Two Christians gather to have coffee: Is that the church? Five or six people gather to read the Bible: Is that the church? We gather to hear a pastor preach and we sing some: Is that the church? What does it mean to gather as the church? The Protestant Reformers concluded that there were three marks of the church (preaching of the Word, administration of the sacraments and church discipline). The focus here is more on the authority the pastor exercises, but says very little on congregational life.
So why do we gather? We gather together because by God’s grace we belong together. We have all heard, and responded to, the one gospel, and we are united as members in the one body. The essential aim of the gathering is to worship the God and to encourage and grow one another as followers of Jesus Christ. There is sharing food, making prayer, offering praise, and bringing out Biblical teachings, testimonies of God’s grace at work in our lives and the singing of Psalms, hymns and spiritual songs (with gratitude in our hearts). We can add to that preaching and the sacraments. We participate in something beyond ourselves. The Lord Jesus is the rule and the authority of any gathering. Where the body gathers He is the invited and welcomed participant. We don’t merely gather as like-minded people, but as followers of Jesus Christ.
What are some of the expectations should we have when we gather as the church, in whatever size group that might be? An interesting question.
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