the weblog of Alan Knox

Church Activities

Posted by on Aug 16, 2010 in blog links, edification, gathering | 10 comments

Church Activities

Eric at “A Pilgrim’s Progress” has come to the same conclusion as me in his post “The Church’s Primary Activity.”

What is that conclusion?

The conclusion is that the particular activity (activities) undertaken when the church meets is less important than the goal (or outcome) of that activity (those activities). That is, whatever we do when we get together with other Christians (activities) should have the goal / outcome of building up one another in maturity in Christ.

Eric gives a good summary:

This indicates that content of gatherings is not nearly as important as the attitude and motivation of those present. If the goal is edification and church people strive for this, then any of a wide variety of things could happen – maybe preaching, maybe teaching, maybe scripture reading, maybe testimony, maybe prophecy, maybe speaking in tongues, maybe the sharing of the Lord’s Supper, etc. However, if edification and the sirring up to love and good works is not the goal, then it doesn’t matter what we do because it won’t be biblical.

A good scriptural example of this can be found in 1 Corinthians 11:17-22 (actually 11:17-34, since the whole section is about the same topic). In this passage, Paul points out that the Corinthians are doing the activity (eating and drinking), but that the result is not the Lord’s Supper because they are not concerned with one another. (Note, there is no “doctrinal” issue involved in Paul’s admonition, only relational issues.)

What is the church’s primary activity? Whatever leads to mutual edification. And, yes, as a commenter pointed out, mutuality is necessary for maturity.


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  1. 8-17-2010

    Last week, our fellowship met at a someone’s house where we sat around and had snacks and drinks. As the evening went on, we got to know each other better, and encouraged each other as we heard the stories. A number of us have remarked about how we “had church” that night, even though there was no formal “spiritual” activity.

    I come from traditions where that type of thing would be called a “small group,” or just a bunch of people hanging out, so this has been a new experience for me. I’m seeing how that is closer to what Jesus had in mind than most of what went on in the churches I was in before.

  2. 8-17-2010


    It’s interesting that Scripture doesn’t distinguish between small group meetings, prayer meetings, business meetings, etc. Paul simply says, “Whenever you come together…” I think he really meant “whenever.” :)


  3. 8-20-2010

    I think it’s good to distinguish between two fundamentally different types of gatherings. What my group and I realized after a few informal meetings is that we naturally gravitated towards telling each other what we’re feeling, sharing the events of our day, etc. This is great, of course; it amounts to relationship building, which is absent in so many churches today (show up, sing some songs, listen to a sermon, go home). And we usually prayed to close us out. But we realized what we were missing was a substantial worship time – praising and thanking God, bathing in his word, singing to him, remembering his death through Communion. We called this a “vertical” gathering – the primary direction of activity is from us to God and from God to us. The other – the relationship building/sharing time – we called a “horizontal” gathering, where the primary communication is from one human being to another.

  4. 8-20-2010


    Just wondering… why did you decide to have two different types of meetings instead of combining them into one?


  5. 8-21-2010

    Actually we did combine them the first time – we ate dinner together, shared and caught up from the past week. Then we moved to the living room and finished the evening with a rhythm of Scripture readings, songs, and prayer. So it was back to back. I read your post about your gathering, where it’s more like weaving the two together from one activity to the next. Maybe we can try that, but off-hand I think I like “moving into” a pure worship time where there is an extended focus on God. The only reason we may split them into different days is our time constraints/schedules. This last meeting was over 3 hours. So we’re thinking of having dinner/relational/informal gatherings on Wednesday evenings and pure worship time on Sundays.

  6. 8-23-2010

    I am curious about this concept of “pure worship.” I am wondering about how Father views our worship.

    I’m thinking “pureness” has to do with the state of our hearts (we are only “pure” through the blood of Jesus; and “pureness” as we worship Him rather than worshiping our performance – which ends up being self-worship…)

    I’m pondering: how much does “pure worship” have to do with the form of activity? And, are we not to live lives of worship? Isn’t everything we do supposed to focus on and praise and glorify Him?

    Even (maybe even especially) in “focused worship time” I think we can get hung up on the “form” (am I praying “better” on my knees with my hands folded, eyes closed, and head covered? am I praising better with my arms raised, or with instruments, or eyes closed?).

    This is not a criticism, Chris. I’m really just wondering how we can separate “pure worship” from (less pure? less focused? less ___?) worship?

  7. 8-23-2010


    I’m glad that Norma commented on this, or I would have forgotten to reply to your last comment. We pick a book to read through, then read a chapter each time we meet together. We tend to alternate between Old Testament and New Testament books. Or, if we teaching through an Old Testament book, then we’ll read through a New Testament book. And, we’ve never repeated a book yet. When we finish reading through a book, we’ll ask someone to pick another book to read.


    I agree… worship is worship. It is an attitude of the heart that is demonstrate in someone’s life toward God and others.


  8. 8-25-2010

    Thanks for the thoughts, Norma. My phrase “pure worship” is probably misleading. I didn’t mean to suggest this was a better (more pure) kind of worship than other forms. I just meant to describe the kind of worship where a group of believers directly addresses God and lets him address us. It’s a rhythm of prayer, song, and Word that we enact as a body. For an extended period of time we corporately cast our gaze heavenward.

    This is in contrast to a Bible study or sharing time when we are focused on talking to each other. This is good, but it’s not the same. My group simply realized that we are really good at studying and sharing – addressing each other – as a group, and not so good at addressing God as a group. I think in a lot of ways we contemporary Protestants have lost the art of corporate worship. So we’re trying to regain it.

    I’m not sure what you mean by a “form” getting in the way and becoming an object of worship. We don’t have much of a form the way you describe it, just a rhythm, or order of activities. And they are all coming from the heart.

  9. 8-26-2010


    Could it be that addressing each other as a group is a way of addressing God as a group?


  10. 8-26-2010

    Sure, but that’s indirect. Think of it this way: I don’t know if you’re a father but imagine for a moment that your kids are sitting in your living room. From somewhere else in the house you overhear them talking about an article you wrote and how it has helped their understanding, how it helps them overcome certain struggles, how it may help them help others as well. They also ask each other about their day, how everything is going, how they can work together to get some necessary things done.

    Of course you would be very pleased to hear this. But what if then you walked into the living room and they all jumped up and came to you, hugged you, asked you about your day, what you thought of their plans, how you might clarify some things in your article, and expressed their appreciation for how you’ve helped and cared for them in the past.

    These are very different, no? Both are good, but the first is an indirect way of honoring you as their father (just by doing something with each other that pleases you) and the second is a direct, relational way of honoring you – which is necessary for any real relationship.

    I think Father God is the same – he wants his children to gather and have a nice long conversation with him, thank and praise him, give him hugs.


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