Tag Archive: gathering


I have a dream

Inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King’s speech, let me share my dream.

I have a dream that one day we will again gather as the ecclesia, regardless of our differences, united by God’s love as expressly seen in Jesus, and letting nothing get in the way of that. Until then, the current church paradigm where we divide based on doctrine is at odds with this.

When considering the issue of division in the body of Christ and trying to remedy it, we need to make the scriptures our starting point rather than our experiences, and the Scriptures certainly don’t advocate what we see! Ignoring them and looking only at historical and current circumstances, we might feel inclined to justify what we have. However, it’s dubious at best to think something is God’s intention when He never advocated it.

We need to accept that unity in Christ already exists despite our disagreements over doctrine. We already have true unity in a very real sense through having been joined together in Christ. You see, in Jesus, God has reconciled man to God and believers to one another. We have all been baptized into one body. It’s in recognizing this that we have our platform to enjoying this unity with one another.  In other words, we can have unity, because we do have unity.

The unity that we already have in Christ needs only to be made manifest, but this requires our co-operation. One way is by not making other reasons a prerequisite for unity. It’s by creating other reasons as the basis for unity that we have negated the greatest reason, and so doing have undone God’s intentions. Through making certain “truths” a basis for unity, we have only created schisms. For example, ones mode of baptism, end time theology or understanding of the baptism in the Spirit may be the biblically correct one, but as a basis for unity it doesn’t trump our unity in Christ that already exists. By all means have your ideas, share your ideas, but don’t create churches based around them. Chances are, amongst all your “truths” you have something wrong anyway.

In this day and age, most believers recognize members of various churches and denominations to be their brothers and sisters despite differences in doctrine and practice. However, by making doctrinal beliefs and practices a primary reason for unity, churches have denied everyone the joy of celebrating in unity. I believe we need to have gatherings that accommodate all believers, where views are not quashed, and where we love one another by allowing our various views to be aired and corrected by God in His time. In Phil. 3:15 we have an example of where Paul accommodated believers holding different views where he says, “…if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you.”

A national sports team has their millions of fans in unity despite varied views on play options, player choices, etc. This unity is often expressed when supporters gather together in front of the TV in homes, pubs, etc. In these gatherings you can often hear disagreements among supporters of the same team, but this does not detract from their celebratory unity.

The Bible, like the rules of play for a game and not our interpretation of them, is sufficient security for keeping the general course of conversation healthy. We tend to think that our particular interpretation of scripture that we inscribe in statements of faith, church constitutions, etc. gives security to truth for future generations. However, this has often proven to be divisive and often little security at all. The Bible is enough. So, if on the interpretation of the Bible we disagree, let’s let the Bible and The Author correct each other and not let our differences keep us from gathering together and celebrating our unity in Jesus.

By all means meet where you do, but not out of a need to be separate from others in the body of Christ. Elders, as those who lead by example, be inclusive and unthreatened. God can handle His Household and will give you the grace to help ensure that the truth of our unity is guarded amidst differences, even amongst yourselves.

Rob

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No Reason to Ever Separate

We are all a part of Jesus and the ecclesia and that is our reason for gathering. We have made the idea of dividing around doctrine the norm of Christianity when it shouldn’t even be in our thoughts. If Jesus hangs out with you, then who am I not to do the same?

Rather than to unrealistically expect to raise people in our squeaky clean versions of doctrine and ways of doing things, we should learn to accept and live with anyone that Jesus does. We all know that He is in the midst of each of our gatherings, yet sadly we cannot find a way to be in each other’s presence despite our differences.

For the most part, what separates us is no reason to do so. In fact, I’m not sure that there is a reason to ever gather separately. Our separating smacks of the old apartheid (I speak as a white South African). When one’s in the middle of it, you might not really see it for what it is, but certainly in hindsight it is something to be ashamed of.

I like to think of church like family. There needs to be some very serious differences to keep a family from sharing a Thanksgiving meal together. Surely our differences that we separate over are meant to be overcome by longsuffering and not through separation. Our variant views are seldom flagrant sin and even the necessary separation of those who are unrepentant and practicing obvious moral sin is only so that they may be restored.

Not only is our separation shameful, but it hinders our own blessing, for where we live in unity God commands His blessing. Hanging out with each other despite our differences is not easy and it will require a lot of His grace and the love that Jesus said we would be recognized by, but surely it’s worth it.

We cannot find our security in our doctrines and denominations, but we have our security in Jesus and the word of God. We were not left to have to choose the best group. These groups are of our own making through putting our knowledge above the type of love and unity where there is a freedom to disagree.

Let us remember 1Cor 13:12 “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.”

Rob

What is Church? – Part 1

One Sunday morning, almost 17 years ago, my husband and I were driving home from church. In the car we were having a discussion about our experience of the service. The church we attended had vibrant worship and a wonderful message. However, we got to pondering on the term “church” and felt that naming any Sunday morning service “church” was not accurate.

To better understand where we were coming from, you’ll need to know more about our background. Rob and I had met on the mission field where we had been active servants of the Lord. Coming off the mission field and getting married brought us into a season where we visited churches in our area. We became frustrated with the importance that people placed on a Sunday service, as if this was the real deal.

When God called believers to gather together and to fellowship with one another, it did not look anything like a typical church service of today. The Bible states that the word must dwell in us richly for teaching and admonishing through the sharing of psalms, hymns and spiritual songs (Col. 3:16). This verse was not meant to be an exact list, but rather an example for the believers to follow. If you are an artist and God has given you a spiritual picture to paint, then share your painting and explain its meaning. The point of the verse is to make it clear that we are all meant to participate, not just stack the chairs or serve the tea at some venue. If we don’t participate, then we don’t grow. Growth comes by sharing with one another what God, by His Spirit, has taught us.

The Sunday service is only a small slice of the pie. It should not be viewed or taught that this once-a-week event is the main event of a Christian’s week. This gathering, no matter how wonderful, is hardly what real church is all about. A better name for this type of gathering would be to call it a “Celebration Service.” Think of it like going to a concert. When lots of people are gathered with the same heart and mind, there is a dynamic happening. The vibes are good.

The Sunday gathering should not replace Church, because Church is when the family of believers gathers together. If you base your family experience on a Sunday morning event, you don’t have a true family experience. The reason is that there is no time for good fellowship. You don’t really get to know one another in a meaningful way. You also don’t have time to share what God has been teaching you and to hear from others. Also, a family should share each other’s joys and sorrows. We need to make time for all of what Church is meant to be.

by Tina Morley

Click here for part 2

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