Dale Appleby

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Weekly Reflections

When you come together 28 Nov 10

When you come together

When you come together..., when you come together...” At least four times Paul repeats the phrase as he encourages the Corinthians to change the way they meet for the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor 11.17-34). “When you come together it is not the Lord’s Supper that you eat...”.

Coming together is one of the essential marks of the church.  “Church” in the New Testament means an assembly, a coming together, a meeting, a gathering (exactly the same word is used in Acts 19.32,39). The writer to the Hebrews saw the matter from a different angle. Some had developed an ethos of not meeting together (Heb 10.25). How could they encourage one another if they didn’t meet?

The meeting was the occasion not only to proclaim the death of the Lord in the Lord’s Supper, but also to encourage, teach, and exhort each other as the Word of God came to life among them (Col 3.16).

So what has changed? “Church” is now a word with many more meanings – most of which obscure the Bible’s meaning. You can see this by observing the verbs that are used with it: “Going to church...,  attending church...,  missing church...” and so on. Paul’s verb is “coming together as the church”. Or meeting as the church.  We could say that the church meets.

But the Hebrews’ problem has also continued. The habit of not meeting has developed its 21st century form – meeting irregularly, according to availability and the demands of other groups and people.

The form of meeting has also changed. Now the only meeting most people join in is a fairly formalised large group meeting. But the New Testament church seems to have had a lot more interaction in its meetings – presumably because they may have met also in smaller meetings.

The interaction was not just so they could all have a say (we know that some had too much to say), but so that they could all minister to each other, share the Word of God and pray with each other. Encouraging one another was a ministry of the Word in which each person could make a contribution. But they needed to be in the same place to do it. They needed to meet so that they could build each other up, and thus build up the church.

When you come together... what?

Dale

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