From Decline to Growth – 3

Just A Little More on Assembly

evnglsm.gif   Much thanks to my brother in Christ Duane Morgan for his response to my article. (See his comment on “The Worship Myth.”) There is no one I respect and admire more than this brother whose whole heart is given to God and whose only desire is to serve Him. He has endured much hardship to follow in the steps of Jesus. It makes no difference where he goes: Indonesia, Europe, Africa…seeking and saving the lost is his mission. His first priority is to learn the language of those he seeks. He is in the process of becoming fluent in Arabic and conversant in French. He knows that only by speaking the language of a culture can one effectively enter that culture. He is a great writer and a careful student of the Word. Therefore, when he speaks (or writes), I listen carefully.[i]


It is obvious the two terms I used in the previous article are more general than the way I used them. “Evangelism” is the proclamation of the message whether to the lost or to the saved. The same is true of “edification.” The word means “to instruct or improve morally or spiritually…”the promotion of spiritual growth by teaching or example.”

Clearly then, as Duane has pointed out; unbelievers can be edified and believers can be evangelized. I stand corrected. I will have to come up with a more accurate way of getting my points across. I apologize for any misunderstanding, but until I find (or someone suggests) a better way, I will use this definition of evangelism: the teaching, preaching or proclamation of the gospel, validated by good works, to those outside of Christ with their conversion as the objective.

Evangelism happens…even (occasionally) in assemblies. But again, evangelism is not the purpose of assembly. We need to be more concerned that assemblies fulfill their primary purpose: edification, encouragement, instruction, and stimulation to love and good deeds.

Are assemblies effective in reaching the lost? Well, use your own judgment. Mere observation should answer that question. If, however, we diligently seek to fulfill the primary purpose of assemblies, it is possible outsiders will be drawn to them and even more evangelism will happen within them. But, even better and much more effectively, fired-up disciples will leave the assembly to seek and save the lost and numbers will grow. Only then will we move from decline to growth.

The crux of the matter is the intention of the assembly (when the church comes together). In 1 Corinthians 14, an unbeliever’s entrance into the assembly was incidental, not intentional. If an unbeliever comes in, we should conduct ourselves in such a way that he (or she) is “…convicted by all, he is called to account by all; the secrets of his heart are disclosed; and so he will fall on his face and worship God, declaring that God is certainly among you” (1 Corinthians 14:24,25). Personally, I have not seen this happen as it seems to be the result of someone exercising the gift of prophecy. I believe, however, the principle remains the same…be ready to receive an unbeliever in the assembly and make the most of the opportunity (Colossians 4:5,6).

The primary purpose of assembly is not to reach the lost but to edify the saved. At the moment, I will stand by that position. If we don’t move beyond an assembly-oriented evangelism model, our continued decline is assured. The message of Jesus must be proclaimed as He proclaimed it…everywhere!

When Paul states in Romans 1:15,16 that he desired to preach the gospel (evangelize) to “…you also who are in Rome.” It is obvious that his priority was to obtain fruit among unsaved Gentiles (verses 13,14). He makes that even clearer by speaking of the power of the gospel to save everyone who believes whether Jew or Greek (verse 16). That would have to be done primarily (not exclusively) outside of the assembly in the streets and marketplaces as was his custom. We will have to translate that principle to our respective cultures and become visible and audible outside of our assemblies.

Decline is the result of not following the example of Jesus, Paul and others who went to the lost instead of expecting the lost to come to them.

There is only one cure for decline and it is a simple one: “Go…and make disciples” (Matthew 28:19)


[i] You may contact Duane at If you wish to contribute to his support, send your checks to the Winnie-Stowell Church of Christ, P.O. Box 37, Winnie, Texas 77665


Filed under Change Agent, Missions/Evangelism, Preaching/Teaching, Religion, Uncategorized

3 responses to “From Decline to Growth – 3

  1. Duane Morgan

    Thank you for the kind words, brother. I hold you in the same high regard and spread the news far and wide about your website. You have responded clearly, logically, and lovingly to my observations, and I have learned in the exchange. I agree with you 100% about the evangelistic imperative, “Go…” That means geting outside the confines of our four walls. Amen, Dwight. I love you sincerely in the Lord.

  2. Bob Chapman


    Your reference to the active participation of the Holy Spirit in the assembly at Corinth got me thinking and examining.

    So long as believers continue to relegate the Holy Spirit to the status of “retired author” and continue to embrace the erroneous teaching that “the perfect” of 1 Cor 13 is the Bible, one can be sure that the 22 charismata of the Holy Spirit will never be witnessed outside or inside any of our assemblies.

    The spontaneous worship we read of in the early church (Acts 4) will never be seen or experienced in church assemblies today so long as believers in those assemblies continually resist their ministry mandate to reconcile the world to God in co-operation with the Godhead, 2 Cor. 5:15-6:2; I Cor. 12:4-6.

    Disciples of all ages are mandated to be ambassadors of Christ, working in partnership with the Holy Spirit in all His fullness as He and they engage in this ministry of reconciliation, Hebrews 6:3-5.

    Sadly, rather than concentrate on the mandate, which creates spontaneous worship because of its God empowered results, we have created religious, man-empowered productions which we performed once or twice a week. Productions which are religious, repetitious in nature and so familiar to all participants that such productions could be likened to the life-style portrayed in the movie “Ground Hog Day”.

    Our claim to be reproducers or restorers of “the pattern” of true worship is impossible, because there never was “a pattern” in the first place! Even if we point to I Corinthians 14 and declare this is “the pattern”; such a pattern can’t be endorsed in our services because we don’t let the Holy Spirit participate as He did in Corinth! Therefore that can’t be the pattern either. And if we believe that three songs, a reading, a prayer, the Lord’s supper, a lesson and a closing song is “the pattern”, where did we get that from? Such a pattern is religiously maintained because fear dictates that anything less or more than that man-ordained pattern is not of God and endangers the salvation of those who engage therein.

    Do we really believe that the Holy Spirit “retired” at the end of the first century and left behind an infallible pattern of worship from which He excused Himself and went back to heaven! Of course He didn’t. 1Corinthains12 reveals He will remain in the earth ministering to the Bride until she is married to the Lamb, Rev. 19.

    Then what happened? The reality is – we resist His involvement in our religious productions! But, despite this, it is so good to know He is still waiting in the wings to fulfil heaven’s mandate of reconciliation and fill, lead, empower and anoint believers to accomplish it according to the promise of Joel 2 as preached by Peter in Acts 3:33, 39.

    Bob Chapman

  3. Well said dear brother Dwight! I am reminded of Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven Church, where he talks about fishing. He said he liked to get into the water himself instead of just fishing from the shore. What a great concept and a great way to look at evangelism! Let’s stop trying to fish from the shore (ie. the assembly at church) and let’s get into the water (ie. the world) and let’s fish!
    Thank you for this great post here dear brother! Blessings!

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