Four years ago, when I first started this blog, I wrote a post called “Activities during the gathering of the church.” I think Paul makes it clear in 1 Corinthians 11 (when speaking of the Lord’s Table/Supper) that activities themselves do not produce a “successful” meeting of the church. I think this applies to other activities as well.
Most books on ecclesiology are surprisingly silent concerning the actual gathering of the church. In many cases, the gathering is assumed, and there is no distinction made between ethical requirements for individuals and requirements for the body as it is assembled. (Note: One notable exception is David Peterson’s book, Engaging with God. However, Peterson’s book is not a study in ecclesiology per se, but a biblical theology of worship. It is an excellent read!)
When ecclesiologies do examine the gathering of the church, they usually turn immediately to proper activities that constitute “worship.” (Again, there is rarely any distinction made between “worship” and the “gathering of the church.” They are usually assumed to be synonymous.)
Should proper activities be our first concern when we consider the church assembled? It is true that many Scripture passages discuss the practices of the NT church: Acts 2:42-47, Acts 11:26, Acts 20:7, 1 Corinthians 5:4, 1 Corinthians 11:17-34, 1 Corinthians 14. More importantly, is God, first and foremost, concerned that we are including the proper activities during our church gatherings?
In Acts 20:7, Luke tells us that Paul spoke to the disciples in Troas when they came together on the first day of the week “to break bread.” This is usually seen as an indication that the church gathered to participate in the Lord’s Supper weekly. This is confirmed in other passages, especially 1 Corinthians 11. However, in 1 Corinthians 11, Paul teaches the Corinthians (and us!) something very important. He says:
Therefore when you come together in one place, it is not to eat the Lord’s Supper. For in eating, each one takes his own supper ahead of others; and one is hungry and another is drunk. (1 Corinthians 11:20-21)
Paul indicates that the Corinthians were gathering to partake of the Lord’s Supper – they were eating and drinking. However, Paul says it was not the Lord’s Supper in reality, because they came together with wrong motives, wrong attitudes, and in wrong relationships with one another. The activity itself did not constitute a proper gathering!
Perhaps when our churches gather, there are more important matters than what activities we should include in our gatherings. We must continue to study Scripture to see what God says about our gatherings!