Church Meetings – Part 5: What Functions Are Required at a Church Meeting?

When we go to church, depending on your particular denomination or tradition, there are certain things which are expected. These include, music, singing, taking an offering, prayer(s), reading of Scripture, and preaching or teaching. Churches perform these functions and others regularly. We often have choirs, worship leaders, praise bands, and designated people who pray and preach. But what is actually required in the Bible for a meeting of a church?

Many of the current programs and ministries which many churches engage in, while often fulfilling a biblical function, are not absolutely necessary to fulfill that function.  Should we praise and worship God?  Yes.  Does that require a praise band and a worship leader?  No.  We can accomplish praise and worship without those things.  Should we study the Bible and have pastors/teachers to help us understand and apply it?  Yes.  Does that require attending a church service or Sunday School in a church building at a prescribed time and date?  No.  It requires a meeting of believers, anywhere, with a capable pastor/teacher.  Should we fellowship with other believers?  Yes.  Does that require that we meet primarily with those Christians who are members of our “local church” at scheduled times?  No.  We can meet with Christians wherever we live and work at any time/place. And are all these functions required at every meeting of believers? No.

Nowhere in the Bible is there an “order of service” or “service schedule” for a church service. There are no specifics given for a church meeting. By this, I mean that the biblical writers did not receive a revelation from God instructing us in how to conduct a church service. In 1 Corinthians, Paul addressed some problems with how those believers were conducting themselves when meeting, but there are no specifics on what must be included in church meetings. I can confirm that the prayer and edification (building each other up) was a mainstay when Christians met as there are a several references to that. However, how that was done had no consistent specifications.

Therefore, there is great freedom in how churches meet. It is not limited to a building, a local church, or a denomination. In my opinion, we place way too much emphasis on things which do not matter biblically. So if I’m in the workplace and 3 of us get together to pray, it doesn’t matter that one of us is a Methodist, another a Presbyterian, and another a Baptist. We can pray and exhort each other, and biblically, that is an “assembly” of believers. Consider the following:

So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another. (Romans 12:5)

For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread. (1 Corinthians 10:17)

For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. (1 Corinthians 12:13)

Paul was not a member of the local church at either Rome or Corinth. Yet, he considered himself a part of the same body–the body of Christ. This is the focus we are missing in the contemporary Church.

Church Meetings – Part 4: Where Should Churches Meet?

As I stated in a previous article in this series, our modern view of church is typically associated with meeting in a building. We talk about, “Going to church.” By that we usually mean that we’re going to travel to a building and meet with other Christians for a formal assembly of believers. What do the Scriptures reveal about this?

There is no established place for Christians to assemble in the Bible.  The biblical text is clear.  They met in homes.  There was no “church building” for them to meet in. 

[As an aside, I have heard preachers use 1 Corinthians 11:18 as referring to a church building, “For first of all, when ye come together in the church, I hear that there be divisions among you; and I partly believe it.” (KJV) There are two issues with the phrase “in the church”. First, the Greek preposition en, translated “in” has a broad array of meanings, depending on the context. Nearly every other English translation (NKJV, NASB, ESV, NIV, HCSB, RSV, et al.) renders it “as” which makes more sense in context. Second, there is no article (“the”) in the Greek text. The absence of the article usually means that it should be translated one of two ways: (1) “as church” indicating the character or quality of the church or (2) “as a church” indicating that the church is indefinite and not a specific one or location. (For you Greek students out there, I’m simplifying this for a general audience. It is understood that there are grammatical constructions which would make the phrase definite and thus require the article in English, but that is not the case here.) Again, context would indicate that it should be “as a church”. The only translation which does not follow this is the KJV. Now I love the KJV, but the Greek text trumps it.]

Again, I’m not saying that having a building is wrong.  I’m just saying that it’s foreign to the Bible.  So, if I meet with Christians at my workplace, even for a few minutes, to share, pray, and maybe even discuss Scripture, is that an assembly of the church?  Think about it before you answer.  We weren’t in a church building, but that’s not a biblical requirement.  We didn’t sing songs, but that’s not a biblical requirement either.  We didn’t take an offering, but since you cannot find even a single reference to a church in the Bible taking an offering for their own use, that’s not an issue either. 

Could it be that Hebrews 10:25 could refer to something other than our traditional concept of a church assembly?  The Greek word for “assembling” (episunagoge) refers to a “gathering together in one place”.  It does not speak to the number of people or a building or a need to have a pastor present or singing or preaching and it certainly does not refer to a denomination.  The context is that we “consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works”.  (Heb. 10:24)  And remember, Jesus made a propositional statement in Matthew 18:20 that where 2 or 3 are gathered that He’s there.  It’s something to think about.

In conclusion, an assembly of believers (a church) can occur anywhere. Our concept of “going to church” is shaped by our contemporary view of it. The biblical text requires Christians meeting together and that can occur anywhere Christians are assembled.

Church Meetings – Part 1: Introduction

With the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, churches have been adjusting how they meet and when they meet. Some churches have moved to virtual services. Some have outdoor or in-car services. Some have added more service times to promote social distancing. All are striving to find a way to meet the need of a church to assemble in a meaningful way. This has brought up the question: What constitutes a church meeting?

In this series, I will attempt to address some specific concepts involved with a church meeting. These will include topics such as:

  • What constitutes a church?
  • When should churches meet?
  • Where should churches meet?
  • What functions are required at a church meeting?

During this pivotal time in world history, perhaps we need to reevaluate our concept of the local church. I fear that we have become so accustomed to how our culture has defined a church that we have neglected what is revealed in Scripture about churches. Let’s get back to the Bible and let God dictate our beliefs about what a church meeting should be.

Baltimore Pastor Defies Government Order Against In-Person Church Service

A pastor in Baltimore tore up a cease and desist letter the church received for holding in-person services as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.  The church was threatened with a $5,000 fine.  The pastor cited Hebrews 10:25 as his reasoning for defying the order.

“Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.”

Now I don’t care that he wants to defy a government order.  That’s fine with me and I think he’s likely on good legal ground, although it may not sit as well with the community there regarding the church’s testimony.  That’s for him and the church to decide.  But I do object to misinterpreting and misapplying biblical passages.  Here’s my beef with using that verse the way he does. 

  1. The context of that passage is not a formal church service.  It’s provoking one another to love and good works and exhorting (coming alongside) each other in support.  This does not require a church service.  I would argue that this, very often, is best done outside of a formal service.
  2. The “assembling” simply means a gathering together in one place.  It does not refer to a specific number or percentage of people.  It’s just Christians getting together in any context which supports provoking to love and good works which should prevent God’s punishment for those who otherwise could fall into sin.  (Heb. 10:29)
  3. If he really believes that “so much the more” refers to church services, then I would ask him when he is adding more regular church services to the weekly church schedule.  The fact that he doesn’t proves my point.

My interpretation and application of that verse is that Christians should gravitate towards one another for support as our world approaches the end.  There are a few other details involved, but that’s the basic idea.  It has nothing to do with a church service.  As a matter of fact, the Bible does not specify what day or time that a local church should meet (contrary to popular opinion). 

In my reading of this passage, if Christians gather informally in a home, workplace, or at a restaurant for mutual exhortation, they likely are fulfilling Hebrews 10:25.