In my study of the early church (between the time of the apostles to the middle ages), I’ve started reading Oscar Cullmann’s classic Early Christian Worship (London: SCM Press, 1953).
So far, Cullmann continues to call the church gathering by the term “worship” or the phrase “service of worship.” You’ll see the terms used below.
But, pay close attention to what Cullmann says about the “aim” of this “service of worship”:
The Aim of the Service
We are now familiar with the various elements of the service of worship in early Christianity. They are extraordinarily numerous, and it is astonishing how many forms the life of worship in these first Christian communities has assumed. In the light of this wealth of form, we must assert here and now that the services of worship in the Protestant Churches of our own era are very much poorer, not only in respect of the free working of the Spirit, but also in respect of what is liturgical and especially in respect of what is aimed at in the gatherings of the community. The aim is constantly described by Paul as building up of the community (1 Cor. 14). We must not interpret this word in the hackneyed pietist sense of ‘uplift’, but we have to think of the figure of the body of Christ, which must be formed effectually in the community. All the different elements which we have examined individually are subordinated to this purpose, which attains its peak in the ‘coming of Christ’ in the Lord’s Supper. To this aim is due the wealth and the variety of the elements in the early Christian service. But, on the other hand, in view of this aim their use is constantly brought under examination and, if necessary, limited. Paul has also seen this second necessity; he has recognized the danger of this wealth, but he has not thrown out the baby with the bath water. On the contrary, he has preserved everything which can contribute to the ‘building up’ of the body of Christ. (pg. 26)
What do you think of Cullmann’s statement?