With the move to in-person gatherings taking place in a couple of weeks time I thought it would be good to remind us of what the New Testament teaches us about the local church assembly.
- We see that the church regularly gathers. We read throughout Acts that they came together and, if you pay attention, there seems to be a weekly reoccurrence. Paul uses phrases like “when you come together as a church” and “the whole church comes together” (1 Cor. 11:18; 14:23).
- We see that the church distinctly gathers. What I mean by that is that church was an event unlike other events. It was special. We know this because Paul provides specific instructions on what believers should do “in church”—that is, in the church meeting. (see 1 Cor. 14:19 & 28)
- We see that the church as one gathers. Some NT churches were huge! Thousands of believers belonged to one church in Jerusalem, yet they met “all together in Solomon’s Portico” (Acts 5:12). There was an emphasis on all gathering together in one place.
- We see that the church particularly gathers. That just means that when they met, there were things that they did that could only be done by meeting together. For example, the combination of admonishing one another and singing and reading the Bible (1 Tim. 4:13), encouraging one another (Heb. 10:24–25), and taking communion (1 Cor. 10:17, 11:18, 33) and only really be done in-person, as the church meets together. Of course, many churches, as has ours) gone to great lengths to try and replicate this online but it’s no substitute. The last 6 months have been a strange season and we should assume from the NT that believers belong first and foremost to the main congregational gathering given the biblical emphasis on the whole church meeting together.
- We see that the church was called out to gather. The Greek word most commonly translated church is ekklesia. in non-biblical writing this referred to a group of people, sent to a city to form a example of how Romans live. This group for people gathered in the name of Rome, called out of Rome and set apart from the city to which they were sent. The Biblical idea of ekklesia follows the same idea. We are called to gather in His name (Matt. 18:17, 20), to reflect the values of Heaven, whilst bring the good news message of the God to the city.
- We see that the church gathered and scattered. A church is more than a gathering, of course. It gathers, then scatters, then gathers again. Its members continue to be part of the church throughout the week, as they serve and represent Christ in their homes, their workplaces, their neighbourhoods. But a church is never less than a gathering.