Feb 22, 2011

Neglecting the assembling of the saints: The Meeting Dynamic

In the previous 'Neglecting the assembling of the saints' posts, an intro, and breaking bread, I laid out quite a few points of doctrine that I have been focusing my thoughts and devotions on lately. It may be that I am obsessed with ecclesiology or it may be that I am trying to learn how important the meetings are to the unity and edification of the body. This entry will mainly concern itself with the importance of getting the Meeting Dynamic right.

If we have established, or at least considered, that the primary event in the meeting of the saints is the breaking of bread, then a few questions remain regarding how it all plays out logistically. Admittedly, one is hard pressed to develop a rubric or blueprint that stands alone as a sufficient foundation for all meetings in all places under all circumstances. But, it is obvious, from the pages of scripture, and early church history, that there was a common bond and thread running through the recorded meetings which took place in the churches of the saints. This common thread was the breaking of bread.

Overlooking the seemingly obvious feasting aspect of the meeting, we turn turn our gaze to the current approach to the Christian meeting in contemporary evangelicalism. It is, the "Sunday Service." Excepting to those who would hold the Sunday Service on Saturday, or substitute the meeting for some other day, the coming together in our modern context is similar in most occurrences.
  • Designated place of worship (usually a building/steeple house)
  • Designated order of service (welcome, prayer, singing, sermon, etc.)
  • Designated teacher(s) or clergy
  • Dismissal of the congregation or attendants
Now to the credit of some of those striving to build up the saints through the use of gifts given to "non-clergy" we can appreciate the invention of small groups, cell-groups, and bible studies that are more informal and can at times become involve open dialog rather than monologue. Although these insertions are a step in the right direction, they still do not represent a faithful adherence to scriptural examples of a meeting (or corrections of errors in said meetings, ie., 1 Cor 14:26 and following) where interaction, even spontaneous interaction, may occur.

If indeed the new status quo is the top-down pastorally directed order that we see today, then what impact would practicing the breaking of bread we see in the New Testament have on the meeting dynamic we currently see and practice today? I would conclude that there are negative and positive aspects. Whether they are seen as negative or positive, however, depends on your perspective.
  • Relationships with believers you do not know would be formed
  • The focus would be on body unity and not body separation
  • People will get to know you intimately
  • Having things in common, treating each others homes as if they are your own would be the norm
  • Time-frames and schedules would be difficult to adhere to
  • The brethren would bear the burden of ensuring the public reading and teaching of doctrine, relieving the chore of a singular individual to do it week in and week out
  • Brethren would be more compelled to bear one another's burdens
  • The weaker members would be more difficult to ignore and neglect
  • You would have to share your food with others
These are just a few of the things which would accompany a meeting that resembles the New Testament practice of "breaking bread." Of all these, I believe they may be summarized in this statement...

"...we as Christians would be required to step outside of ourselves, our individualism, and our selfishness and become genuine members of a functioning, living, breathing body, and that body is Christ's."

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