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?