HOW TO GATHER AS CHRISTIANS
- Preface -
"Forsake not the assembling of yourselves together." Heb. 0:25
The church, or Body of Christ, belongs only to the Lord Jesus Christ; it's founder and it's head, and it's instructor, and He is adding to it daily all that are being saved. He intends that the members of this spiritual body gather together. But, what a mess the human soul has made of it!
Reformation and restoration movements are virtually intangible, irrespective of the extent to which the church has been corrupted. It must be acknowledged that the Lords church is an absolute which man cannot change, modify, add to, nor take away; "and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it."
"Come out from among them and touch not the unclean thing." II Cor. 6:17
Herein, this scripture is the solution for cleansing from a corrupt system. Any honest person; even non-Christians, and perhaps - especially non-Christians, can see the blatant deception of prime time religion and the phony hype of most so-called ministers. The Lord's program doesn't need our lousy, rotten, stinking money and building programs to "furnish us unto every good work." This is in keeping with His program, not ours! The works of our flesh will eventually be all burned up and that which is done in Christ, according to Christ, will last for eternity.
The rudimentary question is, "How do we gather ourselves together" and once we get together "How do we conduct ourselves?" Actually, the answers are very simple but the traditions of men have distorted our view of the "church". Any Christian who has a sincere heart's desire to be pure and obedient to Christ can see the truth revealed through the Holy Spirit. However, many are faint-hearted and count the cost of leaving behind their investment in time and money as well as position or acceptance by family and friends in their "religious" organizations.
Rejoice ye pure in heart! God is faithful. His program, done in His way, will not lack His resources. You know this! Even if it means you have to go through a period of purging such as Moses, who spent the middle third of his life on the far side of the desert before being called back to do his great work for the Lord starting at age 80.
Our salvation was our beginning in identifying with the Lord. The immediate focus was on our walk and growth in faith, belief, and visible manner of life. Though we are so small, we are a part of God's plan; so big, we are privileged to be only a part of it. You can be either a participant or a bystander during this brief Church Age. God will accomplish His program with or without you. What part will you play?
HOW TO GATHER AN ASSEMBLY
(These are suggestions, not rules; unless supported by scripture.)
"Where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am in the midst of them." Matt. 18:20
1. Consider all that is presented at this site.
2. Do not think you are starting a "church". If you do, you've missed the point.
3. Two or three is a start for getting together regularly. You can really learn what it is to trust the Lord for the increase.
4. The worst thing to do would be to incorporate, get a name that the authorities want you to submit, have a charter, or any written compact or agreement. Such would automatically make you a man-made "Church" and enter you into the ranks of those who commit the sin of sectarianism. Simply meet in the name of the person of the Lord Jesus Christ, no other name; the Head of the church. Avoid a situation where you would get from Caesar a zoning permit in order to meet together. And don't compromise just to get tax deductions.
5. Meet in homes, a rented room, or hall. Do not rent from a "Church" or questionable organizations that should not be getting your money. Don't buy property - never, never! This causes carnal divisions and bondage to finances. If someone in the assembly owns a building that is going to be used regularly for meetings, when you outgrow the home or room in which you are meeting, pay him rent so that he doesn't feel that the assembly is beholding to him or that he has some special authority over the assembly; if he wants to give back the money as a part of stewardship [discretely] that is his decision; but make sure he cashes the check.
6. Describe yourself as "some" Christians, recognizing that denominational brethren are still your brethren in spite of denominations. All Christians are accountable to the Lord on the basis of what they know or don't know in their hearts. We know better regarding certain matters, therefore we can not have a part with sectarianism and we pray that all Christians would see the truth of the sin of sectarianism.
7. You are part of the church. You do not "go" to "Church". The only reference to "membership" should be "member(s) of the body of Christ", "member(s) of the Church which is Christ's body", or better yet -- "member(s) of Christ". You do not have a roster of members because you cannot guarantee who is saved and who is not saved, even when people profess to be saved.
8. Critics will want to call you the "No-Name" denomination. The Lord knows their hearts and He knows your heart also.
9. The backbone of the assembly is the older brethren, whether the eldest is 40 or 90. Ministering servants and those who have oversight are answerable not only to the Lord, ultimately, but also to the assembly when they need correction. Overseers, from the Greek word usually translated "bishop", come from the older brethren; usually very few, sometimes no "bishop", due to the strict qualifications in Timothy and Titus and the small size of many assemblies. Ironically, most qualified "bishops" are in the denominations.
10. The leadership is defined according to Timothy and Titus. The definition of leadership has been perverted by carnal men over the past 2000 years due to Satan's power to be able to tempt people who call themselves Christians. Be careful to not neglect that "ruling his house well" means that his wife and children are not a problem but respectful and in obedience to him, and not just an outward show. (The husband of one wife refers to polygamy which was common then.) All men must deal with their inner Adam (pride) and all women must deal with their inner Eve (guile).
11. The most common and biggest problem you might have is people who "assume" leadership based upon personality and not spiritual character. These people can go on for years, and much damage done, before they are finally caught, and typically, most people are too intimidated to confront such strong personalities.
12. Do not let novices lead or cause the assembly to move in any direction independent of mature leadership; also watch out for nepotism. Really, what are the chances of four generations being actually called to the ministry?
13. If you or those who want to gather an assembly are novices, go ahead an get together but always remind yourself of your limitations. Pray that the Lord will send you mature leadership. Someday, especially with this attitude, you will mature since you are already in the process of maturing.
14. The second biggest problem you could have is in all kinds of characters coming in with grudges, strange doctrines, practices, and traditions they want to propagate among you. They are commonly social tag-alongs who don't have solid scriptural foundations. What do you do when someone comes in with a tambourine and starts shaking it while everybody is singing? Or the person who goes into a trance, throwing their hands up and babbling?
15. When people are invited to meetings they could be briefed as to what you are doing, meeting the way you do. Perhaps first, develop a substantial acquaintance with them.
16. "Lay hands on no man suddenly" means that you are not going to figuratively grab them and coerce them your way. They need their time and space to make their own decisions about what you present, according to their conscience.
17. You don't want to be exclusive but you need to stand firm and be of one accord as in the frequent scriptural references in the book of Acts to being of one accord. This is balanced with each Christian having to walk in his own faith which he has made his own. To be of one accord takes some effort and time. Unity for unity's sake is not unity, but deference is a peaceful means to carry us along "till we all come in the unity of the faith," Ephesians 4:13.
18. The leadership should not start anything in which they are not in agreement 100%. Blessings occur when there is unity of the spirit. In the church epistles there are enough examples, starting in the book of Acts, to being "of one accord". Any lack of confidence, even by one person, caries with it a negativity that can undermine what you are trying to accomplish. "Majority Rule" is not a Christian standard. It can be that one person can have a perception that is valid. When you have one who descents, it may be best to defer a decision and tarry until the direction is clear and there is consensus rather than disunity.
19. Conduct open meetings with the entire family sitting together. Do not have "Sunday School". Men are supposed to instruct their wives and children at home, to not lend them out to somebody down the hall who is teaching your family something of which you are unaware. Children who are raised this way from birth get used to sitting in meetings.
20. Be careful not to develop habits that become formal traditions since they tend to become "doctrine" which enters you into the realm of the sin of sectarianism. You may have to deal with people who contend for conducting meetings a certain way, or even setting up furniture a certain way, or mopping the floor a certain way, without any deviation from form because, "that's how we've always been doing it" [for years].
21. Conduct all business in men's meetings. Perhaps on a week night or after the regular meeting, e.g., when the women are working in the kitchen and taking care of the children, and the men usually continue to sit around and have more in-depth Biblical discussion. Try not to burden the women and children with assembly problems. It can be a source of stress and discouragement for them. Also, children are quick to see hypocrisy and that is one of the causes of them disappearing when they get older.
22. Do not take a collection. Give in secret. (Matthew 6:1)
23. Keep your expenses minimal. Use discretion in spending.
24. Do not vote in men's meetings, such as counting a tally of "yes" and "no", Again, "Majority Rule" is not a Christian standard. Come to a candid outspoken consensus where all the faithful older brethren in the assembly are expected to take an active part; younger men can watch and learn. Do nothing in secret as is done in fraternal lodges. Christ and the apostles did not have a secret agenda nor anything they needed to hide.
25. Ministers and so-called "ministers" were discussed elsewhere at this site. All true Christians are ministers. Pray for each other and especially for the older brethren and any who have oversight and labor in the Word. They have a very heavy responsibility in watching for your souls. Satan has been working hard, for millennia, to take his toll on disqualifying them. Satan knows their weakest points.
26. The role of women: There is no such thing as an office of "deaconess". The Greek word translated "deacon" simply means worker, helper, or servant. The feminine version is the same. The role of women is best described by the scripture references just below.
Titus 2:3-5 "The aged women likewise that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children; To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed."
I Timothy 2:9-12 "In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; But (which becometh women professing Godliness) with good works. Let the women learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not [permit not] a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence."
27. Children can be included in meetings by having a time when they recite memory verses and sing special songs together.
28. Church music is more of an expression of worship in the spirit, and manifest outwardly, from the soul. It is not casual entertainment. The soul, or the life breathed into us, in consisting of the mind, will, and emotions, is balanced with harmony, rhythm, and melody in relationship to music. Of course, the spirit is higher than the soul; the soul being of the flesh. Music is often misused in the "churches". It is carnally used to "pump up" an audience; which only lasts for a little while. Also, rock musicians who become new Christians, tend to utilize the same music thinking, incorrectly, that Christian lyrics clean it up when, in truth, the music stirs up the sensual nature, no matter what the lyrics.
29. You should, and even must, have fellowship with Godly Christians but each assembly is to keep their local autonomy in order to prevent collective sectarianism from occurring. Dedicated Christians are a help and encouragement to one another as the Holy Spirit unites us. It is a spiritual unity which transcends the physical. However, one tragic example that can be mentioned is an example of a few assemblies from Atlanta, Las Vegas, and Detroit, where troubles began when the ministers acted like they were only answerable to each other and not to their local assemblies; maybe not answerable to anyone -- this caused church division by a loss of trust and confidence in the leadership. Now that the apostles are gone, the only leadership left in Timothy and Titus is of local bishops [those who have the oversight] who get their approval from the older brethren. THERE IS NOTHING ELSE! There are no arch bishops over multiple congregations. The apostles had power and authority given them by the Lord, but even the Apostle Paul, in all his exhortations, did not lord himself as "arch bishops" do today. When you set up a national or regional hierarchy, you will have digressed into a denomination like all the compromisers who went before you. Most movements start out with lofty ideals, but sooner or later become sectarian.
As long as Satan is permitted to roam free, you will always have problems with the ever-so-subtle carnal minded and the politically ambitious, and it is easier to become a cult than you may think. When major persecutions come, as described in Bible prophesy, small autonomous assemblies should survive better, being a smaller target to infiltrators and betrayers.
30. The liberty or proof of one's ministry or leadership is in whether the brethren are giving him encouragement and acceptance after being tested by the brethren according to the Pastoral Epistles: Timothy and Titus. If he is being supported in a "full-time ministry", the proof of his calling will be reflected in whether he is getting adequate financial support. If he is supporting himself, or buying his ministry, he most likely is not really called to leadership; there are exceptions.
F.F. Bruce points out, in his commentary on Acts, page 367, that Paul and several of the disciples were tent-makers [leather workers]. That it was not considered for a scribe or rabbi to receive payment for his teaching, and many of them practiced a trade in addition to their study and teaching of the law. This course was recommended by Rabbi Gamaliel III: "An excellent thing is the study of the Torah combined with some secular occupation, for the labor demanded by them both puts sin out of one's mind. All study of the Torah which is not combined with work will ultimately be futile and lead to sin", (Pirge Aboth ii.12). Similarly Rabbi Zadok said: "Make not the Torah a crown wherewith to aggrandize thyself, or a spade wherewith to dig". So also used Hillel to say, "He who makes a profit from the crown of the Torah shall waste away. Hence thou mayest infer that he who derives gain for himself from the words of the Torah is helping his own destruction" (Pirge Aboth iv.7).
31. Understand and appreciate the diversity of ministering spiritual gifts according to Romans 12, etc. Some "ministers" in the denominations specialize and aren't good for much other than one particular gift and a comprehensive ministry is lacking. They are expected to "do it all" but they can't. If you grow big, then maybe you might be blessed with various ones who compliment each other by being those who are good at rightly dividing the Word as teachers, and those who preach, and those who are better at pastoring and shepherding the flock, etc.; besides overlapping a bit in the same responsibilities as they are definitely gifted in accordance with God's gifts.
32. Through prayer and faith, let the Holy Spirit lead you. Do not try to force-feed such a structured program that it becomes apparent that you are, in the flesh, trying to make things happen. As a test, this is a barometer of how much faith and confidence the assembly has to trust the Lord to do His work. Otherwise, you are trying to "program" the Holy Spirit in the way YOU think the Holy Spirit ought to go. Let blessings happen naturally. If the Holy Spirit is behind something, it will unfold peacefully, decently and in order; clearly, and without confusion, stress, nor duress.
33. All Christians are supposed to have an active part in the Body of Christ. The scriptures speak of the gifts given to the Church and of the priesthood of all believers. Therefore, each Christian is to take an active part, as Christ has placed each in the Church. This means that you are not to commit the common error of expecting the leader or leaders to do everything. It is too much to expect of them. It is often used by lazy Christians to let themselves off lightly, especially when they think they've "hired" a minister. The congregation performs many of the same spirit-lead activities, according to the gifts given to each Christian in the assembly as ministering servants.
34. Common respect and recognition of the older brethren should be apparent in such things as being asked to open and close meetings with prayer. Older brethren should be asked, by name, to pray and there should be some semblance of rotation so that all the older brethren are included. It is a mistake to call upon the same "favorites" or to call upon the very oldest most of the time, or the same person in whose home you meet every week. Do not ask open endedly for "whoever has the liberty" to pray because frequently the ambitious "eager beavers" with a "me first" agenda tend to jump in. It is a solemn privilege to pray at meetings and the humble ones are typically prudent and tend to not volunteer.
35. Fellowship is a spiritual privilege as well as a spiritually social need. We don't identify with the world, the flesh, nor the devil, therefore we know each other as best friends; we might not be many, but we're all we've got. Therefore, the fulfillment of our fellowship will not only be provided at regular meetings but through extended activities such as pot luck dinners, gatherings at homes, sings for young people (including adults), camping trips, cook outs, sports activities, men and boys activities, ladies birthday luncheons, weddings & showers, or simply inviting folks over to your house. It's good to eat together but the focus doesn't always have to be upon FOOD (food can qualify as substance abuse at times; as the drug of choice). Our richest blessings can be when we come together and become a part of each other's lives.
36. Trouble makers surface sooner or later. Dominant personalities may want everything their own way. Some people can be noted as puffed-up with pride. This is where Church discipline is appropriate and necessary. It must be approached and administered orderly to maintain "the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace". It may be necessary, hopefully seldom if ever, to "mark" someone for heresy or causing division and offenses (Romans 16:17). This is a Scripturally mandated procedure. Markings are determined collectively and notification is given before the whole assembly, and it is the result of due-process in trying to "restore such an one in the spirit of meekness;..." (Galatians 6:1). The assembly is to continue in "the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace". Everyone must abide by the marking or the discipline of marking will be undermined by those who don't stand in the marking, or the marking wouldn't have the intended effect as prescribed by the Divinely inspired Apostle Paul, and common sense and logic tell you that those who treat the marking lightly actually share in the division and offenses in support of the marked person. A decision letter can be sent to the marked person, with the basis of the marking clearly indicated. The particulars should be spelled out very clearly and objectively and not full of subjective name calling and bashing which could give the recipient an occasion of offense. He, or she, should not be given the slightest thread to grab onto to point out any error in your marking procedures.
37. Doctrine is from proof texts in Scripture. Be careful not to come up with doctrine through conjecture. It may not be easy to cleanse yourself of the traditional "doctrines" you have held for many years. When Martin Luther came out of Roman Catholicism, all of Roman Catholicism did not come out of him. When England broke away from Rome, everything was the same except that the head of the so-called church was in London, not Rome.
38. Bible versions: If we are reading and studying together, we should all be following in the same translation so that we don't get confused by trying to read our Bible and listen to something different. It is a distraction that robs us of a greater blessing. There are many publications that find fault with the modern translations and many of the arguments are valid. Somehow it is easier to memorize scripture by utilizing the King James Version. Due to the fact that most people are accustomed to the KJV, it would be a major disruption to switch. With the modern generation hearing all kinds of different translations, they will have difficulty memorizing scripture with any degree of certainty as to whether they are quoting accurately.
We must recognize that Bible translations are all a product of their then current generation and the slant or sectarian persuasion of the translators. During the years of translating the KJV, the established institutional church - the Church of England, was not very different from the Roman Catholic Church except that it was a break away from the Pope in Rome. The ecclesiastical orientation was toward a religious order with an all-powerful hierarchy of priests, bishops, and arch-bishops.
In translating the traditional Latin and some of the original Greek and Hebrew scriptures, it is important to note that the King James translators chose the particular English words they wanted due to their formal orientation in the Church of England. They took common nouns in the original Greek and turned them into proper nouns in perpetuating a very earthly, institutional church.
They promoted such sectarian concepts as "the office of a Bishop" and "the office of a Deacon". "Office" is nowhere at all to be found or implied in the original Greek. The translators chose the word "bishop" for it's significance in keeping with the concept of their institutional church hierarchy. The original Greek word literally means "overseer", or someone who has the oversight. It is a function, not an office. Likewise, the original Greek for "deacon" simply means "helper" or "servant"; somebody who waits tables, cooks, sweeps the floor, etc.; this is certainly a function and not an office.
39. What about "ministers"? Minister means "servant". Almost every reference in the Hebrew Scriptures has the priests ministering [functioning] in the temple. First they are called priests, and ministering is what they do in all their workings. Ever since the veil of the temple was torn from top to bottom [when Christ died], we no longer have a case [now under Grace] for priests to minister in the temple. Does this translate into an office of "minister" among gentile believers in the "church" today? The answer in "no" but the choice of men is otherwise.
In Romans 11:13, the KJV says, "I magnify my office". The Greek says, "I glorify the ministry of me." And the RSV translates it as, "I magnify my ministry." The Greek word for "ministry" is the same word "deacon" which we know is a common noun meaning helper, worker, or servant.
There are approximately 30 verses in the Epistles with the English word "minister". An examination of the Greek text reveals that the translators have taken the Greek words diakoneo, diakonai and diakonos, [Strong's Concordance numbers 1247, 1248, 1249] which in pure Greek simply mean 'helper' or 'servant', and have rendered them mostly as 'minister', and sometimes 'serve', 'ministration', 'administration', and about four times as 'deacon'. [The root word diako means to run errands.] Today, organized religion has set up men as potentates and celebrants and called them "ministers" after the manner of men in the 1611 translation.
So-called "ministers" will resent what is being said here because it threatens their status and job security. It need not be. Men can repent and be transformed into genuine servants, and be worthy of double honor. "But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant." (Matthew 23:11) The twelve disputed among themselves who should be the greatest... "And he sat down and called the twelve, and saith unto them, If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all." (Mark 9:35) [This topic will be treated at this site under Bible Definitions.] A true servant of God is certainly the greatest, according to the Lord. Christians need to be careful about the loose use of terminology that corrupts biblical doctrine resulting in a flawed faith and practice.
One premise that should be helpful is that under GRACE there are no ordinance for fleshly performance. When Christ fulfilled the Law by His death on the cross; when the veil of the temple was rent, the Law and ordinances were discontinued: No more foot washings, head shavings, sacrifices, ceremonial cleansings and washings, or any other outward means to serving God other than the law of love. The so-called last supper was actually the last Passover supper with Jesus. The Jews observed the Passover once a year on a certain night. There is no connection between "Passover" and "communion". It is total heresy. So-called "communion" is simply fellowship including eating together. Also, baptism certainly means to immerse, engulf, or inundate, but not necessarily with water. There are five kinds of baptism in the scriptures but only one for the Christian walk under Grace. There is "one Lord, one faith, one baptism" (Ephesians 4:5). If there is one baptism under Grace, what baptism does it have to be? Answer: The Holy Spirit. More than one baptism under Grace would be contrary to Ephesians 4:5. Being cleansed with water [like a Jewish proselyte] or as "an outer sign of an inner work" which is not Biblical but a man made doctrine -- somebody made it up!
Next, John's baptism was for Jews, for the remission of their sins without full knowledge of the message of the One who would come after John with a greater baptism. John's baptism [anointing] of Jesus was to introduce Jesus as The Christ (The Anointed One) who would also go through a death, burial, and resurrection; providing Redemption and Atonement for Sin. No one can qualify to be baptized with the same anointing of Jesus by John. It is sacrilegious to try to imitate Jesus. He did all the work. We are buried "with him" not "like him".
Early in the Book of Acts the Church did not have Gentiles yet; not until Acts 10 and dealt with again in Acts 15 (and Galatians). In Chapter 8 the Christians were all Jewish and still conducted themselves with the Jewish traditions. The Ethiopian eunuch expected the ceremonial cleansing and washing that was performed with proselytes; it was unnecessary under Grace, but Philip apparently didn't understand this until somewhere between Chapter 10 and Chapter 15 when the apostles finally settled the issue of what to do with the Gentiles.
The scriptures are so clear on these things that, if you haven't become pathological in the traditions of men, you can easily figure it out for yourself. We recommend that you study and prove these things for yourself.
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Don't the items listed above sound more like the real church; the one that Christ is building?
And these are in large part observations and suggestions. They are not rules because in many instances we do not have a scriptural reference. It is up to the local assembly to determine propriety. It is suggested that there is much learning and wisdom derived herein. We are creatures of habit and we need to be careful to not develop traditions and not turn them into doctrine.
Your response by e:mail, to these guidelines, would be appreciated. This writing is a collection of spontaneous thoughts collected over many years. Perhaps your experience can provide deeper insight that can be used at this website.
Please keep in contact with us and let us know how you are doing. You may possibly find like-minded Christians in your area.
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