God never designed our gatherings to be complex, in fact it was the simplicity of just loving that the early disciples who followed Jesus struggled with. Have you ever considered that the rich man that came to Jesus might have thought that his wealth would be attractive to the ministry of Jesus! but Jesus told him to give it all away and leave it all behind. Jesus came to establish a body, a family that would simply love Him, each other and all humanity.
In the season of pandemic we have seen the gatherings of saints stripped back to the very basics and in this place we have occasion to stop, listen and ask ourselves the all important questions.
- What did God design us to be within the body of Christ?
- When we gather what is the desired outcome of our being together?
- Do we come to spectate or participate?
- How can we fulfil the “One Another” passages of New Testament scripture in our gathered setting?
There are probably many more questions we could ask but maybe its are task to just keep it simple.
Jesus made it very clear that the His body, the Church would impact the world by love and more specifically by love for one another. Therefore He established the Body of Christ, the family of God, the manifestation of the Kingdom on earth.
John 13:35 “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
The early church of the first two centuries was dynamic and simple. It lived its life as a family and focused itself on loving one another. It simply obeyed the command of Jesus to “Love one another” and the results were astounding with massive growth even when subjected to persecution, loss of property and death.
2 Thessalonians 1:3-4 We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brethren, as is only fitting, because your faith is greatly enlarged, and the love of each one of you toward one another grows ever greater; therefore, we ourselves speak proudly of you among the churches of God for your perseverance and faith in the midst of all your persecutions and afflictions which you endure.
It probably wasn’t long before the enemy of the body recognised that the only effective way to slow down this movement (it couldn’t be stopped) was to stop or reduce its core ministry of love. When the Emperor Constantine made Christianity the state religion he took the church out of its homes and placed them into the old pagan temples. He removed the priestly ministry of all believers and invested it in the few selected individuals, the experts, who would deliver the spiritual to the masses.
The body entered into decline, its spirituality waning and its love failing to move the mountains that Jesus had promised would be moved. The spiritual gifts declined and almost became obsolete, for why would the Spirit distribute gifts for the edification of the body, when brothers and sisters are no longer trusted to minister and deliver those gifts of edification.
Throughout this period there were small groups of believers who understood the call to love and then in the reformation the restoration of the priesthood of all believers was once again restored. The enemy of the church needed to prevent this going to far and worked hard to keep the reformation from going the distance. Having identified early in the lives of the apostles the desire for “positions” the enemy focused on promoting a complex leadership model that gave individuals power and position with titles that gained them esteem in the body.
The reformation of the church did not go far enough! Today the church remains hampered by its inability to facilitate our Lords great command to “Love One Another”
I’m not suggesting that we don’t love each other but we are so isolated from ministering “one to another” that its so easy for our love to be less than the intended Brightness of His Glory that will shake the earth!
Our gatherings should be an occasion for all to have opportunity to minister. The usual church service sees one individual deliver truth from the Word for maybe 30 or 40 minutes. This ministry is usually held by the church leaders who preach each week and very often its the individual leader of the church who preaches nearly every week.
In our gatherings there are many who have been gifted to deliver a Word of truth and there should be freedom for those individuals to deliver as the opportunity arises. The longer preaching or teaching can be delivered in a different setting. So in our gatherings we may have a multiplicity of words delivered to the body. Maybe short 5 minute messages from the Word form the many rather than the few. Then on occasions the Spirit may direct otherwise but He will always distribute gifting in a gathering where all are free to minister one to another.
1 Corinthians 14:26 What is the outcome then, brethren? When you assemble, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification.
I have met many men who are bursting with truth from the Word. Men who are ready to edify brothers and sisters with truth from the very throne of God. Sadly they sit in a meeting looking at the “experts” delivering each week and being unable to minister. How easy it is to become disillusioned and leave that meeting place, setting up another church that’s just like the one they left and becoming the “expert” who now can minister but to the exclusion of others.
Brothers and sisters we need to bring ministry back to each member of the body and in doing so we must not seek to take possession for ourselves. Our elders need to be those who will be zealous to see the body minister one to another and step down in service to see the command of our Lord made manifest amongst us that we would “Love One Another”
1 Corinthians chapter 12 & 13