I'm reading a book right now called The Untold Story of the New Testament Church by Frank Viola. The point of the book is to help Christians better understand the New Testament. You see, the letter written by Paul have been arranged in the NT in order of their length.
This book puts them in the order in which they were written and gives you some background into what was going on with the church at that time and the reasoning for each of the letters Paul wrote. It really is eye opening to understand the "back story" if you will of each of Paul's letters. There was a purpose for each of these letters being written, a particular issue that Paul is addressing that was occuring in that particular church at that particular time. (The book does deal with the entire NT, not just the letters written by Paul, but these are the ones which for the most part have been arranged by length).
Right now I'm going through a chapter called The Jerusalem Chronicles which is dealing with the book of Acts. There is one quote regarding the beginning of the church that really caught my eye.
It is 30 AD and the Jerusalem church has just been born. Pentecost has come and the Believers have been baptised with the Holy Spirit in the upper room where they were meeting. This "church" following Jesus has now gone from 12 disciples to 120 in the upper room to 3,000 believers.
"The first instinct of these new Christians is to meet and to meet constantly. The Galilean experience of informal gatherings with Christ as the center is now brought to Jerusalem by the Twelve."
That made me think. When Jesus walked the earth he would sit with his disciples and teach them while they shared a meal. He was the center of it all. Now that he had ascended to Heaven and the Holy Spirit had been sent to the Believers, they followed this same pattern. They met often to teach one another, to fellowship and to eat (often was more than just once a week!). In all of this Jesus was the center of these meetings, not programs or anything else. As they did this they came to love one another and naturally the began to care of one another's needs and the needs of the community.
I think today we loose sight of this so often. I'm doing a study right now on Ephesians at work about Walking the Talk you Talk. One of the recent questions was "If a person is going to walk in a manner worthy of his calling as a Christian - or to put it another way, if a person claims to be a Christian and wants to walk his talk - what would he need to do, according to what you've seen in today's study?" (study that day was on Ephesians 4:14-16)
My answer was the first priority we have is to nuture our walk with the Lord as this is the only way we will truly know the Truth and be able to walk with one another in unity. If we continue to nuture our relationship with the Lord (prayer, Bible study, worship, fasting, etc) then the rest, the fruit of love will come naturally. We try too often to produce the "fruit" on our own. It should be there, definitely, but only God can produce it in us, we can not do it ourselves.
I think sometimes this overflows not only into our personal lives but also into church. As a church sometimes we start to focus on doing for others, the fruit. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it does lead to burnout if our focus is on this and we are trying to do it of our own power. As a church (a body of believers) we need to first focus on Jesus, the head of our church. The rest will come.