The Gathering Is Central to the Life of a Church

The gathering of Christians is central to the life of a church. That should be a given. But in our culture of individualism, we begin to individualize church so much that we sometimes think we don't have to be part of a local body of believers and yet are part of the Church.

The church needs to be a community that disciples are bringing new believers into. Conversion isn't just bringing a person into proper behavior and thought processes but showing them God's community and teaching them how to join. The community must be healthy in order for God's light to shine.

In the OT, God designed his will to spread through the world through the kingdom of Israel. When Israel failed, he then moved to using an altered kingdom, which is primarily manifested in the Church but can be seen anywhere God's will is being brought about. His kingdom come, His will be done. His will seems to have always been the same, a community of followers who bless the world as a result of God blessing them. He just wants a faithful people that will exhibit the characteristics He desires in his kingdom.

The gathering is the center of the church's life. It is during this time that we act in such a way together that we remind one another what is important. Through doing what is important, we either show the world the glory of God or a god that is long dead.

The Lord's Supper should be the center of the service since it seems to have played a primary role in the early church gatherings and has throughout church history until recent times.

I also think there should be room for fellowship (not just incidental fellowship that happens before and after the gathering), prayer, and teaching from Scripture. I do not know how we can have prayer needs shared and genuine fellowship in a larger setting. But I'm not in a position currently where I have to struggle with that, but I do think that is important for a healthy body and greater people than me will have to struggle through that.

I also believe that the gathering should be all-encompassing (or at least as close as it can be). It shouldn't be something that we think is just one part of all of the parts that are necessary to be included in the local body. "We do this Sunday morning worship service but you should also be plugged into a small group and a ministry team at other times during the week." Ministries should flow out of the gathering and fellowship should happen there like it does in small groups.

The gathering should be interactive. Not just between the people in the pews and God, but with the people in the pews with one another and the people leading.

If we do not have fellowship, prayer, the Lord's Supper, and the Scriptural teaching, then what we are doing is not church.

A bookI read said:

If you've ever felt lonely and unimportant in church, there's a good reason: You are alone and unimportant.

From 11 to 12 Sunday, you're just another pretty face in the crowd.

Though surrounded by others, you're cut off. Custom walls you off in your own space and silences your voice--except for song or responsive reading.

Surrounded by an audience of trainee mutes, you can find it lonely as a solo trek across Antarctica. After you've eaten all the sled dogs.

The service would be exactly the same without you. You know that. Your impact on it is like an extra gallon of water going over Niagara Falls.

You can feel free to skip (like you need my permission for that), but I thought I would include another lengthier section.

The heart of your church is the Sunday service, where the typical communication pattern is about as useful as a jello telephone.

No matter what you have on your heart--the greatest joy or deepest sorrow--you are not allowed to share it during the service. Ever.

Fellowship is confined to the foyer afterward, please. (Unless you've figured a way to fellowship with the back of someone else's head.) Try to talk, and the ushers will ush you out. Post hastily.

This, my friend, is not Biblical. Saint Peter would have wept.

In fact, many of the early churches almost demanded you share something every week. They even expected you to sing for them (aaugh!) Even solos!

But now you can't say anything longer than, "Hallelujah!"--if that. As a result, you're often more of a spectator than a participant.

How did we ever get into such a fix? Well, around A.D. 300, the church made the worst blunder in her history. We voluntarily decided to give up the three key freedoms that powered the early church to success: Open worship (praising God), open sharing (building up each other), and open ministry (serving others in the church and in the world.

Throughout Christendom in the Fourth Century, we professionalized the local church and turned over our Sunday service to the pros, leaving them to do almost everything while we sat and watched..

Lay men found themselves stripped of initiative and power, like newly-captured slaves. Lay women were quietly relieved of what little responsibility and leadership they had. (By about 450, even the congregational singing faded to zip, as we turned over the music to professional choirs of men and boys.)

All the laity suddenly found Sunday worship to be more distant from their personal lives and daily concerns. They fell into Spectator Christianity, where loneliness doesn't end at church--it starts there.

Through all of this, I am amazed at how God uses all of our convictions to further his kingdom. People who do church in ways that I think are inappropriate are still being used by God to bring about His will and bring more people into His fold. However, I do wonder if we did things more deliberately the way that God seemed to have intended them if God might be even more glorified.

Watch out for the potholes.