As we’ve looked through many early writings, we’ve seen various descriptions of early church meetings. Each author had their own reason for writing about church gatherings.
Some writers focused on the activities that occurred during the meeting: reading Scripture, singing songs, instructing and exhorting one another, collecting and distributing to those in need, eating a meal together.
Some writers focused on the reasons for believers to gather together: protection from the works of Satan, protections from sin, discussing things that lead to mutual benefit.
Many of the writers encouraged frequent meetings and harmony between brothers and sisters who come together.
Some of the writers seemed to indicate mutual service while others placed more responsibility in the hands of one or more believers (the bishop, the presbyters, or the president).
What do we make of all of these different descriptions of early church meetings? First, we should recognize that different groups of believers met in different ways. Second, we should recognize that we should return to Scripture to determine how believers should meet together. While these early writings help us understand the history of the early church, they were not and should not now be accepted as Scripture. Yes, some were thought to be Scripture early on, but they were generally accepted only by some groups of believers but not accepted universally.
So, as we continue to study church meetings, we should study this historical records, and then compare them to Scripture. What does Scripture say about activities during the meeting of the church? What does Scripture say about the purpose of the meeting of the church? Who does Scripture say is responsible for the meeting of the church?
In the next week or so I will be working on a series to discuss these questions. Since I have examined different writers concerning their view and descriptions of early church meetings, I plan to balance those views by looking at the passages of Scripture that discuss or describe the meeting of the church. We should be able to compare and contrast the scriptural view of the meeting of the church both with the views of these early church writers as well as our own views.
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Alan Knox is a PhD student in biblical theology at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and a web developer. His interests include PHP and ecclesiology. His dissertation topic is the purpose of the gathering of the church in the New Testament. By God’s grace, he tries to live what he is learning about the church.
He writes about how our understanding of the church affects (or should affect) the way the we live our lives among other brothers and sisters in Christ. He's found that many aspects of our understanding of church (gathering, leading, teaching, etc.) are woven together such that it’s almost impossible to focus on only one aspect.
Find out more on his website, The Assembling of the Church.