The Cooperation of Believers
Charles Osgood told the story of two ladies who lived in a convalescent center. Each had suffered an incapacitating stroke. Margaret’s stroke left her left side restricted, while Ruth’s stroke damaged her right side. Both of these ladies were accomplished pianists, but they had given up hope of every playing again. The director of the center sat them down at the piano and encouraged them to play solo pieces together. They did, and a beautiful friendship developed.
Such is a wonderful picture of the cooperation of believers—working together to accomplish the Lord’s work. Cooperation is so important is so many areas of our lives. Children on sports teams quickly learn that in order to win a game they must cooperate with one another. In the business world, partners in a firm often cooperate to win a client’s contract. If a marriage is in serious trouble, the partners must work together to save the marriage.
If we are to accomplish God’s work, we in the church need to cooperate. Surely the cooperation of believers is a reason that God established the church. Imagine if there were no church—the task of evangelizing the world, carrying for the underprivileged, and worshiping God would fall on our shoulders individually.
The Bible speaks of the need of cooperation. God told Moses, “[Aaron] shall speak for you to the people, and he shall be your mouth, and you shall be as God to him” (Ex 4:16). To overcome Moses’ speech problem, Aaron would serve as Moses’ spokesman. “While [the prophets and teachers at Antioch] were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them’” (Acts 13:2).
Cooperation in the church is vital. With the church, we are able to accomplish far more for God than we ever could by ourselves.
Tonight, we want to examine the cooperation of believers as a reason for the church’s establishment.
The Cooperation of Believers Aids the Church in Evangelizing the World
Before he ascended back to the Father, Jesus told his disciples to evangelize the world. “Go . . . and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matt 28:19). Jesus told the disciples, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise form the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem” (Lk 24:46-47). “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
The early church cooperated in the preaching of the Gospel.
The early Christians prayed for those who labored in mission work.
When the church at Antioch separated Barnabas and Saul for the work the Holy Spirit intended for them, the church fasted and prayed (Acts 13:3). For what should we pray? We need to pray for more workers: “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest” (Lk 10:2). We need to pray that the gospel may spread and be glorified in the workers as well as for the workers’ safety: “Brothers, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored, as happened among you, and that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men. For not all have faith” (2 Thess 3:1-2). We need to pray for the boldness of those who preach: “Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness” (Acts 4:29).
The early Christians sent workers into the field.
“You Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving, except you only. Even in Thessalonica you sent me help for my needs once and again” (Phil 4:15-16). “How are they to preach unless they are sent?” (Rom 10:13).
It is vital that we send workers into the fields today. We need to give generously to this congregation so that our elders can continue to support good mission works. It would be good to write these missionaries to let them know that we stand behind them, to let them know that we are praying for them.
The early Christians did their share.
“Those who were scattered went about preaching the word” (Acts 8:4). The apostles were not scattered (Acts 8:1); they remained in Jerusalem. These “ordinary Christians” were scattered, and they preached the Word.
In today’s church, we have a serious problem with people doing their share. Too many think, “We pay the preacher, we have elders and deacons—we’ll let them do the work.” That is the wrong attitude—the preachers, the elders, the deacons will not stand before God for you; you need to be a Christian and serve the Lord by being active in the church.
In September of 1985, there was a celebration held at a New Orleans municipal pool. The party was being held in order to celebrate the first summer in memory without a drowning at the pool. In honor of the occasion, two hundred people gathered, including one hundred certified lifeguards. AS the party was breaking up and the four lifeguards on duty began to clear the pool, they found a fully dressed body in the deep end. They tried to revive 31-year-old Jerome Moody, but it was too late. He had drowned surrounded by lifeguards celebrating their successful season. Let us not allow the people around us to remain lost!
The Cooperation of Believers Aids the Church in Caring for the Unfortunate
God expects his people to be benevolent people, to care for those to whom life has dealt a devastating blow. Matthew 25:34-40. “In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’” (Acts 20:35). “As we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Gal 6:10). “Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God” (Heb 13:16).
In the early church, Christians pulled their resources together to help those in need. Notice these examples:
- “All who believes were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need” (Acts 2:44-45).
- “There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles’ feet and it was distributed to each as any had need” (Acts 4:34-35).
- “One of them named Agabus stood up and foretold by the Spirit that there would be a great famine over all the world (this took place in the days of Claudius). So the disciples determined, everyone according to his ability, to send relief to the brothers living in Judea. And they did so, sending it to the elders by the elders by the hand of Barnabas and Saul” (Acts 11:28-30).
The point from these texts is this: These early Christians gave money to the church leadership and the leadership distributed those funds as they were needed.
The church cooperated to help those who were in need. No one Christian had the responsibility of helping those in need. The church pulled together and met this need collectively.
There are ways that we can help this congregation assist those in need: We can bring baby items to be taken to the hospital for underprivileged women, we can bring pantry items to be given to those who have a hard time getting enough food, and there are times that money must be taken from the church treasury to help a certain need; we can give generously so that this congregation can continue to meet those needs.
The Cooperation of Believers Aids the Church in Worshiping God
God wants the church to come together and worship him. “On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul talked with them, intending to depart on the next day, and he prolonged his speech until midnight” (Acts 20:7). “My brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for one another” (1 Cor 11:33). We are not to be “neglecting to meet together” (Heb 10:25).
Why does the Lord want the church to come together to worship him? Why can’t we just worship at home? This helps the fellowship of believers—not forsaking the assembly allows us to exhort one another (Heb 10:25).
Coming together for worship allows brethren to be instructed in the Word of God. Paul preached to the brethren in Troas (Acts 20:7). The message that is preached saves: “It pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe” (1 Cor 1:21). When the church came together, they read from Scripture that they might receive instruction: “When this letter has been read among you, have it also read in the church of the Laodiceans” (Col 4:16).
No doubt, the more the people who come to worship, the sweeter the sound to God. God desires that all people in the world to worship him: “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God” (Rom 14:11). As we assemble to worship, we are helping God realize that dream of having all people worship him.
Are we working with our brethren to praise God through our worship?
Thank God for the church! The church helps us in the fellowship of believers and in the cooperation of believers.
North Carolina Governor Clyde R. Hoey was once at a church picnic doing some campaigning and he was talking with small church’s country preacher. Governor Hoey asked the preacher, “Sir, are there many workers in this church?” “Yes, sir, Mr. Governor. One hundred percent of this church works—some actively work with me and the rest work actively work actively against me.”
What if Governor Hoey had asked the Lord that question about the church here? Are you actively cooperating with your brethren for the Lord or are you actively cooperating with your brethren against the Lord?
If you need to begin working for the Lord, why don’t you come as we stand and sing?