Why Do We Gather

The book of Hebrews instructs Christians not to neglect meeting together (10:25). The Christian community immediately following the departure of Christ established the tradition of gathering at least once each week–on Sunday morning–to encourage one another and worship by means of hearing the word, singing psalms and hymns, praying, and participating in baptism and communion. So as followers of Christ we have it both as command and tradition that we should gather regularly for worship.

We can’t recapture all the words that were taught in those early churches. No doubt they were directed towards the unique concerns and shortcomings of the early church (as evidenced by the writing of the epistles), and no doubt the teaching varied in its “flavor” due to variations in the education of those who taught, the variety of gifts of those who taught, and their various interests and vocations, since many who taught would not have been vocational Bible teachers.

But it seems clear that their gathering was to encourage one another. Their gathering was an expression of their devotion to apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. In other words, the clear example and teaching of the New Testament is that Christians gathered for their own good. To be built up in doctrine and in love. To be encouraged in faith and perseverance.

This is all very important to keep in mind when pastors sit down to begin planning and designing their community’s Sunday morning gathering. The goal of the gathering is primarily for the building up of the community of believers. This starting point trickles down to the music that is chosen, the text that is preached, whether a pastor will even choose a specific text to be preached, the videos that are shown (or not), and the prayers that are prayed. This starting point will be reflected in the illustrations that are used in preaching, the doctrines that are taught (or not), and the explanations that occur between the various elements of the service. In all of this planning, the building up of the community of faith must remain central.

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