Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Coming Together

In an earlier post I spoke of the value of small groups in the church, even if they are not a panacea. But the opposite question has to be asked, why not do away with larger meetings and just stick to small groups? One of the problems in the modern church is division into factions (1 Corinthians 1:10-17; 3:21,22; Philippians 2:1,2). These often are not about real issues, but personalities, methods, and particular spiritual gifts. To do away with the larger assembly and have only small groups would increase this tendency. But God calls us to be people who build each other up based on our differences (1 Corinthians 12:12-27; Romans 12:3-8; Ephesians 4:11-16). People tend to gather into small groups based on shared interests and perspectives, and if they do not have them, they tend to develop them. This is not necessarily a bad thing and seems be inevitable But it needs to be continually balanced by the perspectives of the larger body to be put into focus.

I am convinced that one of the problems even of full congregations is a very limited view of their identity. They tend to see themselves as being no more then their own congregation or denomination. But we are part of the body of Christ, which transcends space and time (Ephesians 2:19-22; 1 Peter 2:4-10; Colossians 2:19). There is something about coming together to worship that reminds us that we are part of a larger entity. It also allows us the benefit of all the spiritual gifts present in the congregation and not just our little group. Also, I am convinced that one of the benefits of being in a larger body is it forces us to learn to get along with those we may not easily get along with (Philippians 2:3,4; Ephesians 4:32; Colossians 3:12-14). Further, Christians are to do God's work in the world, spread His word (Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 1:8; Luke 24:46-48), and help those in need (Matthew 25:31-46; James 2:16; 1 John 3:16-18). To do this efficiently requires some degree of larger organization. 

But there is a danger in the larger assemblies. It is possible there to think it pleases God if we just go through the motions of worship, when it does not (John 4:24; Matthew 6:1-18; Malachi 1:10). It also makes it possible to believe everything is to be done by leaders, which is contrary to the teaching that each member of Christ's body has gifts and functions. To avoid this we must remember that leaders are leaders, not mediators, and we do not go through them to get to God (1 Timothy 1:5; Matthew 18:18-20; John 1:12). Further, we must see coming together as a active thing where we are involved in people's lives (Hebrews 10:24,25; 12:12,13; 1 Corinthians 14:26). In this the small groups can leaven the larger group and support it rather than supplant it.

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