Most churches spend our energy and resources providing a great Sunday experience. It might be a cathedral with pipe organ, or a rented hall with a band, but most of a church’s time and money goes into what happens at the weekend service.
So, you’d expect the New Testament to guide us on how to do church. It doesn’t.
Ephesians says heaps about the church, with no instruction on what to do when we meet. Search Colossians, Philippians, Thessalonians, and Galatians. Nothing?
What about a longer letter like Romans? Nada. What should we make of this disparity? Is it our fault (we’re focused on the wrong thing), or Paul’s (he missed the main deal)?
Let me throw you a lifeline. There is one letter where Paul discusses church meetings, and it’s a significant chunk: 1 Corinthians 11 – 14.
The trouble is that Paul isn’t prioritizing their meetings. He’s correcting them. Their meetings send the wrong message to their city. They’d be better off without their church meetings, for your meetings do more harm than good (1 Corinthians 11:17).
This entire block (1 Corinthians 11 – 14) aims to turn the church inside out. They’re trying to win Corinth by showing the city how amazing they are (status). As a result, they don’t even see the people who are weak and dying at their own table (11:30). They use spiritual gifts for bragging rights, so they’ve missed the whole point: serving earth’s true ruler (head), and functioning as his corporate presence (body) in his earthly realm (12, 14).
At the heart of this whole section, Paul redirects their focus from church meetings to the true purpose of the church. The church doesn’t exist to meet; it exists so the world can experience love. Everything we do in our meetings is meaningless if we’re focused on the meeting itself, if we’re not spending our resources and our very selves on loving people (13).
The church embodies the hope of the world. Realizing that hope requires growing out of the me-focused immaturity of broken humanity, growing into community where everyone is known and understood. The endgame is knowing fully, as we are fully known (13:10-12).
This communal life grows out of faith, commitment to life under Jesus as head of the community (instead of to the self).
That faith-commitment to Jesus produces a love-commitment to people who belong under his kingship. It’s tough loving like that in a world where selfish people are not yet following the way of love.
Apparently church meetings are not a priority. We exist to embody faith, hope, and love. Which matters most?
Should our meetings be about inspiring each other with ways we’ve found to love God by loving our neighbours?
[next: Kingdom or Church?]