the weblog of Alan Knox

What if we met to edify one another?

Posted by on Nov 6, 2007 in edification, gathering, love, service | 10 comments

Occasionally, I’m asked if I think churches today should meet in the same way that churches met in the first century, as described in the New Testament. This questions is usually followed by a statement such as, “Should we also wear robes and sandals when we meet together?”

Certainly there are major differences between the twenty-first century and the first century. While I do not believe that we should do everything exactly like the church did in the New Testament, I do believe that we who live in the twenty-first century can learn something from those who lived in the first century – even when it comes to the church meeting.

First of all, consider the standard church meeting of today. These meetings usually center on locations, leaders, music, preaching, and money. Are these bad things? No. People need a place to meet. It is good to recognize leaders. Singing praise to God is a good thing. Preaching and teaching are important. Money is necessary for some of the things that we do. But, do we find these things the focus of the church meeting in the New Testament.

I suggest that if we study the meeting of the church in the New Testament, we will not find a focus on location, leaders, music, preaching, or money. Are they important. Yes, but they are not most important. I suggest that instead of changing the way the church meets today, we would learn more by changing our focus during the meeting to the focus of the gathered church in the New Testament.

What was the focus of the gathered church in the New Testament? The purpose of the church meeting was to allow each believer an opportunity to exercise his or her spiritual gifts in a manner that built up other believers, that is, that encouraged them toward maturity in Jesus Christ. If the church changed its focus today, would it change the way that we meet? I think that it would. However, if we start with changing the way that we meet, then we are starting with the wrong thing. Let’s start with our purpose. If we start with the purpose of building up one another in Christ, then the format of the meeting will fall into place.

If we start by recognizing that we should meet together so that we can build up one another, then the reason for locations, leaders, music, preaching, and money also falls into place. Similarly, we can make decisions based on the reason that we meet together as a church.

Think about the way your church meets. Does the meeting of your church reflect the purpose of allowing each believer to exercise his or her spiritual gifts in order to build up others toward maturity in Christ?


10 Comments

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  1. 11-6-2007

    interesting that we were both thinking about this today. I’d have to say that mutual edification does not appear to be the purpose of meeting among the believers I gather with, or at least not the primary focus, though there are occasions that this goal does happen.

  2. 11-6-2007

    *sorry, I had a typo on my previous comment!*

    Alan,
    I find it interesting that when you use the term “church meeting”, the idea of a formatted, Sunday morning gathering is assumed. I would say that in my most recent church family experience, believers were able to exercise their spiritual gifts “when the church met” – that is, when believers were gathered together in different contexts throughout the week. Our structured Sunday morning gathering did not consistently allow for all/most believers to exercise their gifts. But if we expand the idea of the church gathering, and therefore the chances of believers being able to exercise their gifts, then I think there is more opportunity for participation. I see this especially true for women and children, and also for believers whose gifts can’t be fully utilized on a Sunday morning (hospitality comes to mind).

  3. 11-6-2007

    I also think that we need to look at the gifts as blessing the community (where you live) as well as the local church.

    I think that this transitions us from church-focused to kingdom focused.

    On your point at hand though, I think we need some restructuring of “how we do church” so that we can make sure there is time for this.

  4. 11-6-2007

    Drew,

    I appreciated the questions that you asked in your post “Why do we gather?“. I hope more people ask these questions.

    Leah,

    I completely agree that it is important to build up one another whenever we gather with other believers. I guess the question that I would ask is this: if we have a “formal” meeting, why would the format be different? Shouldn’t this meeting allow us to edify other believers as well?

    Jeff,

    Yes, the community aspect is very important, as is the kingdom focus. How do you think you would “restructure” the church meeting to allow for edification?

    -Alan

  5. 11-6-2007

    Alan:

    I would love to see the meeting time become a place where individuals and groups of individuals (small grops, ministry teams and task forces ) would share what is going on in their lives and the impact that they are making on he community.

    Thus, the meeting would be the following:

    - a time of gathering (music & fellowship)

    - introduction to the theme for te day

    - scriptural reading

    - sacrements

    - sharing time (individuals/groups sharing what is occurring – especially in light of the theme)

    - connecting points (challenge of what we are learning/sharing to what is happening in the community)

    - message board where all celebrations/prayers of group individuals are at in their journey

    - meal (individuals interacting)

    - body prayer

    - blessing (individuals encourage/build up/pray for individuals and groups to have a “successful” week in the community

  6. 11-7-2007

    Good post. I am not sure I agree with the purpose-thing, though. It almost seems that you say that you have to start with something “inner” or “invisible” like “attitude” or something (if I remember rightly, you also were on this path some posts ago, speaking of “love”). I tend to think exactly the other way around. We have to start meeting the right way first, and this will train people to participate. As disciples we need practises, structures, that makes us better disciples. The wine and the wine-skins-thing. It does matter (maybe) how much you encourage people to participate freely, as long as you have a preacher, a pulpit, a microphone and a church. But I might be wrong…
    /Jonas Lundström

  7. 11-7-2007

    Jeff,

    That’s a great list. I can tell you’ve put alot of thought into the different things that you’ve listed. I hope that you’ll consider explaining each item and why you think they’re important. Perhaps you could do a post on your blog. I’d be glad to link to it.

    Jonas,

    Thanks for the kind words. I do think there is something to the idea of doing something even when your heart is not in it. However, I still believe that the heart is the source of both good and evil, so we must deal with the heart.

    What did you mean by this statement: “It does matter (maybe) how much you encourage people to participate freely, as long as you have a preacher, a pulpit, a microphone and a church”?

    -Alan

  8. 11-7-2007

    Alan. I don´t believe that the biblical concept of “the heart” is the same as our “soul”. The heart is the center of a human beings life, and might include even what we do, not just inner attitudes. Maybe.

    “Love” and “faith” in the NT includes actions and deeds, I think.

    And I meant “it doesn´t matter”… Sorry…

    /Jonas

  9. 11-7-2007

    I took your challenge. I am not sure if I succeeded.

  10. 11-7-2007

    Jonas,

    Thank you for the explanation!

    Jeff,

    Great! I’m looking forward to reading it.

    -Alan

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