To most people church is a weekly gathering of people who meet in a building and worship God. They gather with families and loved ones, and as they do, they experience more as spectators a form of the following.

Someone up front will open in prayer. Someone up front will lead in congregational worship for about fifteen to twenty minutes. You may hear a solo, again up front, or you might hear the choir, from the front or rear sing one of their songs. You will then have announcements, an offering, carried out by selected people. If you are in a congregation that is family oriented there will be a nursery for your children and children's church for your older children. This prepares you for the pastor. You will get a sermon, usually about thirty minutes in length. There will usually be three points and a carefully planned opportunity for you to respond to what was shared in the message. Then there will be a time of prayer and another song as the service concludes.

During this whole time, if you were not directly involved in any of the above activities, you were merely a spectator who mentally affirmed through body posture and speech what you were directed to do by the few. You followed an order of service, and you sang were you were supposed to, said "amen" in all the right places, took your kids where they were supposed to take them, you gave an offering, you consented to the sermon, and went home.


Only two questions here:

1. Did any of this have anything remotely resembling the body life of primitive Christianity that is recorded for us in the Book of Acts?

The answer is no. Read it for yourself. Read the Book of Acts in one sitting and you will see that these believers met in homes and met from house to house. They were an Apostolic people devoted to the apostles' teaching, experienced signs and wonders, fellowship and the breaking of bread, from house to house (Acts 2:42-47; 20:20; I Cor 12:4-7, I Cor 12:27-30, I Cor 14:26-33, and Eph 4:3-16).


2. Is this the "kind" of church that Jesus died for and created on the Day of Pentecost?

Again the answer is no. His whole ministry was two fold. He reached out to the established religious order of the day and revealed that what they followed was a religion that was far from what God had intended. He confronted the religious order because they had perverted the people with their form of religion. His powerful ministry was out amongst the people, and he met them on the shores of rivers, lakes, on mountain sides, in fields, on estates, in the marketplace and in synagogues and the Temple. He even prepared the people for the day that the Temple would be removed and prophesied people would worship the Father in Spirit and truth (John 4; cf. Mount Olivet discourses in Matthew and Luke). Jesus Christ ministered to people while being amongst people, in homes and from house to house. Do we need another model?


F A Q s

Here are some Frequently Asked Questions about gathering as the Body of Christ.


Why does the church meet? How is the NT church instructed by Scripture to meet? What is done in these meetings?

Answer: The basic answers can be found in 1 Corinthians 14:26:

"How is it then brethren? Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification."

If we were to ellipse the components of the meetings, singing, teaching, etc., the passage would read like this: "Whenever you come together...let all things be done for edification." The purpose of the NT meeting is for edification. This is why we (should) come together as a church.



Does a believer have to meet with people on a regular basis and be church?

Answer: Believers do not have the option of remain apart from other believers. Believers are to gather together ("Whenever you come together...").

Gathering together is not an option. The writer of Hebrews exhorted the church to not forsake the assembling of themselves (Heb. 10:25). The Greek word "ekklesia", which we translate "church", literally means "an assembly" or "the called out ones." The idea is of one calling together a group of people for a specific purpose. When and where the church gathers together is never commanded in Scripture. But we are definitely commanded to gather together. However, we do have apostolic precedents that we should consider (1 Cor. 11:2; 2 Thess. 3:6,7).



How often did the early church gather together?

Answer: At first, the early church gathered together every day (Acts 2:46). Later, we are told that the church came together on the first day of the week (Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 16:1-2). This was referred to as "the Lord's Day" (Rev. 1:10). As New Covenant believers we recognize that we are not bound by any day of the week (Rom. 14:5, cf. Col. 2:16-20). However, it seems from the Scriptures that the apostles established the precedent of the church gathering together on the first day of the week. The issue is not what day you decide to gather together, but coming together and meeting together for the purpose of being edified and strengthened in the faith.

There is an Irish saying in regards to elections, "Vote early and vote often!" I believe that we ought to be as spontaneous as the Early Church and gather as frequently and as many kinds of diverse gatherings as the Lord guides by His Spirit. The Lord is creative and spontaneous, and whether you meet and gather weekly and in the same place is not the issue. The issue is to gather and express our lives lives together in intimate life and community, no matter the day, the hour, or the frequency.



Where did the early church gather?

Answer: The early church gathered in the homes of believers (Acts 2:46b, 8:3, 20:20; Rom. 16:5; 1 Cor. 16:19; Col. 4:15; Philm. 2). While it is true that in its earliest stages the church at Jerusalem gathered alternately between the Temple and homes (Acts 2:46), remember that this was a time of transition between the passing of the Old Covenantal system and the establishment of the New Covenant of grace.

It appears that within a short time they gathered exclusively in private homes. If you examine the establishment of churches by the apostles in the the Book of Acts, in every instance that a certain local church is mentioned the people gathered in what is described as being in someone's home. The early Christians did not erect costly temples or religious shrines because they understood that the church was not a building made of wood and stone, but a spiritual building built by God (1 Pet. 2:5).



How did the early church encourage participation of the "Priesthood of Believers"?

Answer: The scripture (1 Cor 14:26) says, that believer should participate in the meetings ("... each of you ...").

In today's church there is little or no mutual participation in the church gathering. The designated choir sings the songs led by their designated leader. The designated preacher gives a monologue sermon. Prayers are spoken by the designated "deacon" or "elder". Perhaps there is allowed drama or "special music" by designated performers. The rest of the congregation might be able to sing a couple of hymns or choruses and maybe give an offering (but even its taken up by designated ushers!). In reality, many sit there in the pews and watch the "professionals" do all the ministry.

This type of uninvolved spectator meeting is foreign to the church of the New Testament. Paul specifically said that when the church comes together everyone has something to share. From the least to the greatest, the church meeting was open to all who were led to participate. Each could pray, prophesy, teach, or sing as God had gifted them. This is called the "Priesthood of Believers". Each believer is a priest unto God (1 Pet. 2:5,9; Rev. 5:10). Unfortunately in our day the priesthood of the believer, though verbally affirmed by most churches, is never really practiced. Countless believers grow cold and apathetic because they are not allowed, or are too fearful, to participate in the gatherings. They are supressed by the idea that unless they have a "calling," a degree, or ordination papers, then they are unworthy to contribute meaningfully in the corporate assembly.



What does participation in body life "look" like?

Answer: New Testament gatherings encourage each believer is to be involved in body life ministry through their use their gifts for the edification of one another. Here each believer is important and needful for the Body to be a healthy organism (1 Cor. 12:20-27). Each believer is gifted and should use his/her gifts ("... a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation...").

Everyone who believes on the Lord Jesus Christ has the Holy Spirit living in them (Rom. 8:11). The Spirit gifts (lit. graces) each and every believer for service (Rom. 12:4-6a; 1 Cor. 12:4-11). The Scriptures mention several different gifts of the Holy Spirit. Some examples are:

Prophecy, ministry, teaching, exhortation, leading, mercy (Rom. 12:6-8).

Preaching the gospel (apostles/missionaries/church-planters), prophecy, teaching, miracles, healing, helps, service, tongues (1 Cor. 12:28).

Apostleship, prophecy, evangelism, overseeing/teaching (Eph. 4:12)

Speaking (prophecy and preaching), ministry (1 Pet. 4:11).

And there are undoubtedly many other gifts that the Spirit graces believers with (1 Cor. 12:4). The above citations should not be viewed as exhaustive. The thing to remember is that all believers have either a gift or several gifts ("each of you," v. 26).



What is the purpose of the gathering of the body of Christ?

Answer: The purpose of the gathering of the believers together in the New Testament is edification ("Let all things be done for edification").

The reason that the gathering comes together is for the edification of each believer. I know this statement flies in the face of almost all we have been taught. We are told that the church comes together to worship God. While the idea of meeting primarily to worship sounds scriptural, the essence of gathering is not primarily to worship. This is not to say that worship doesn't happen when Christians gather together. It does and it should happen because worship is a lifestyle rather than simply an activity. Worship should occur at all times, in all places, and in all things. So, yes, when Christians gather on Sunday mornings or at any other time/place, they are in a sense worshiping God. But it is in no way different from the worship we should be living and giving the rest of the week. We must conclude that the primary reason in coming together as believers is not to have a "worship service" since worship is in its truest sense a way of life.

The primary reason believers gather is to edify one another. The reason that God gave us the gifts of the Spirit is so we might edify one another (Eph. 4:12; 1 Pet. 4:10-11). The term edify is from the Greek "oikodome". This word is an architectural term. It means "to build, confirm, or strengthen." It is used in reference to the church's position as God's building (1 Cor. 3:9; Eph. 2:21). Elsewhere it is used to describe the ministry of believers to one another (Rom. 14:9,15:2; 1 Thess. 5:11). The purpose of this edification, this building up and strengthening, is to spur each other onto maturity in Christ (Heb. 24-25) that we might worship Him in every area of our lives.

As believers we stand in the need of constant and regular strengthening. Living a life of worship among those who revile and reject us will take its toll and begin to "crack the foundation" of the strongest building. Therefore we need to come together and repair the breaches that we might stand firm. This is done by the mutual ministry of the Body of Christ to one another.



Was anything included in the gathering of the body of believers when they met together?

Answer: We observe that the early church gathered in homes, apparently on the first day of the week, and for the purpose of mutual edification, and that each believer contributed as each had been gifted and each believer understood his/her position as a priest unto God. Included in the meetings was the exercise of spiritual gifts , such as teaching, singing, prophecy, and encouragement and the celebration of the Lord's Supper (1 Cor. 11:17)

Beyond these facts we must allow the Spirit to guide us and convince us of the approved, scriptural way we should gather together as the New Testament church.