Continuing the train of thought I began with "What Does GOD Want from Me?" today I attempt to answer the question, "What does the Bible say about church meetings?"
First, two things:
- This post isn't about when the church met. I addressed that question here. Instead, this post focuses on what the early Christians did when the church met.
- Read to the end of the post. I've included a free bonus download of a case-by-case look at all church assemblies mentioned in the New Testament. Be sure and grab that!
Alright, let's dive in...
Observation 1: The New Testament provides no "prescription" or list of activities that must be done at church meetings.
Today, many (if not most) churches have a routine set of activities they engage in for certain assembly dates and times.
For example, many churches celebrate the Lord's Supper and take up a collection each Sunday morning and engage in Bible study and a short devotional or invitation (or altar call) at a midweek assembly, typically on Wednesday.
As I noted in "How Often Should the Church Meet?" many of the church meetings recorded in the New Testament were for specific purposes, and there is also significant evidence that the early Christians regularly met on Sundays.
While there is certainly nothing wrong with following a traditional routine for church meetings, it is vital that we recognize that it is, in fact, tradition (and thus is not sinful—and often beneficial—to mix things up occasionally).
Observation 2: A number of New Testament instructions logically require the presence of others.
Thus, it makes sense that instructed actions be done (on a regular basis) when the church meets.
Examples include communion (1 Cor. 10:14-22, 11:17-34); singing (Col. 3:16); teaching (Eph. 4:11-13; 2 Tim. 4:1-5); and confessing sins (Jam. 5:17).
Observation 3: In the early church, Christians brought something to contribute to the assembly.
Much of what we know regarding the details of church meetings comes from 1 Cor. 14.
In 1 Cor. 14:26, we learn that the Christians at Corinth were each bringing a song, a message, a revelation, a tongue or interpretation to their meetings.
Paul rebuked the Corinthians for their poor execution of their assemblies, with things not being done for edification and being disorderly and chaotic, but he didn't dissuade them from coming prepared to add something to the meeting. (I have written more about this here.)
Observation 4: No where in the New Testament are church activities such as singing, praying, observing the Lord's Supper, or preaching explicitly described as "worship."
The concept of worship is something I discussed in detail here, but for now let me simply say that under the new covenant, the entirety of our life—every choice, thought, action and decision—when made in accordance with GOD's will, can be a form of worship.
Thus, the activities of a church meeting would be included, but would certainly not be a comprehensive list of Christian worship.
The significance of this truth is difficult to overstate. If more believers properly understood this, it would transform both their lives and how church assemblies are conducted.
Observation 5: All church meeting actions and activities should be done for the purpose of edification.
The entire discussion of spiritual gifts that Paul has from 1 Cor. 12-14 is centered around the edification of the church.
In fact, Paul stresses the importance of building up the body throughout chapter 14 (14:4-5, 12, 16-17, 19, 26).
This goes back to the fundamental point I made in "What is the Purpose of the Church?," which is that the church exists for the purpose of helping to change people's lives.
As we build each other up, it helps us become more like Jesus, which is what GOD wants from each of us.
The problem with the theater-style audience-listener church meeting arrangement is that it focuses more on activities than outcomes. A specific set of activities are completed, but little progress is made with GOD's intended outcome: lives that look more like Jesus.
The problem with theater-style audience-listener church meetings is that they focus more on activities than outcomes. A set of activities are completed, but little progress is made with GOD's intended outcome: lives that look more like Jesus. Click to Tweet
Download a List of All Church Meetings in the Bible
Free Bonus: I've compiled all of the New Testament references to church assembling into a spreadsheet. Get your copy below.