“I have been writing this volume while residing in Germany for a teaching trip. I am humbled by penning these 95 theses in the same country as Martin Luther did many years ago. I submit these to the evangelical church of our day and pray that God would allow anything of truth in these pages to bend and change men’s hearts back to God.” – Greg Gordon –
It is useless for large companies of believers to spend long hours begging God to send revival. Unless we intend to reform we may as well not pray. Unless praying men have the insight and faith to amend their whole way of life to conform to the New Testament pattern there can be no true revival. – A.W. Tozer
I am currently reviewing and commenting on 95 theses to the modern evangelical church “revised”! by Greg Gordon. This is part 3 of the series. The following discusses time spent in gatherings, and putting a focus on individualism in church.
We meet for one hour a week and consider that apostolic church. Many evangelicals treat church like any other social club or sports event that they attend.
Acts 2:46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts
Hebrews 10:24-25 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
Acts 1:14 14 They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.
Another cold truth in the face. The vast majority of people I know who go to church, do so once a week. Now a few go more often for various reasons. For those, the ‘church’ ends up feeling like some sort of social club… a place you go to in order to hang out with friends and feel good. That may certainly be a result of having fellowship, at times, but it’s a far cry from the true purpose of the gatherings of the true church.
The New Testament gives plenty of reasons to gather together… for prayer, confession, Bible study, breaking of break, baptisms, and much more. These should be the thrust of doing what we do. These followers loved God and each other so much, no one cried ‘foul’ when they ran more than an hour, or two, or three.
I do know of church ‘services’ that run 3 hours or more. But, that’s not the point. The point is that the people shared all they had in common, and truly fellowshipped together, in God’s Word, leading to true worship (And coincidently, losing track of time). Their love for each other and God was not programmed and did not follow a set schedule or liturgy (order of events).
This is just yet another point of deep contrast between the church today, and gatherings found in the New Testament.
We have made Christianity about the individual rather than a community of believers.
1 John 2:19 They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us.
2 Timothy 4:16 At my first defense, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me. May it not be held against them. 17 But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. And I was delivered from the lion’s mouth.
Jude 17 But, dear friends, remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold. 18 They said to you, “In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires.” 19 These are the people who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit
Where do I start with this? The most obvious target are the sermons and messages. Often times, the messages preached from the pulpit are aimed at the individual, their sin and their salvation. But, I’m not sure that’s the real problem here. After all, Jesus and disciples often preached that we need to repent, and be saved…and that often comes across as a ‘personal message.’
No, the main concern here is in how church today is structured. I will often point out that the very way a church is structured lends itself to certain practices. When you have a corporate gathering of large masses of believers, where everyone is told to sit down, face forward and just listen week after week, it becomes very easy to ‘disappear.’ The gathering, such as it were, becomes focused on the experience of the individual within the crowd, rather than on others. Read Acts 2 again, and see how they loved and served one another during their gatherings. When we go to church, we go to be ‘serviced.’ Heck, we even call them ‘services’! It contradicts the Word right off. Some churches allow some of their members to help do the servicing (from helping to usher, preach messages or run the children’s class), but that still misses the point.
In the New Testament, the entire meeting focused on the attendees doing things with one another. Praying for one another, confessing to one another, breaking bread with one another, etc., etc. There are dozens of commands in the New Testament to perform various interactions with one another in our gatherings, yet we do this so rarely today. When you ask your pastor about it, they will point out the limitations of the system, or say something about how the early church format is not binding today.
Perhaps not, but how do we escape these commands to love, pray, serve, etc with one another? Why do we invalidate so many of them by our traditions? May we always remember the warnings of our LORD, “You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.”
By His Grace,