Monday, December 03, 2012

The Meeting Is About Mutuality

I have been reading, and thus far thoroughly enjoying, a book by Jerry Bridges titled True Community: The Biblical Practice of Koinonia. One of the things I like best about this book, other than getting it free for Kindle, is that his focus so far in the book is on the reality of our community in Christ by virtue of being in Christ rather than on how we meet or live with one another. If we get that wrong, the actual practice of living in community is irrelevant and I think that is where some community focused groups go astray, by putting community ahead of commonality in Christ.

While reading today I came across this quote and thought it was worth sharing....

The admonition of Hebrews 10: 24-25 — “Let us not give up meeting together” — is not fulfilled merely by attending church on Sunday morning, as is so often supposed. Rather, it is fulfilled only when we follow through with the instruction to encourage, spur on, or stimulate one another. This cannot be done sitting in pews, row upon row, listening to the pastor teach. It can be done only through the mutual interchange of admonishment and encouragement. This is not to diminish the importance of the teaching ministry of our pastors; the Bible makes it quite clear that their ministry holds a vital place in our lives (see, for example, Ephesians 4: 11-12; 1 Thessalonians 4: 1; 1 Timothy 3: 2; 5: 17; 2 Timothy 4: 2). But we need both the public teaching of our pastors and the mutual encouragement and admonishing of one another. It is the latter that seems to be the main thrust of Hebrews 10: 24-25.

Bridges, Jerry (2012-09-14). True Community: The Biblical Practice of Koinonia (Kindle Locations 789-795). Navpress. Kindle Edition.

That is excellent. Even as he affirms  the value of teaching from elders (although I would say that the teaching of elders is less about formal sermons and more about teaching through example) he also recognizes that  the oft used canard that Hebrews 10:24-25 is talking about "going to church" on Sunday is missing the point. Most traditional church settings make it quite difficult to interact with one another at all, much less stir one another up or encouraging one another. We gather together but not for the reasons the Bible lays out. In fact I would say...

The gathering of the church is not about "worship", it is about mutual edification and encouragement 

We miss this to our detriment. I don't think it is an exaggeration to say that most Christians come out of the Sunday gathering feeling good but not one iota more equipped to engage the lost or serve the poor. We wonder why people don't share their faith or go on missions or serve the poor after years or decades of "worship services" but never get to the point where we question the "worship service" itself. We just prescribe more of the same and act puzzled at the results.

You may say that good teaching is equipping and I would conditionally agree. There are plenty of people with barely a basic understanding of the fundamental truths of the faith, including many people in the simple/organic church movement. I would go so far as to say that there are some prominent voices in the simple/organic church movement that go out of their way to deny fundamentals of the faith and see that as being a sign of maturity. So teaching is crucial and elders should be teaching but that teaching cannot be exclusively or even primarily traditional teaching methods. Most people just don't learn what they need to that way. What we see modeled in the Bible seems more like "on the job training", learning by imitation, than learning by lecture.

Bottom line, if we are not engaged in mutual edification and exhortation and encouragement when the church gathers, we aren' doing it right and something crucial and Biblical is missing. Likewise we cannot keep trotting out the same old substitutions for community and mutuality and then pine for a more active church. Sermons aren't enough!

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