What Does It Take to Assemble?
Early Christians assembled together regularly to worship God and edify one another. Acts 2:42 speaks of how the first Christians, “continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers” (NKJV). Later in the same chapter we read of how Christians were daily meeting in the temple (Acts 2:46). On what is sometimes referred to as Paul’s third journey, we read of him meeting with the disciples in Troas who came together on the first day of the week to break bread (Acts 20:7). Hebrews 10:25 forbids the forsaking of the assembling of ourselves together as the manner of some is. Such a command necessitates us assembling ourselves together with some regularity. While some people want to have a relationship with God without assembling together with other Christians, the Bible teaches one cannot faithfully serve God while willfully forsaking to assemble with other Christians.
Almost a month ago, our area was hit by a hurricane and as the first day of the week approached it was evident many of the things we are accustomed to would not be restored yet in our area. A few years ago many churches throughout America were struggling with how to assemble in light of the pandemic. For some of these churches, continuing to meet during the height of the pandemic meant they would not be able to do so in the same format they had done prior to the pandemic. Events such as these sometimes cause us to step back and consider what are the things which are necessary or essential to our assembling together and what things are not necessary but might merely be expedients we use.
First, let’s consider some things we do not have to have in order to assemble as the Lord directs us to. We do not have to have electricity and the other conveniences many of us have grown accustomed to in order to faithfully assemble. The first century church does not appear to have electricity and yet was capable of assembling. If we were without electricity, we should still be capable of assembling just as they were. Things we might typically use during a service which are expedients to carrying out our commands to edify one another and worship God but are not essential like a projector, air conditioning, electric lights, etc. are things we can assemble without if the need arises. An assembly of the saints does not require a building. Churches in different parts of the world assemble without meeting in a building. A congregation of God’s people should not let the fact they cannot gather in a building keep them from fulfilling God’s command to assemble together although they may have to change from the setup they are used to. Songbooks are certainly a helpful expedient for singing in a decent and orderly manner (1 Corinthians 14:15, 26, 40). However, a congregation could assemble without using songbooks. There are congregations in the world where the majority of the members might be illiterate and yet they can still worship God but obviously a songbook would not be helpful to a person who cannot read it. A particular type of tray for distributing the elements of the Lord’s Supper is not required for assembling. Obviously, the elements of the Lord’s Supper must be distributed in some fashion when saints assemble on the first day of the week to remember the Lord’s death but it doesn’t require a particular type of tray. A particular basket or tray for the gathering of the collection is not essential to assembling. The basket or tray is merely an expedient method for gathering the collection commanded in 1 Corinthians 16:1-2. Let’s be careful not to think we cannot assemble because we do not have some of the expedients we are used to using but are not essential to the fulfillment of God’s commands.
Now, let’s consider some things we do have to have in order to assemble as the Lord directs us to. An assembly requires a plurality of people. One person obviously does not constitute an assembly. Certain commands we seek to fulfill in our assemblies require multiple people (e.g., Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16). If an assembly of multiple people is going to happen, there must be some place where they are going to assemble. The New Testament does not specify the type of place where Christians must assemble and thus generic authority allows us to decide what is the most expedient place to assemble. If an assembly of people is going to happen, there must be some time for the assembly to happen. As I have thought about this point, the time may not have to be as specific as many of us are used to but there must at least be a general time frame for the assembly to take place (e.g., the first day of the week). If people are going to follow the pattern laid out for what Christians are required at a minimum to do, then on the first day of the week there must be prayers, preaching, giving, the Lord’s Supper, and singing (Acts 2:42; 1 Corinthians 16:1-2; 11:23-26; Acts 20:7; Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16; 1 Corinthians 14:15). God’s wisdom may be seen in the fact He did not make it too challenging to worship Him in diverse situations (Ephesians 3:10-11). One thing I thought about which is necessary if people are going to assemble is a desire to worship God and edify one another. The Psalmist said in Psalm 122:1, “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go into the house of the Lord’” (NKJV). Jesus teaches us to, “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness” (Matthew 6:33, NKJV). When we have the attitude of the Psalmist and put service to God first, we will not let the things many let stand in their way of assembling keep us from assembling with the saints as we should (Hebrews 10:24-25).