Have you ever shopped at IKEA and purchased something that needed to be assembled? What would happen if you made the purchase but never assembled it?
And what does this have to do with church?
...not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near. - Hebrews 10:25 (NASB)
When you are assembling something from IKEA...what is the goal of the assembly? To produce something right? Be it a dresser, bookcase, or other piece of furniture - the assembly results in a product. And I'm going to submit to you that when Christians assemble, we should also produce something.
In the Greek New Testament, the word which we translate into English as "church" is the word "ecclesia" which literally means assembly. In the context of Ancient Greek culture, it previously referred to a political assembly of citizens until it was used in the Greek New Testament to refer to the assembly of Christians.
Why do we assemble and why does the Bible encourage us to NOT forsake assembling together? Are you ready for some of the sacred cows of our modern institution of church to be shot down? I know, I know, these blogs seem like they are opposing a system that is beloved by many and doesn't appear to be broken. Does it? I LOVE the church! Trust me, I do. This is not an anti-church blog. I just want to invite you into a journey that I am on which presents some provoking questions about the way we do things and the why behind them.
I've been reading some books by Frank Viola entitled Pagan Christianity and Reimagining Church and the questions I had previously AND some new answers are presenting themselves. Frank Viola submits that the goal of our assembling should be mutual edification and the manifestation of Christ in our midst [but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love. - Ephesians 4:15-16 NASB].
So back to my submission that our assembling should produce something. Our assembling should produce a manifestation of the person of Christ. And EVERY member is required to produce this. Think about the modern expression of church. A group of about 50-300 people, sometimes 7,000 gather in buildings of all sizes. Many times families split up into varieties of age groups and other demographic segments. The children go off to be an audience of the hard-working Children's Church workers, the teenagers go off to be an audience of the hard-working Youth Pastor and his team of volunteers, and the adults go off to be an audience of a well-planned out service with skilled and practiced musicians and a central figure, commonly known as the pastor, who is hopefully a good orator as the majority of the service will center around his oration.
In the above described scenarios, how much did I use the word "audience"? And how accurate is that word? Every Sunday morning, across the world, Christians gather in buildings, and a small percentage of those gathered have an invitation onto the stage/platform to be seen or heard from. So according to Ephesians 4:15-16 (see above) one of the goals of our assembling is MUTUAL-edification. How does that take place in a platform-audience atmosphere where only a small percentage of those gathered are allowed to share their gifts and the majority of others are spectators?
And I submit to you this, a member of the assembly will grow more USING their God-given gifts than week after week watching a small percentage of the same others use theirs. Have you ever asked yourself how someone can sit in church for an entire lifetime and seemingly not grow? I mean, have any of you ever met this person? Raised in the church from childhood, faithful attender EVERY week, and yet they are as immature as the day is long? If being an audience member led to growth and development then the MAJORITY of the assembled Christians should be extremely mature...however, is that the case?
Our Christian faith is a faith of action. As James from the Bible puts it, faith without works is dead. James also says we are to be doers of the Word and not merely hearers. How much doing is allowed of an audience member of the assembly versus hearing only? What percentage of those in attendance are allowed to do and what would a service look like if EVERYone contributed? I'll tell you, if the church was considered small, like 50 members, if EVERYone contributed week in and week out, it would be a VERY long service.
And by contribution, I'm not talking about handing out bulletins (not knocking that) but rather contributing all the spiritual gifts that the Bible references, of which I can think of at least 25 spiritual gifts (there are probably more).
How could we assemble in such a way where EVERYone is able to contribute spiritual gifts and EVERYone is able to edify others and be edified? If you think about it, if you leave out or don't use parts that are included in an IKEA kit, does it still produce its' intended result? If that is true of IKEA, could it also be true in the church?