Church Life: More Than a Meeting

by Josh

In the last post I talked a little about the significance of the church meeting. This time I wanna focus more on the flip side and consider the broader aspects of church life. It is truly a wonderful thing to experience life together in the Body of Christ not once, not twice, but seven days a week!

Why? Because the church is more than a once-a-week get together.

Remember the song “More Than a Feeling” by Boston? Great song, but that’s beside the point. What I’m waiting for is someone to re-write the lyrics to that song (ahem, Andy) under the title “More Than a Meeting,” talking about the wonder of daily living in the Body of the Lord.

Church life, you see, is togetherness. It is sharing life together under the headship of Jesus Christ. It is not virtual or theoretical, it is practical, in-your-face familial community.

Even the first “meetings” of the church in Jerusalem could hardly be called meetings, at least not in any formal sense. What they appear to have been more than anything else was just a bunch of wide-eyed saints spending a lot of time together in their homes eating meals, singing songs, sharing prayers, and talking joyfully about their newfound experience with the Lord Jesus Christ.

A person may go to a meeting once a week, and it might be the best meeting this world has ever seen-full of life, love, and warm-hearted fellowship. But if that meeting alone represents the full extent of their participation in the local Body of Christ than they are still missing out on the majority of real church life. I’ve experienced the difference myself, and there really is no comparison. The writer to the Hebrews didn’t instruct the believers there to exhort one another “daily” for no reason, you know. Daily fellowship is not just a privilege but a necessity if we ever hope to go on unto the fullness of Christ.

However, I realize this may present a genuine difficulty for some people. “There is nothing like that anywhere in my town, and I don’t see how there ever could be!” you might say. Also, there is often the very real experience of “crossing the wilderness” when a person comes out of institutional Christianity-a positive time of isolation when the heart of that believer is being healed, a great many things are being unlearned, and Christ is being revealed within him or her in a very personal way.

None of this changes the purpose of God, though, and none of it changes the fact of our own spiritual instincts as believers, including our spiritual hunger for the church life. So no matter what difficulty you or I may be faced with, we have to take this before the Lord, travail before Him over it, and settle for nothing less than that the Lord might raise up a true expression of the church in our locality.

But, I digress.

Seriously, though, I love the meetings where we come together with the intention of singing, sharing, and ministering to one another. I say let’s do that all the more. But sometimes what I enjoy most about the church life is simply taking a walk with a brother, having some saints over to the house for dinner, or watching the kids for my wife so the sisters can go out together for coffee. These are the simple kinds of things that make Christ all the more real to me in the otherwise mundane aspects of life.

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: Shut down the meetings for a while and see how much time the saints still spend together. This will give you a pretty good idea of how much true church life is going on. If Christ is really our life and if indeed we are being built together as His House then we won’t be able to stay away from each other. This drawing together, this instinct for fellowship, is proof to the world that we are His, and it is proof of one other thing as well: The church is more than a meeting!

The wrath of God

by John MacDuff

The wrath of God; the terrible manifestation of His displeasure at iniquity; was upon Jesus. He was the true spiritual Atlas, bearing on His shoulders the sins of a guilty world!

Jesus’ sufferings were not calamities; they were punishment judicially inflicted. There was an eternity of woe was condensed into them! Christ was the Sin Bearer, bearing not merely the punishment of sin, but sin itself.

As we see drop by drop crimsoning the sods of Gethsemane, we may well exclaim, “He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His wounds we are healed.” (Is. 53.5)

Memories of Olivet

Don’t Read the Bible

by Albert

Instead, study it and search through it in the same way you would search for lost treasure.

if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. ~ Proverbs 2:4-5

A lot of people have read the bible and it has made no difference to their view of God, themselves or the world. A lot can quote verses and portions of the bible to support their opinions and theories. But how many genuinely study the bible with the goal of being instructed?

Charles Bridges in his commentary on Proverbs, first published in 1846, says on Chapter 2:1-6 that:

Never has apostasy been connected with a prayerful and diligent study of the word of God.

What an amazing claim! I suppose there are examples and arguments that would support that as well as dispute it. The strength of his point, though, was to differentiate between superficial reading and purposeful study.

To read, instead of “searching the Scriptures” is only to skim the surface, and gather up a few superficial notions. … This enriching study gives a purer vein of sound judgment. The mere reader often scarcely knows where to begin, and he performs the routine without any definite object. His knowledge therefore must be scanty and ineffective. Nor is the neglect of this habit less hurtful to the Church. All fundamental errors and heresies in the Church may be traced to this source – “Ye do err, not knowing the Scriptures.” (Matt xxii. 29) They are mostly based on partial or disjointed statements of truth. Truth separated from truth becomes error. (Bridges, Banner of Truth Trust 1968 Edition, p. 15)

Liturgy – a way to keep in contact with the whole church

by Eugene Peterson

Liturgy is the means that the church uses to keep baptized Christians in living touch with the entire living holy community as it participates formationally in Holy Scripture. I use the word ‘liturgy’ to refer to this intent and practice of the church insofar as it pulls everything past and present coherently as participation in the revelation written for us in Scripture. Instead of limiting liturgy to the ordering of the community, spread out in space and time, as Christians participate in actions initiated and formed by the words in this book — our entire existence understood liturgically, that is, connectedly, in the context of the three-personal Father, son, and Holy Spirit and furnished with the text of Scripture.

~ , Eat This Book, p.73

Spectatorism is not worship

by Jack Hayford

Sometimes people come to church and feel like they’re watching worship instead of actually worshipping. We counter ‘spectatorism’ by giving people plenty of opportunities to participate — songs, readings, and prayers — and by using nonprofessionals for different parts of the service.

~  Mastering Worship, p. 33

Worship is a relational response. In many ways it’s like marriage…The routine and predictable we allow our marriage to become, the more we take our marriage for granted …When (worship) becomes predictable, it becomes ordinary and loses its impact. By using creativity in challenging yet non-threatening ways, worship can enliven people’s relationship with God.”

~ Jack Hayford, Mastering Worship, p. 105

There are simply too few we songs

by Gary Parrett

Almost every time I hear the word worship used by believers today, it is clear that they are referring to singing praises. Many, of course, if pushed on this matter, would confess that worship involves far more. But words matter, and our language betrays our misperceptions. When we call those who lead us in song our “worship leaders,” our true convictions are revealed. It is imperative, then, that we work diligently to reform the vocabulary of worship.

… Like other elements in our worship gatherings—preaching, sacrament, offerings, Scripture readings, prayers, and more — our songs should aid us either in clarifying what God has revealed to us or in guiding us toward faithful response, or both. Sadly, many of our songs are deficient on both counts. They do not speak clearly of God’s character, deeds, or will. Nor do they speak substantively of the response God requires of us.… When I attend services that feature “contemporary” worship today, it seems that 80 percent to 90 percent of all the songs sung by the congregation prominently feature that familiar trinity of I, Me, My. Rarely do we sing songs that remind us of our identity as the body of Christ, the people of God. There are simply too few we songs in our congregational gatherings.”

~  9.5 Thesis on Worship web article

All of life is to be worship

by John Frame

“It is true in one sense to say that all of life is worship. This is not to deny the importance, indeed the necessity, of attending church meetings (Heb 10.25). …Redemption is the means; worship is the goal. In one sense, worship is the whole point of everything. It is the purpose of history, the goal of the whole Christian story. Worship is not one segment of the Christian life among others. Worship is the entire Christian life, seen as a priestly offering to God. And when we meet together as a church, our time of worship is not merely a preliminary to something else; rather, it is the whole point of our existence as the body of Christ. …All of life is our priestly service, our homage to the greatness of our covenant Lord”

“…these verses (Hebrews 10.24-5) involve much more than just sitting thirty to sixty minutes before the preached Word…. Something more is to happen when we assemble with the brethren…. preaching only is not enough.”

~  Worship in Spirit and Truth, p.10-11, 30

The Church No One Wanted to Join

by David Black, (Whoa, read his teaching vita): Professor of New Testament and Greek at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina. He has also taught courses at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, Lancaster Bible College, Fuller Theological Seminary, Talbot School of Theology, Simon Greenleaf University, Criswell College, Freie Hochschule für Mission (Germany), Tyndale Theological Seminary (Holland), Bibelschule Walzenhausen (Switzerland), IEM Bible College (India), Chong Shin Theological Seminary (Korea), Faith Theological Seminary (Korea), Cosin Theological Seminary (Korea), Evangelical Theological College (Ethiopia), Meserete Kristos College (Ethiopia), and at other institutions. In addition, he has lectured at the Complutensian University in Spain, the Areopagus in Timisoara, Romania, and the Universities of Oxford and Leeds in England. [He has been around and has several Greek texts out, so although I have a hard time figuring out how it will all work, unless one belongs to a house-type church, I have to take his words and ponder them.]

Whereas many of our churches will do practically anything to draw unbelievers to their services, the earliest Christians were so committed and so radical that few if any unbelievers dared join them. In New Testament times the early disciples came together not for evangelism or even for worship but for teaching, for fellowship, for the Breaking of Bread, and for times of prayer (Acts 2:42). The Lord’s Supper was not an addendum celebrated quarterly or monthly but the main reason the church assembled on the Lord’s Day (Acts 20:7). Jesus was front-and-center, not a pulpit.

~  The Church No One Wanted to Join

Then this other challenging article (excerpted): What I learned from the Anabaptists:

It seems from history that the Anabaptists tried to restore biblical Christianity. The reformers and traditionalists persecuted them for that.

Although they shared many theological concepts with the Protestant Reformers, the Dissenters parted company on several crucial points including the separation of church and state (the church must reject all ties with princes and magistrate), believers’ baptism (the church consists solely of voluntary members), and restoration rather than reformation (the only valid model of church life is the early church as revealed in the New Testament).”…

At their gatherings great care was taken that all things were done decently and in order and that all the members had an opportunity to exercise their gifts for the edification of all. Congregations were small enough so that all the members knew each other and could offer any assistance that was necessary.” A classic case in point: today we find congregational participation in our gatherings squelched by an unbiblical emphasis on the “clergy” and a corresponding passivity among the “laypeople.” The motivation behind limiting congregational participation is undoubtedly noble (to ensure “quality,” to protect against heresies, to maintain order, etc.). Still, such motivations seem biblically unsustainable. For example, quality can be just as low in a church that practices monological preaching as in one that encourages mutual participation. Besides, the worst heresies in the Christian church have not been promulgated by laypeople but rather by professionally trained theologians.

Finally, only a form of corporate ministry in which all believers are free to exercise their gifts and share their insights would seem to comport with the New Testament. Along with Romans 12, Ephesians 4, and 1 Peter 4, 1 Corinthians 14 teaches that the church is a Body comprised of many members, each of which has something important to contribute to the whole. Apparently Paul believed that God may speak or act through any member of the church for the benefit of the entire community. The result must have been a richness and diversity scarcely known today in many of our churches that every member ministry entails either the participation of all believers in every gathering or the abolishing of leadership. Rather, it involves a wide participation by those who are Spirit-led.

A communal approach to ministry would seem, then, to be a core value of the church and should be encouraged by the leadership, whose role is more facilitative than dominant. Common dangers must be recognized and avoided (e.g., over-participation by some, fear of being criticized by the group, passivity). When it is felt that the conventional monologue is appropriate, it will be helpful to stop for questions and interaction with one’s hearers, if not in the middle then at least at the end. Jesus’ own teaching was frequently characterized by verbal interaction, while the apostle Paul clearly engaged in dialogue with his Christian audiences (dialegomai). Even the famous Christian orator Chysostrom interrupted his discourses frequently to ask questions in order to make sure he was understood. Every believer is a priest, and although congregations certainly benefit from the theological expertise of some, the New Testament knows no cult of the expert who ignores the gifts of the people.

~  What I learned from the Anabaptists

This should go without saying

by Arthur

but it needs to be said.

  • A starving child doesn’t care if you are pre-, post- or amillenial.
  • The widow isn’t really all that interested in congregational or Presbyterian forms of church government.
  • The fatherless child isn’t going to reject food because the one offering it is an Arminian.
  • The Christian in a third world country without a Bible is not going to refuse one because it isn’t the right version.
  • The lost person down the street doesn’t need to hear about your denomination or how great your church is or what a wonderful preacher your pastor is, they need to hear about Jesus.

We spend so much time and money fussing and feuding about issues that are important but pale in comparison to what we have been called to do, proclaiming the Gospel and showing mercy as we have been shown mercy. Eternity will be spent with all sorts of believers. It will have arminians and Calvinists, people baptized as infants and adults, people of all denominations or none at all, people who read the King James Bible only and people who only knew the NIV. The one kind of person you won’t find there is the one who never heard of Jesus because they starved to death as a child or never had a Christian come to their tribe or worse yet never heard about Him from the person living next door in their suburb. With thousands of people entering eternity without Christ today, where should we focus our time and money? On buildings, on programs, on arguments about theology? Or should we focus every penny on seeing that people who don’t know Christ hear His name and His Gospel?

We are not called to be in the business of making Christians into better informed Christians, we are called to the business of taking the Gospel that saved us to those who need it.

A strategy for weakening pride and cultivating humility

by C.J. Mahaney.

His strategy is practical and deceptively simple.

1. Reflect on the wonder of the cross
Preach the truth of the gospel to yourself – EVERY Day! Quoting Carl Henry: “How can anyone be arrogant when he stands beside the cross?“

2. Acknowledge your need for God
Humility is an expression of your need and dependence upon God.

3. Express Gratitude to God
God is opposed to the proud/arrogant. With a Yoda-like quip, Mahaney notes, “If I’m ungrateful, I’m arrogant. And if I’m arrogant, I need to remember God doesn’t sympathize with me in that arrogance“.

4. Practice Spiritual Disciplines
Prayer, study of scripture and worship are daily demonstrations of our dependence upon God. Regardless of my sense of God’s presence.

5. Seize your commute to work or other blank time
Use your down time and “mundane moments” to meditate and memorize scripture.

6. Cast your cares upon him
God’s offer of grace to the humble is to those who cast their cares upon him and not try to arrogantly control everything themselves. Pride is the root of worry. Depending upon God brings grace, joy and peace.

~ Humility, True Greatness,. chapter 5