Friday, July 29, 2011

When Should We Meet Together?

Once you start reading the New Testament it becomes clear that the original followers of Jesus had only one day set aside for worship, fellowship, teaching and community. That day was called "Every day".

For example, the book of Acts tells us that "every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts." (Acts 2:46) We also know that "the churches were strengthened in the faith and grew daily in numbers." (Acts 16:5).

The author of Hebrews calls for Christians to "encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness." (Hebrews 3:13)

Paul the Apostle took a handful of followers of Jesus to the lecture hall of Tyrannus and "had discussions daily" (Acts 19:9).

When the Grecian Jews complained that their widows weren’t being cared for it was in regards to the "daily distribution of food" to the poor which the apostles themselves were performing as true servants. (Acts 6:1)

When the Bereans were commended it was because "they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true." (Acts 17:11)

This really should come as no surprise to us, however. Jesus stressed that only those who "take up (their) cross daily" could follow him (Luke 9:23) and he taught his disciples to pray daily and to ask for "daily bread". (Matt 6:11)

A good friend responded recently pointed out that neglected to mention Acts 20:7 which indicates that the early Christians met on the “first day of the week” to share a meal and to hear Paul speak since he was about to go away the next day. (This is the infamous gathering where our poor brother Eutychus fell asleep and rolled out of the upstairs windows into the street below).

I will concede that, yes, it is apparent that the early church did see an importance to gathering on the first day of the week. However, I think we still don't grasp how much their expression of faith was so deeply ingrained in their daily lives.

To us, that "first day of the week" gathering is nearly the only time we think about things like discipleship, community, evangelism, compassion, worship, studying God's Word, fellowship, etc. However, the early church saw these things as daily activities, not once-a-week rituals.

So, if you take into account that the early, New Testament church was experiencing a daily community, and a daily study of God's Word, and engaged in daily discipleship, and daily distribution of food to the poor, and meeting together daily to fellowship and pray and sing and encourage one another, etc. THEN we can grasp how significant it is that they ALSO made a point to get together on the first day of the week to share a meal together.

I have to believe that if you and I were doing all that they were doing, we'd probably set aside the first day of the week as a special day where we DIDN'T gather together. I think we’d want to find a special day where we had a break from all that meeting and gathering and constant community. At least, I think I might.

Yes, the early church did set aside the first day of the week for sharing a meal together, and that was important to them, but it should be seen as yet another example of their astounding commitment to Christ - and to one another – not as evidence to justify our own lack of commitment.

So, instead of arguing over what day of the week we should worship or gather or teach, perhaps we should stop and realize that, according to the New Testament, every single day of our lives should be devoted to God, and to the community of faith. We need to be the Church every day of our lives, not simply attend one each week.


"Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ." - Colossians 2:16-17

*This article appeared here previously in October, 2009.


Alan Knox said...


Thanks for this post. It's a very good summary of Scripture that shows that the early followers of Jesus gathered together regularly... more regularly than once per week.

Here are two interesting things I've noticed about Acts 20:7.

1) Acts 20:7 does not say that the believers in Troas ONLY gathered together on Sunday. Instead, it was at that particular time (just before he left) that Paul spoke together with them for so long.

2) While many focus on the believers in Troas gathering together on SUNDAY in Acts 20:7, they often miss the purpose of their gathering: to eat together. They did not come together to hear Paul speak; they came together to share a meal.


Nancy said...

Thank you for your insight on these matters. I have found your articles to be very interesting and informative. Keep it up! You've got a new reader in me!
Nancy Fleck

brettact2 said...

I appreciated the points of your posting. I thought it odd that you used the Colossian scripture to close it. Do you have a new sabbath keeper in your midst that you are trying to correct? Using Col 2:16 won't work. Colossians was written to combat the Gnostic influences the church was under. They held to Plato's dualism, with the material world insignificant and saw no value in religious practices. They were judging the Colossian church for their observance of the Biblical calendar. The Gnostic focus was on spiritual experiences as the only reality. The Colossian church was following in the Apostles doctrine.