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The Church: When We Gather Together

Posted by on Jun 17, 2010 in definition, gathering | 4 comments

The Church: When We Gather Together

This week, I’m publishing a few posts on “The Church” which explain the basis of my ecclesiology. In the first post, I said that our understanding of the church must begin with God. (see “The Church: It All Begins with God“) In the second post, I continue from that first point by concluding that our relationship with God and with one another is dependent upon God’s re-creative work, not any work of our own. (see “The Church: God’s Children and God’s Family“) Also, in the third post, I said that our actions are demonstrations of the Father’s character. (see “The Church: The Character of God’s Family“)

Gathering together is one of our actions which demonstrates God’s character. We do not gather because we are the church. Instead, since we are God’s children and family with one another, we desire to be with one another… we desire to gather together with other members of the family. The church does not make us family. The church exists because we are family.

The things that happen when we gather together do not happen because we are church. These things happen because we are individually God’s children and because we are God’s family together. Thus, we love, serve, teach, care, disciple, etc. because we are demonstrating God’s character, not because we are church.

The church starts with God. The church exists because we are God’s children and God’s family. The activities that happen when we gather occur because as God’s children we demonstrate God’s character.

In the epistles, we often see Paul or Peter or James or whoever exhorting the church. Primarily, the purpose of these exhortation was to demonstrate how the people were not demonstrating God’s character in their own lives and as family. This would include demonstrating God’s character to others and demonstrating God’s character to one another.

So, how we act when we gather together is important. But, how we act when we gather together is a reflection of our relationships with God. We do not act a certain way because we are church together. We are church together because we are all part of the family of God. When we are acting as God’s family, we are also relating to one another properly.

Questions about activities when we gather together, or times when we gather together, or places where we gather together, or leaders when we gather together, or any other aspect of our gathering together MUST begin with the REALITY that we are already family, regardless of what we decide about those other issues.

Our relationship to God (and thus with one another) comes before any decisions about activities, times, places, leadership, etc. And, therefore, our relationship to God and one another trumps decisions concerning activities, times, places, leadership, etc.

God re-created us to relate to him and to one another. Because we care about and love one another, we desire to spend time with one another. Because we are God’s children we are family. Since we are family, we desire to spend time with one another. When we act on our relationships with one another and actually gather together, we are God’s church (“assembly”). When we are not gathered together, we remain God’s family.


4 Comments

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  1. 6-17-2010

    Alan,
    This explanation reflects your input in the recent discussion on my own blog about “What Makes It Church?” Your participation in that discussion in particular has helped shape and clarify my own understanding of “church”. I also think your explanation here reflects the picture painted in Scripture. Thanks for sharing this here, and thanks for chiming in on my blog. Greatly appreciated.

  2. 6-17-2010

    Jeff,

    Thinking through the questions that you asked and the comments on your posts inspired me to put together this series. I realized that many people begin with “church”… but how can we understand “church” without first understanding our relationship to God and to one another?

    -Alan

  3. 6-17-2010

    This series really has me thinking. You can check out some of my thoughts at gathering of the church. Thanks for your posts. I look forward to your email sub every day!

  4. 6-18-2010

    Norma,

    I love the way you took this series of conceptual posts and fleshed them out in your own life.

    Everyone,

    Here is a link to Norma’s post: http://normajhill.blogspot.com/2010/06/gathering-of-church.html

    -Alan