Saturday, June 30, 2012


The meeting or gathering in the early church was primarily a believers meeting.  Scriptures make that plain in 1 Corinthians chapters 11-14.  Unbelievers were not the focus of these early church meetings.

I think it’s important to point out that as we look to the New Testament to grasp an understanding of how the early church believers gathered it becomes clear that there were four primary types of meetings.  Each of these meetings served a different purpose.  Lets look at these meetings briefly:

  • Apostolic Meetings - These were meetings where the apostles preached to a group of people. These meetings were often interactive allowing for discussion.  The purpose of these meetings were to either plant a new church or encourage an existing one (Acts 5:40-42; Acts 19:9-10; 20:27, 31)  In these meetings the apostle did most of the ministry initially.  This was an itinerant work so the worker would not be there permanently.
  • Evangelistic Meetings - In the early church evangelism happened primarily outside the regular meetings of the church.  The apostles preached the gospel where unbelievers were - they took the gospel to them (Acts 14:1; 17:1-33; 18:4, 19).  The fruit of these meetings was to plant a new church or to add to an existing one.  The workers were not a permanent part of these local churches.
  • Decision Making Meetings - There were times when a church would need to gather to make an important decision.  The meeting in Jerusalem described in Acts 15 was a meeting of this nature.  In these meetings everyone participated in the decision making.
  • Church Meetings - These meetings were the regular meetings or gatherings of the church.  These meetings were comprised of believers who gathered for mutual edification.
I want to look at the believers meetings.  These meetings were radically different than today's institutional church services.  In the early church gatherings there was not a pastor who preached a sermon behind a pulpit while everyone else sat passively and listened.  The thought of a sermon focused pastor to pew audience style "church
service" was foreign to the Christians of the early church. 

The church service of today's institutional church is designed for singing, hearing a sermon with perhaps a little evangelism thrown in from time to time for good measure.  In contrast, the purpose of the New Testament church gatherings was for mutual edificationThis is something Christians, today, have a difficult time digesting.  It's not about the preacher.  It's not about the building.  It's not about the singing.  It's about the centrality of Jesus Christ in our lives and gatherings!

Frank Viola in his book Reimagining Church stated, "The regular meetings of the church envisioned in Scripture allowed for every member to participate in the building up of the body of Christ (Ephesians 4:16).  There was no "up front" leadership.  No one took center stage.  Unlike today's practice, the teaching in the church meeting was not delivered by the same person week after week.  Instead, every member had the right, the privilege and the responsibility to minister in the gathering.  Mutual encouragement was the hallmark of this meeting.  'Every one of you' was its outstanding characteristic."

Singing was an important part of early church gatherings (Colossians 3:16).  Singing in the New Testament church was not led by a group of professional singers and musicians.  Rather, each person had the opportunity to lead the singing (1 Corinthians 14:26).

We see, once again, how the early church took "one anothering" seriously.  It was an open format where each person could share in word, song or any other manner they felt led to share.  The leading of the Holy Spirit was key in the sharing.  As the New Testament church gathered for their believers meetings we see a church where every
member took part.  Even today, this same freedom, openness, spontaneity and leading of the Spirit should be what our gatherings consist of.  The primary goal of our believers meetings should be the mutual edification of God's people.

I believe when the church returns to her New Testament roots, the church will once again be the church God envisioned.  When the church returns to every member functioning for mutual edification the impact of the church will be like nothing we’ve seen in our life time!  The church will once again be the church “the gates of hell shall not prevail” against.

Until next time, enjoy the journey!


It you know of someone who would be challenged and encouraged by this blog please pass on a link to them.  You can share this blog easily by clicking on the links below.  I believe the church needs to be set free from the bondage of the status quo she has been in for so long.  The blogs over the next few weeks will help us to see how this can be done.  If you are interested in reading more regarding the organic expression of church life I recommend Frank Viola's book "Reimagining Church".

No comments:

Post a Comment