Recapturing the purpose for coming together

In assemblies today a group (the congregation) gathers to observe and lightly participate in a set of rituals (Lord’s Supper, singing, preaching, collection, etc.) and, upon completion, leave for lunch.  This is often referred to as “going to church,” as in, “Sorry, I can’t play golf with you today, I have to go to church.”  This (often legalistic) routine has become the major weekly exercise of the Christian religion.  Great effort and expense is applied to making this production attractive and satisfying to members and visitors.  We want the best preacher and musicians money can buy.  We work hard to script and stage the presentation to please the audience.  We hope that what we do on Sunday will be so well done that the members will keep coming back and visitors will be positively impressed enough to become part of the church. 

Interestingly and unfortunately it is also the major evangelistic effort (usually the only one) for most churches.  In this regard it has a terrible track record.  Almost no one is converted as a result of the most splendid “worship services.”

But what would happen if we decided to fulfill the original purpose of assembly?  In The Urgent Revolution I wrote:

…assembling provides time for encouragement to faithfulness and provocation to love and good deeds.  When our time together is over, I should be filled with a burning desire to bring the love of Jesus into my family and world.  Our sharing together supplies a means (encouraging, edifying, stimulating) to an end (love and good deeds)…In our concern to be scriptural in the form of corporate worship [I have since worked to drop that terminology], we have lost our concern to be scriptural in purpose.  Designed for a time of rallying, assembly equips us and fills us with motivation to become good soldiers in God’s army.  Here we inflame each other with zeal!  We mutually stoke fires of commitment.  We kindle each other’s love and spotlight opportunities for good deeds.  Never designed as a place where people passively observe worship rituals and listen to sermons, scriptural assembly renews our sense of mission and our passion to fulfill it. (pp. 35-37)

I have a suggestion (I obviously lack the apostolic authority to make it a command!): let’s restore the original, God-given purpose of assembly (Hebrews 10:23-25; I Corinthians 14:26).  Let’s make it a priority that no one comes into our assembly discouraged and leaves the same way.  Let’s make it our goal that when someone attends our assembly with a flat faith battery, they leave with their battery recharged.  Let’s provoke the passive, stimulate the sluggish and build-up the beaten-down.

Then the people of God, renewed and invigorated, will march out of our assemblies under the banner of the Lamb to confront the world forces of this darkness assured of ultimate victory.

Then, when Christians say, “I have to go to church,” it will mean, “I can’t wait to assemble with my brothers and sisters!”


Filed under Change Agent, conversion, Jesus Christ, Kingdom Growth, Missions/Evangelism, Preaching/Teaching, Religion

5 responses to “ASSEMBLY

  1. Dwight,
    Well said! I completely agree with you here. When Christians assemble on Sundays and Wednesdays it should be to encourage each other to persevere and “keep on keeping on”. You are right in saying that it is not for the purpose of evangelism. It is to be like a good speach by a coach before a big game and/or half time talk. It’s to rally the everyone together and say say, “alright! now go get em!”.
    I’m about to read a book called A Gathered People. It sounds like it will talk about this very thing. Have you read it? Also there is a trilogy of books by Mike Root about the worship of the church (in no certain order: Spilt Grape Juice, Broken Bread, and another one I can’t recall).
    Thank you for this thought provoking and well written article! Be blessed!

  2. Tucker

    You hit on a point that is very dear to my heart. Too many times I walk away from the assembly feeling like I fulfilled my ritualistic duties to God. I don’t feel encouraged or loved. Mike Root is his book Spilt Grape Juice expounded upon your points. I am starting to see that the church is beginning to grasp these concepts and yet not finding a way to do them. I predict that the church in the future is going to look different and act different. I must admit, I feel more encouraged and more loved during our small classroom discussions and bible study than I do in the actual assembly time. I think it is because I spend too much time prejudging why people are there in the first place. It is like they are there to get their ticket punched to earn Gods approval. Maybe it is time to take a deeper look at the real reasons why we come together. Evangelism is to take place everywhere and that means mainly outside the building.

  3. All I can say is, Amen!

  4. Warren

    Our use of the term “worship service” has contributed to the problem. Many translations contribute to the problem by using headings that include “worship” when the text only refers to assemblies. Not only is this unbiblical usage, but it places the emphasis on the vertical (praise of God) over the horizontal (encouraging one another) when the New Testament emphasis is clearly the other way around. But we find it easier to “worship” God for one hour per week than to offer sacrificial, holy and pleasing lives to God 24/7 which the New Testament defines as “your spiritual act of worship” (Romans 12:1). So rather than promote transformed living as the way to worship “in spirit and truth” (John 4:23-24) we fuss about the “true” way to conduct our assemblies and how we might make them a more “spiritual” experience by improving the performance.

  5. Pingback: Testing Religion « Whitticisms

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