Less Gathering, More Going?
This is part of a series on the importance of the local church and the importance of a believer belonging to a local church. Before we get into those things, there are a few other things I thought merits some attention. I want to briefly consider those things as a way of clearing the table for the main discussion.
Since I can recall there has always been a latent irritation about the stationary, localized and organized nature of the local church, especially from those who are of a more adventurous nature or let’s be generous and say a “missionary mindset”. The motto among some believers for many years has been “less gathering, more going”. Since my time at seminary I’ve been hearing how the church must stop being bound to its four walls and ‘do’ more and ‘go’.
Now, it’s usually true that every local church can do more and go more. Yet, to dismiss the activity that occurs in the confinements of the four walls of the church in favor of doing more outside is to demonstrate great naivety and ignorance. The manner in which the local church and missions are dealt with by many would lead one to think that the two are mutually exclusive. Whereas the blessed reality is that we do not need to choose between “having church” and “going into the world”. We need both of these activities and we need to emphasize both “having church” and “going into the world”.
It is possible that a local church can be very content and complacent in having services without doing services but that is not a mark of a healthy church. A healthy church is one where believers are regularly gathering together in fellowship to listen to the preaching of the Bible, breaking bread together, singing praises to God together, and praying. These rich times of fellowship are then to empower the believer (and the church as a whole) to fulfill their biblical responsibilities outside the local church, at home, at work and to be a bold witness wherever and to whomever. The absence of active believers outside the church is not remedied by calling for less church or becoming indifferent to the church.
One of the amazing features in the book of Acts are the many…how can I put it…ACTS! Yet, these acts we see does not happen in a vacuum but is birthed out of a healthy focus on the local church. What precedes the great evangelistic effort of Peter in Acts 2 is the gathering together for fellowship and worship of the local church. Luke writes: “When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place” (Acts 2:1). What follows this great revival and large scale conversion is the gathering of themselves together as a church. Immediately after Luke informs us that 3000 were converted he writes; “And they continued steadfastly in the apostles doctrine, and fellowship, in the breaking of bread and in prayer” (Acts 2:42).
In other words, after such a remarkable outreach they didn’t focus less on being a local church but more on being a local church. In fact, what followed this time of fellowship and worship was Peter and John healing a cripple man and getting an opportunity to proclaim the gospel again (Acts 3). If we move through the book of Acts what we will find is the effectiveness of the church outside has a lot to do with the health of the church inside. It wasn’t indifference to the local church that made the apostles effective outside the church it was the building up of the local church that made them effective outside the church.
The motto “less gathering and more going” suffers from a theologically and practically lopsided disposition. It inadvertently villainizes the local church and unknowingly makes the going, the doing and the outside effectiveness of the church morally superior than gathering together for fellowship and worship. To me it’s clear the one feeds the other.