Modern Christians talk about “going to Church.” What does that mean? What do Christians do when they “go to Church?” What is the purpose of the Assembly?

As in all areas of our religious lives, our theology determines our methodology. In other words, what we understand about God determines how we interact with God (ecclesiology and liturgy), how we interact with our world (missiology), and how we interact with our own sinfulness (soteriology).

For example, if we believe that the purpose of our assembling together is “to worship God”, that God is the audience, and that everything must be directed toward Him, then that understanding will radically affect what we do when we assemble together. Our songs will be in the first person (e.g., we exalt You), our thoughts will be directed vertically, and our comments around the Table will have a vertical emphasis.

Some might argue that an overemphasis in this direction will lead to an individualistic approach to our assembling. You might hear comments such as, “my needs are not being met,” or, “I don’t feel like I have fully worshiped the Lord after I leave that church,” or, “when other people talk, whisper, clap, shout, stand up, sit down, sing during communion [and so on], I can’t worship God.”

If, on the other hand, we believe that the purpose of our assembling is “to edify the Body of Christ,” then that understanding will also radically affect what we do. Our songs will be in the third person, directed to “one another.” Our thoughts will include what is healthy and beneficial to the people of God who are present. Our goal will be to honor God by building the faith of His people. Our comments around the Table will include a horizontal emphasis.

Someone holding to this view of our assembling might say things like, “our assembling is not necessarily designed to meet your individual needs,” or, “if you want to worship God in such an individualistic, intimate, and private manner, you ought to do so in the privacy of your own closet!” (Isn’t that what the Lord taught us?)

So which is it Church? What is our theology regarding our assembling together? What is the purpose of our assembling? Is the only assembling that we legitimately do our “Sunday worship service?” Is that “THE assembly” with all other assembling being something else? (Does the Bible even talk about THE assembly?)

How we answer these questions will inevitably affect how we conduct ourselves when we assemble. My job as a Preaching Minister is to help us make sure that we are getting our theology (i.e., the answers to these questions) from God’s Word and not from our cultural model of Church, our erroneous preconceptions, or from our own personal opinions/tastes.

I challenge you to study your Bible carefully and try to determine precisely why the early Christians gathered themselves together each week. What was the purpose of their assemblies? Is the New Testament emphasis on worship (vertical) or is it on edification (horizontal)?

Go ahead, take a close look. You may be surprised by what you find.