30, 37-43; Rev. 20).

Whether sowers, waterers or harvesters, all Christians are fellow laborers and contributors to Godís great work. Our Father has promised us a reward for using our talents in whatever job He has given us. Since we are in the "last days" before Christís return, it may be that the sowing and watering of some home fellowships do not bear fruit until the Great Tribulation. At that time, an innumerable multitude will accept Jesus as their Savior, repent and turn to God (Rev. 7:9-17). May God help us awaken to our high calling in Jesus, to take our royal priesthood seriously (1Peter 2:9-10) and boldly enter into the fields of the lives of His greatest creation, mankind.

—Alan Ruth

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