In my previous post (“A Megachurch in Jerusalem?“), I concluded that Acts 2:46 cannot be used to justify a meeting of a large group of believers. In other words, Acts 2:46 does not indicate that 3000 believers in Jerusalem met together for a “worship service and sermon.”
But, I honestly don’t care how many people meet together as the church. Whether there are 2 brothers or sisters who meet together or 20,000 brothers or sisters who meet together, the number of people meeting is not the issue. There are many more important questions besides how many believers should meet together as the church.
For example, why should the church meet together? This question considers the purpose of the church assembling. Paul tells us that whenever the church gets together and whatever is done, everything should be done for the purpose of edification (1 Cor 14:26). Similarly, the author of Hebrews (Paul again?) says that believers get together in order to provoke one another to love and good works (Heb 10:24-25).
Importantly, the purpose is not for the individuals of the church to be separately edified. Instead, the purpose of the church assembling is for the church as a whole to be mutually built up. Unfortunately, mutuality is lacking in many church meetings, whether large or small.
When we look at the New Testament descriptions of church meetings, we see the church taking part in certain activities.
What activity does the church take part in most often? Meals. That’s right. In almost every instance when the church meets together in the New Testament, they are sharing meals together (Acts 2:42, 46; 20:7; 1 Cor 11:20-21; Jude 12). In fact, the “theological” problem surrounding the Lord’s Supper which Paul addresses in 1 Corinthians 11:18-34 concerns HOW they are eating together, not what they believe about the elements themselves. Eating together was extremely important to the early church. Unfortunately, meals have not been given the same importance in much of the church today, whether “large” churches or “small” churches.
Believe it or not, you also find discussion in the church meetings in the New Testament. Interestingly, in Acts 19:8-9, we see Paul using the same method to teach disciples in the School of Tyrannus that he used to teach the Jews in the synagogue. The verb used is one that conveys the idea of dialog or discussion. In fact, this same verb is used to describe what Paul did “until midnight” when conversing with the church in Troas (Acts 20:7-11).
Also, just as interestingly, you will not find anyone lecturing the church in the New Testament. Similarly, neither the verbs “preach” or “evangelize” are used to indicate what happened when the church met. Instead, we see several people taking part in speaking and serving when the church met (Acts 13:1; 15:32; 1 Cor 14:26-40). This observation corresponds with the biblical idea that the church grows and God is glorified when the whole church works together through both speaking and serving (Eph 4:16; 1 Pet 4:10-11).
The idea of discussion or dialog has also lost its place in the church meeting. Whether the meetings contains only a few believers or many believers, usually only one or two trained speakers are allowed to take part in teaching. This is not the kind of teaching that we find in the New Testament.
We also find the church giving to those who are in need, both individually (James 2:15-17; 1 John 3:16-18) and corporately (Acts 4:34-37; 1 Cor 16:1-2). In fact, the only examples of corporate contributions in the New Testament are taken up for others who are in physical need. Unfortunately, for many individual Christians and church groups, the needy are placed near the bottom of the list when it comes to contributions.
Of course, there are many other things that could be said about church meetings in the New Testament. For example, on a positive side, the church did meet to pray. On a negative side, we don’t see any examples of modern day “worship times” with “worship ministers,” “choirs,” or “worship bands.”
Now, certainly, there is nothing wrong with choirs or worship bands. There is nothing wrong with someone choosing some songs to sing. Unless, of course, these practices take the place of what we do find in Scripture – the believers coming to the church meeting with a song for the group to sing (1 Cor 14:26).
There is nothing wrong with a lecture (“sermon”). In fact, some people can learn from a lecture. However, there is a problem when the lecture replaces any other types of speaking and/or teaching.
Thus, the purpose of my previous post (“A Megachurch in Jerusalem?“) and this post is not to say that all of these things are wrong, just as it is not wrong for 3000 Christians to meet together.
Instead, I encourage all churches to consider what they are doing and compare that to Scripture. If you are doing things that are not even described in Scripture… why? If you are not doing things that are described or prescribed in Scripture… why not?
Why focus on things that may be allowed by Scripture while ignoring things that are modeled for us in Scripture?
If Scripture is important to us for our beliefs, why not for our practices?