Meanwhile, Away From the Assembly

Posted on: January 6th, 2019

There is no scriptural authority for the local church sponsoring social activities such as common meals, sports teams, movie nights, church lock-ins, clubs for singles or divorcees, and the like. Churches that do engage these functions often lean on a more liberal view of what the scriptures teach regarding the work of the local church to justify these kinds of social activities; if part of the work of the church is to edify and encourage one another and to have “fellowship” then can’t the local church pay for these activities, or so it’s argued. Local churches of Christ who do engage in these practices might consider simply releasing the financial involvement of the church to the individual members who have every right to organize and engage in such practices out of their own personal means. Churches of Christ that collectively involve themselves in worldly practices and work are in danger of leaving the primary work of spreading the Gospel and becoming more and more like other worldly social institutions (John 17:14-17).
But, while some churches with a less conservative view of what scriptures authorize on these matters over swing and miss the ball, many more conservative churches who abstain from such collective practices often under swing on what the scriptures do teach regarding the relationships and social mandates of a local church, that is, of the individual members. Consider the following commandments given to the people of God under the law of Christ.
Hebrews 3:13 says, “Exhort one another daily, while it is called today, lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.” The individual members have a responsibility to exhort one another day by day, that is, each day. Now, we aren’t authorized to have a church bowling team that meets once a week. But, in many conservative churches who recognize the church bowling team is unscriptural, never make any efforts to see their spiritual brothers and sisters outside the walls of the meeting house. How can we exhort our brethren each day if we make no efforts to see them or interact with them each day? If we don’t want to bowl together, how about a movie night at someone’s house? If we don’t want to watch movies together, how about a game night or just having a meal together? How about some basketball, tennis, or maybe we just meet with the brethren to talk during the week? In order to exhort one another, we must have some kind of relationship away from the building.
Galatians 5:13 says that we are to, “by love, serve one another.” Surely that does not refer to serving one another just on Sundays and (maybe) Wednesdays at the church building. So, a church not so concerned with what the scriptures mean by this might set up a church sponsored service ministry, and the church sponsors regular visitations to members’ homes who need regular help around the house, someone to go shopping for them, etc. But will we condemn this kind of practice but not make any individual effort to do regular service for one another? Sometimes, this involves being ready to serve where needed: someone calls you and says I need this and you jump on the task without grumbling. However, should we not also take the initiative with this obligation: ask people how you can help them, even if they don’t come to you first. Look for opportunities to serve. There are many needs that local members have that they may not be comfortable in asking help with, but who long for someone to simply ask, “What can I help you with?” And, if you are asked, sometimes you might have to think of a need, but give your brother or sister an opportunity to serve and also the opportunity to spend time with you.
Galatians 6:2 teaches we are to “Bear one another’s burdens.” It is sad to suddenly learn about some difficulty a brother or sister has had for years of which they never spoke a word to anyone. On one hand, we condemn brothers and sisters for simply not attending services regularly, but on the other hand, know absolutely nothing about what is going on in that individual’s life, about the many burdens that they must bear alone, about how the weight of those burdens is squeezing the faithfulness out of them. But we must at least try to get to know our brethren, know about their burdens, offer to help them bear those burdens so that their faith remains intact. Surely, they will be accountable for their own decisions, but we will be accountable for whether or not we tried to help them. Again, how can we bear one another’s burdens if we have no relationship outside of the little building on 831 W Pleasant Run?
Hebrews 10:24 says, “let us consider one another, and provoke one another to love and good works.” Sometimes it’s hard to do what’s right on one’s own. How much easier it is when your fellow believer is there with you to encourage and provoke you! There are many good works in which we ought to be engaged. Again, a group who believes scripture justifies church-sponsored action in all good works acts liberally when they reach into the contribution collected from the saints to pay for ministries to do these good works. But we are required to do the good works (!), and many churches with a more conservative view of scripture fail miserably in keeping this mandate. Individual Christians must necessarily get together from time to time, reach into their own pockets if necessary, set aside their own time, and find good works to do. Galatians 6:10 clearly specifies that good works ought to be done for all in the world AND for those in the household of faith. But if we only see each other two days a week for two or three hours, how can we do this?
Brothers and sisters, let us seek opportunities to get to know one another, to encourage one another, to spend time with one another, to support and love one another, to have true relationships with one another in our daily lives. In Acts 2:42-47, after many souls came together in Christ, what kind of relationship did they have with one another? Was it detached and impersonal, or did it appear they were growing together in spirit and truth? Look at the many examples of the first century churches, working together, spending time in each other’s homes, building their relationship day by day, not just satisfied (sometimes grudgingly) mechanically dragging themselves to a once or twice a week meeting.
Ask yourself: what more can I do to develop my daily relationship with the local church? Remember that the church is the PEOPLE, not only when they are assembled at the building but ALL WEEK! We assemble at the building to sing, to pray, to worship, to remember the death of our Savior, but there are so many other significant responsibilities we have that we must regularly do for each other away from the building; if we fail to do those things for one another which are commanded, we are just as badly off as “forsaking the assembly.” – Jeremy Koontz