the weblog of Alan Knox

An unhealthy emphasis on certain church gatherings?

Posted by on Apr 30, 2012 in comment highlights, gathering | 16 comments

An unhealthy emphasis on certain church gatherings?

As I’ve said several times, I believe that the church is God’s people gathered together. In the New Testament, the term translated “church” is never used to refer to a building, or an organization, or even a certain event/meeting.

But, since I think the term refers to God’s people gathered together (and not to us individually), then the term necessitates some type of “meeting” in the sense of two or more being together in the same place at the same time. However, and unfortunately, Christians often focus on one type of meeting or one specific meeting when they think about the church. This meeting is even given a special name, such as “the worship service.”

Over the last few days, I’ve had a short discussion on this topic on an older post with a reader named Greg. I thought that Greg’s points were too good to leave in the comments of that old post, so I’m going to copy them (and my responses) here:

Greg: I find it interesting and puzzling why there is so much emphasis on meetings today. I am much more interested in how we live our daily lives in our homes, at work recreationally and in community. Our daily regimen and lives together outside of meetings flow along without self conscious behavior and adherence to scripts then when it comes time to have a meeting we turn into wooden soldiers.

They have taken on an incredible amount of importance with serious discussion about how they should go and how often we should meet and who should be in charge and what we should do. But they reveal very let little about the real us, and even less about God. The disconnect between meetings and the lives of the believers is a serious concern to me. I suspect that’s why the scriptures don’t spill very much ink about meetings but are filled with the stuff of everyday life. if the church would like to see where they’re spirituality is let them fast from meetings for a year for all but the most important reasons to meet. I’m generalizing grossly here and covering all meetings with the same blanket and of course I don’t mean every meeting all the time everywhere. I am challenging the notion that meeting should be held simply because it’s time to have a meeting. if even a small percentage of the time that we collectively spend in meetings were redistributed and spent with one anothering.

Alan: I’m not puzzled at the emphasis on brothers and sisters meeting together. I am puzzled at the emphasis on certain types of meetings. I think it should be normal and natural for us to get together with other people who are following Jesus Christ. But, I don’t think it’s normal and natural for us to get together the way many church organizations dictate.

Greg: I guess I dont really know much about different kinds of meetings as I have only ever been with one group of people, though we went thru quite a metamorphosis from what might be called organic to self conscious.

Our meetings were not structured, and could morph into any one of several topics, go short or long and not happen again for days or weeks followed by one every day if the need arose.

Maybe it will help to explain my puzzlement by saying that I suspect that if we all had closer daily interaction, like family, meetings would not be such a big deal.

Alan: Those “closer daily interaction” meetings are exactly what we need.

When you think about gathering (meeting) with the church, do you think of a specific meeting or type of meeting, or do you think about any time you are with other brothers and sisters in Christ?


16 Comments

  1. 4-30-2012

    Alan-

    I’ve come to the place where I no longer see meeting as the church to be any pre-set date or time. For instance this past week I met as the church at my place of business, a brother and I happened to be at the office at the same time (BTW we are both self employed setting our own hours just so you know we did not do this while on an employer’s time) we discussed a portion of the scriptures, discussed the indwelling presence of Christ, we shared with (taught) each other regarding what Christ was teaching us in our time with Him daily and we wrapped our “meeting” of about 2 hours up by encouraging each other in the faith and praying for one another. On another occasion this past week while watching a Football/soccer match at a pub I did much the same thing with another brother but this time during our meeting we had a common friend with us who we do not believe is in Christ, we share with him often about what Christ has done in our lives and about His person and work. We trust and pray that this dear friend will come to Christ. Yesterday I saw a brother and sister from a previous Institutional “church” that I used to attend that has orchestrated set meetings and we loved and encouraged one another while at Starbucks and of course my wife and I share daily with each other what Christ is teaching us in our time spent with Him daily. I really believe this is what is presented to us in the scriptures, live your life in Christ, love, share, teach, encourage one another as your paths naturally cross throughout the days and weeks to come. I could give you many more examples, living like building up the brethren, loving God, brother/sister, neighbor & enemy proclaiming/preaching Christ what he has done in and for me and who He is and what He has done-expressing His love to others. BTW during most of these “meetings” there are many other people within ear-shot who hear what we are talking about and very often they ask us about the hope that resides within us-this never happened to me when I went to the IC, the so called Organic Church and it never happened when I would try to give a canned gospel presentation to folks in the past.

  2. 4-30-2012

    I don’t see the Church as any one anything….. but I do see the value in having certain time/dates set aside each week….

    the IDEAL for me would be that we live out our faith in our daily lives WITH other brothers/sisters so regularly that we get past all the beginning nuances of being together and things just flow and we ARE the Church together daily……. would love that type of community..

    but I live in my reality. And my reality is that we are very much separated from others (even though we are with people all the time!) unless we are really intentional about getting together for not the usual reasons (usually for my season of life the reason we are together is based on kids activities)……

    the way our communities have changed is the devil’s work :) I tell you…..

    so yes, I do believe in my family setting aside at least one time a week to make sure we are intentional about getting around brothers sisters is a “must”…. I consider it practice… and then once we have gotten to know each other and have had enough practice of BEing together… then hopefully some day it can look and flow different and we don’t need the external boundaries of setting aside a time each other….. because it will be flowing from the internal (Holy Spirit)….

    That being said…. before we started regularly meeting every week… I still felt like I was very much BEing the Church with others…. but it wasn’t reciprocated by others… so I really felt the step for us was to get together with people and start over building relationships… again.

    so setting aside a time to be fully present with brothers/sisters has been a huge blessing for us…. to start somewhere and practice… I wish we could choose who we travel with…. it would be so easier if the brothers/sisters God desired us to journey with were in similiar lifestages as us (activities)…and lived next door….but that isn’t what GOd has done for us…… YET!!! :)

    anyway…..I do find for where we are…. which seems to be, starting from scratch again…. that regularly meeting is a must to building relationships that can turn into life together…… so we do meet once a week…. it doesn’t have to look or be any certain thing… but I do believe setting aside time each week has been huge for all of us… a time that we can focus together not on watching the TBall game… not grocery shopping…not standing around at a kids birthday party…. not working on the yard….. not watching a movie together…..but instead a time to really spend TOGETHER…. which I am finding is a WAY lost art in our day….. we always need some entertainment. It’s amazing how “we” don’t know how to just BE together.

    interesting though…. I myself also feel like I am BEing the Church so many other times during the week than that one gathering…….. but those brothers/sisters I am with do not (most of the time)…. so I go back to a question I asked a while ago…. am I still being the Church if the brothers sisters I’m with don’t realize we are!? :)

  3. 4-30-2012

    As you know we reject the word “church” because it is the incorrect definition of the word “ekklesia”, and because in this post modern, post church age, it is a barrier for those who have yet to know Christ. Having said that, we keep in our minds a very spiritual connotation of meeting (2-3 or more). We expect Jesus’ presence via the Holy Spirit. We do not have speakers per say, we just meet, then we talk, and listen. We are listening for that voice that transcends earth’s boundaries.
    When we hear a word from the Lord, usually the speaker does not even notice it, but it settles into the hearts that needed to hear it.

  4. 4-30-2012

    I think of living life together in true yolk fellowship. I don’t believe that the “meeting” described in 1 Corinthians 14 was a pre-set, predetermined meeting time. The Holy Spirit should be free to move in us at any given time while we are living life with other believers. For my wife and I, we are hoping to connect with others who are on this same journey, who are willing to do life together, spending time together the majority of the week. Some times we will just hang out, other times gather to eat or watch a game, but at all times strengthening and encouraging one another. Unfortunately we have not yet found any other person or family who has left the institution, who is willing to join us in this venture. We are praying that God will open that door to us very soon so we can begin to experience true koinonia.

  5. 4-30-2012

    Hutch,

    We gather as the church whenever we are with other brothers and sisters in Christ. This can be scheduled and regular or unscheduled and irregular. Either way, we should seek to help one another grow in Jesus Christ as he directs us. Thus, any time we get together can be as important as any other time, depending on our focus when we are together.

    Randi,

    I love the way you work through your thoughts when you comment on my posts. Thank you for sharing your thought processes with us! To answer your question, I would say that you treat others who in Christ like brothers and sisters anytime you are with them and regardless of their expectations and intentions.

    Marc,

    Actually, according to Paul, there should be several speakers whenever the church gathers together. Unless, of course, you want to force me to use only one definition of the term “speaker” also. ;)

    Tim,

    Like I said to Hutch, we could gather with other believers regularly or irregularly. The when and where of gathering together should never affect how we approach and interact with one another when we are together. I will pray with you that God brings others into your lives in a way that will be mutually beneficial to all of you.

    -Alan

  6. 4-30-2012

    Alan-:)…well of course you meet as the church whether its a scheduled meeting or not, I did not say you are not gathered as the church during your planned meetings, I simply shared that I have come to the place where having a pre-planned meeting is not only not necessary but also at least in my case not an optimal way to live the Christian life, I certainly was not finding fault with the traditional way that you guys meet, it a great big family in Christ following Jesus as He leads that is where you are and it’s wonderful brother. Blessings to you in Christ.

  7. 4-30-2012

    Yes – well said…. love on them and treat them the same regardless of what each other’s ‘expectations’ are of our relationship/time together.

    And thank you for putting up with me processing as I write. Since I never know how much free time I have in a day to think/write….or how quickly I’ll be able to be back here – I like to think & write at the same time!! :)

  8. 5-1-2012

    Hutch,

    I had to add that, because I know that some people have claimed that scheduled or formal or traditional church gatherings are not gatherings of the church. Even if I disagree with how they gather together (i.e., does not facilitate interaction and edification), they are still the church – and they are gathered. So…

    Randi,

    Well, in these posts, you’re often reading my own thought processes. :)

    -Alan

  9. 5-1-2012

    :)

  10. 5-2-2012

    In all these writings I have not found one scripture to back up anything that has been said. Are opinions really worth the time without scripture to back it up?

    God Bless

  11. 5-2-2012

    Naomi,

    You’re correct. This particular post is not an exegesis of Scripture. However, I did come to this conclusion through studying Scripture. I’ve written about several of those passages in other posts in the categories of “gathering” and “edification.” You’ll find alot of scriptural exegesis in those posts.

    Or if you prefer, I’d be glad to discuss any particular passages of Scripture related to gathering with other believers that you’d like to discuss.

    -Alan

  12. 5-5-2012

    These are all great thoughts! I love reading all the comments. This is exactly what I am looking for but cannot find it locally. I can only find it online, and that seems to fall short of fellowship that fosters spiritual growth. Although I an learning a lot and know I am growing, I need in person fellowship. How do I find it?

  13. 5-5-2012

    Sheree,

    The Christians around you may not be interested in other types of church gatherings, but they may be willing to have dinner with you. That’s a great way to foster relationships, and you will recognize that that is a gathering of the church whether they recognize it or not. You will probably have to be careful about the language that you use (i.e., calling your dinner “church”) so that you don’t scare them off before they get to know you and your heart. :)

    -Alan

  14. 5-6-2012

    Alan and Naomi
    I have a Godly friend that loves and studies the scriptures at great length, and he and I have had a 15 yr dialogue about whether or to what degree the scriptures are prescriptive or descriptive, with respect to church methods, models, ministries,lifestyles etc.
    He comes from good Open Brethren stock and I still cant figure out what or if I come from any point on the theological compass.
    Probably closer to some libertarian mindset if I had to pin it down.
    We started out with him distrusting and chastising me for not attending a church, having no pastor or accountability, not tithing, wife not wearing a head covering and actually teaching me at times, other women leading in areas they are gifted, children taking adult responsibility at times, not coming down harder on some of our mutual friends that don’t walk as ‘close’ to the Lord as ‘we’ do. etc etc
    My response was too often defensive and to try to show him that he had a religious spirit.
    In all this, we have exhausted the scriptures to try to determine the truth of such matters, and as of today, we couldn’t put any of what we know into a bible study and teach it.
    But, in the course of these sometimes testy sparring matches, we have been humbled, and come to love and respect one another, listen to and trust one another’s motives and integrity, seek one another’s counsel on almost everything, and most surprisingly, our (12) children have grown up with each other and reflect a beautiful unity and holy love for one another. They have all become best friends, regardless of age or gender, and do many things together that usually require strong leadership. But there is no official or subtle leadership among them, in that they submit to one another’s consensus in most things. There is no male or female consciousness among them other than a few have paired off in love. They have drawn other young people into their circle of kindness, love and openness, including several unsaved ones.
    And the circle gets larger.
    I wouldn’t dare call us a church, because I’m pretty sure that would ruin everything.
    I am watching our children re-enact my exact youthful introduction into the kingdom of God, and life together, albeit it a very different context.
    I couldn’t scripturally defend much of my own early walk and though I now know a good deal many scriptures that might be able to defend what and how we live, I still could not produce a bible study to teach it.
    I think the life in the Spirit must primarily be caught, rather than taught, so that we don’t develop a neo- gnostic gospel narrative.
    In the last few years we have found that the scriptures describe our fellowship and lives together far more than they prescribe how to live.
    So, we cant prove all things from scripture, but we see the love of God shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost, and if and when we discover we have been making a mistake according to conclusive, consensus arrived at scripture, then we will have a good laugh at ourselves, thank the Lord for revealing light to the blind and do as He reveals.
    Because mistakes are not disobedience or heresy.
    They are reminders that we have Him, the living Word, in our spirits, to teach us all things, and confirm or condemn them through His Logos.
    God works with what we have; not what we don’t have, and so should we with one another.
    blessings dear ones.
    I love your love for Him, the greatest lover.
    Greg

  15. 5-7-2012

    Greg,

    All Scripture is descriptive and written within different contexts. Determining those context is important for determining to what extent each passage is prescriptive.

    This is one of the best things that I’ve read in a long time: “But, in the course of these sometimes testy sparring matches, we have been humbled, and come to love and respect one another, listen to and trust one another’s motives and integrity, seek one another’s counsel on almost everything, and most surprisingly, our (12) children have grown up with each other and reflect a beautiful unity and holy love for one another.” Thank you!

    -Alan

  16. 5-7-2012

    your’e welcome.

Leave a Comment