About Jesus - Steve (Stephen) Sweetman
Someone might ask you
what time does church start, but is that an appropriate, even Biblical question
to ask? You might answer
by saying church starts at a particular time, but is that an appropriate,
even Biblical answer?
Church is neither a
meeting nor a building. Church
is the community of individuals who have trusted their lives with Jesus,
in whom the Holy Spirit resides, and, whom Jesus has knitted together with
other such believers in personal, supportive, and functional relationships that
form His earthly physical body. I
believe 1 Corinthians 12 teaches us this.
If I'm correct on this issue, when does church really start?
Church doesn't start.
It has been in session for centuries.
The New Testament expression of church started when the Holy Spirit
came into the lives of the first disciples of Jesus, somewhere around nine
o'clock in the morning on one particular Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:15).
Church may have started at nine o'clock that morning, but it did
not end once the gathering of disciples was dispersed.
Church activity was ongoing, and more often than not, took place
outside the context of a meeting and a building, as seen in the Book of Acts.
When church does come
together in the form of a meeting it is to be participatory in nature (1
Corinthians 14). A meeting of
the church was never meant to be a spectator event where those in
attendance simply sit, listen, and watch.
Everyone is to have an opportunity to participate and are encouraged to exercise his or her gift of the Spirit (1
Corinthians 12:5 - 11), gift of Christ (Ephesians 4:11), or God-given
talent (1 Corinthians 12:6). Of
course, the exercising of these gifts and talents are to exist whether in
a meeting or outside of a meeting.
If what you have just
read has any practical significance for us today and is not just a matter
of semantics, allow me to say that it's the gathering of the church, and
not the church that starts. I
suggest, then, that we consider arriving at the meeting's designated start
time earlier or staying after the meeting ends to engage in fellowship.
Or, you can reformat your Sunday meeting to make
it more participatory in nature. It is what the early church did when it met together.
It engaged in fellowship, eating of meals, times of prayer, and
apostolic teaching (Acts 2:42).
Such activity would assist the development of personal, supportive
and functional relationships which are important, even foundational, to
the meaning of a local expression of the universal church.