What Must Be Preserved of the Churches of Christ? (Singing, Part 4)

churchofchristThere’s a pretty good argument from 1 Corinthians 14 that the purpose of the assembly is for us to “edify” one another. Paul also speaks in terms of encouragement, strengthening, and comfort, but edification is the recurring theme that holds the chapter together. Hebrews 10:25 supports the thesis.

“Edify” means to build up, but it tells us nothing about what that means. Is this about building up my self esteem? My courage? My holiness? My humility?

Is the goal for me to leave “spiritually fed” so that I’m nourished to get through another week. Is this a spiritual pit stop?

I would like to suggest a hypothesis. I think the central purpose of the assembly is the spiritual formation of the congregation, that is, so that the congregation will become more and more like Jesus.

I could give you some scriptures, but what fun would that be? Rather, I’ll pose this as a question. What is the central purpose of the assembly — and why?

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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11 Responses to What Must Be Preserved of the Churches of Christ? (Singing, Part 4)

  1. Tom Forrester says:

    I like your hypothesis, although I had not considered a congregation becoming Christlike. I do remember the letters in Revelation to the seven churches describing what they were doing both right and wrong. However, ultimately I’ve thought in terms of the individual members becoming Christlike. I’m thinking (hoping) we will be judged apart from the congregation we assemble with which has members both Christlike and not. I have found that loving and relating with members of my congregation is much harder than out in the world. So perhaps it’s a good testing ground for becoming Christlike while learning from other men and women who demonstrate Christ in their lives.

  2. Alan says:

    I think Ephesians 4 sums up the goals of the assembly pretty nicely.
    – to prepare God’s people for works of service
    – unity in the faith and knowledge of the Son of God
    – becoming mature
    – attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ

    Strictly speaking the passage addresses the purpose of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. But of course those would also outline the edification that should occur in the assembly.

    Heb 10:24-25 also addresses the purpose of assembly
    – spur one another on towards love and good deeds
    – encourage one another (towards love and good deeds)

    And of course there’s 1 Cor 14.

    1Co 14:12 So it is with you. Since you are eager to have spiritual gifts, try to excel in gifts that build up the church.

    1Co 14:26 What then shall we say, brothers? When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church.

  3. Price says:

    Rom 12:5… We who are many are one body in Christ, and individually, members of one another.” Perhaps the edification, exhortation and encouragement..the building up… is for both the individual and for the group as a whole… Interesting question.

  4. Mark says:

    I think the assembly for Jewish Christians came right from the synagogue gathering comprised of some psalms, reading the Torah and Prophets if they had part of a scroll. Hearing a commentary on the reading. Perhaps a prayer.

    The real worship occurred at the Temple.

  5. Eddie says:

    In our tradition we are taught that we assemble for the purpose of worship and edification is the natural outcome or result of the worship. I’ve heard it taught many times that if we don’t leave edified from the worship, then it is because we have a spiritual problem. However, I’ve yet to find a single NT passage that says our assembly is for the purpose of worship!

    As Jay has observed, it seems to me the Bible teaches the exact opposite. We should assemble to edify and to be edified and worship is the result. Aren’t we cheating ourselves by getting this backwards?

  6. Charles McLean says:

    I wonder if we are correct to try to define a specific intent for “the assembly”. The idea that “the assembly” is a singular and unique event presumes what we have already created to be a given. It presumes that second century church practice was intended to somehow a fixed and central part of church life. What if the body of Christ in your town met for coffee, and while repairing a widows house, and at backyard barbecues, and in large citywide events, and in classrooms, and in workplaces? Are there “assembly purposes” for these “assemblies”? What if the only thing form of gathering we did NOT employ was the modern “Sunday morning service”(SMS)?

    I think we are to encourage and upbuild one another as a ubiquitous part of our lives. This is not specific and particular to the SMS. If we really do identify this gathering as “the place we encourage each other and upbuild each other”, is it possible that this assumption does as much harm as good? We continue to struggle to get the SMS to meet as many needs as possible: biblical instruction, fellowship, mutual edification, reinforcement of orthodoxy, gathering of money, worship, vision-casting, parenting support and augmentation, cohesion of demographic sub-groups to the larger group, separating to meet the distinct needs of the sub-groups, and leadership development. So, trying to describe a single purpose in all this may produce something so generic as to provide no real direction to that two-hour time slot.

    Perhaps we could more profitably spend time re-imagining how the church gathers and the general philosophy and benefits of our gathering (as opposed to “gatherings“, a very different thing). Instead of trying to figure out how to refine and improve a meeting which is already entirely overburdened and consumes vast resources, perhaps we could rethink the whole approach.

    We seem to need the benefits of an entire toolbox, while insisting that every tool we use must reside in our Swiss Army Knife, which we only take out of the drawer once a week, on Swiss Army Day. The answer to this dilemma is probably not to be found in a newly re-purposed knife.

  7. Ray Downen says:

    Jay: “I think the central purpose of the assembly is the spiritual formation of the congregation, that is, so that the congregation will become more and more like Jesus.” I agree. And if we are like Jesus we will care about one another and about others. Unselfish. Not self-centered. Not demanding our own way. Helping others accomplish what they want to do for Jesus. Jesus went about doing good, healing, teaching, sharing good news. We should seek to help one another live as Jesus lived. And, by all means, we individually should live as He lived and love as He loved.

  8. Jen says:

    Charles McLean,
    Have you read Frank Viola’s book, Reimagining Church?

  9. Love it. Frank has a really great perspective on the function of the church. His “Pagan Christianity” is also a good read.

  10. Jen says:

    Yes, I’ve read some of “Pagan Christianity”. Both books have really made me think about what we’ve been conditioned to believe. I was raised in the church and have raised my family in the church, but I have a lot of questions right now.

  11. Doug says:

    The church I go to during the winter does some hi-tech edifying. They frequently show a well produced video of some members of the church who have been changed by their encounter with Jesus. This is not limited to the father or the mother but also includes the children (children are shown but do very little speaking). I think this is one reason the church is growing so rapidly as Christians are encouraged and enthused about lives being changed via their church. This video is worked into the overall fabric of the worship time and I think it usually fits extremely well. If the Church isn’t producing change, it’s a pretty sure sign of a sick church. We’ve made Church a duty instead of an opportunity.

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