Scriptures

Are Christians Commanded To Come Together ‘Outside’ Of Worship?

Introduction

I want to say from the beginning that this study isn’t focusing on whether Christians should meet together for worship on the first day of the week, Sunday, Acts 2:42 / Acts 20: / 1 Corinthians 16:2 / Revelation 1:10.

It isn’t designed to put Christians on some kind of ‘guilt trip’ either, it isn’t focused on encouraging better attendance during worship. I’m fully aware that some Christians work and have other commitments and i’m fully aware that some Christians are in isolation.

The focus of this study is to discover if the Scriptures actually command Christians to come together ‘outside’ of worship times.

The Early Church Came Together For Other Reasons

We know that Peter and John went to Samaria and laid hands on the Samaritan Christians, so they could receive the Holy Spirit, Acts 8:14-17. In Acts 12, some Christians got together to pray for Peter who had been imprisoned by Herod. Acts 12:5 says that the whole church was praying for Peter constantly. Acts 12:12 says that Peter went to the home of Mary, mother of John Mark, where a group of Christians were praying.

Paul and Barnabas gathered the church in Antioch together so they could report what God had accomplished through them, Acts 14:27.

The Early Church Came Together Daily For Other Reasons

The first Christians met daily in the temple and ate together in one another’s homes, Acts 2:46. The Christians were united and met regularly at Solomon’s Porch, an area of the temple, Acts 5:12.

The Greek speaking Jewish widows complained about being neglected in the daily distribution of food, Acts 6:1. Paul spent some days with the disciples at Damascus, Acts 9:19. Paul had daily discussions with the disciples in the lecture hall of Tyrannus, Acts 19:9.

We know that the church in the beginning met daily for various reasons, Acts 2:46, and we know this couldn’t continue for practical and obvious reasons, and so for the same practical and obvious reasons, I think it would be unreasonable to ask the church to meet daily.

A Blast From The Past

When I first became a Christian, one of the things that really impressed me was the level of commitment the Christians had toward God and one another.

The congregation I was a member of had activities going on six days a week, not 24 hours a day, but something was happening at different times, six days a week, they had Sunday evening meetings, ladies Bible classes, men’s Bible classes, a youth group, worship training, preaching training, coffee mornings, etc.

Throughout the year they had special meetings and guest speakers organised for outreach, Gospel meetings, men’s days, ladies’ days, fellowship days, fun days, etc. I’m’ not saying that this was the perfect church and I’m not saying they were ‘holier’ than other churches, or ‘holier’ than some congregations today, but what I am saying is that there was no doubt that this congregation loved the Lord, loved spending time with each other and loved the lost in the community.

Worrying Trend

Sadly, over the past ten years or so, I’ve noticed a worrying trend, where most congregations don’t meet on Sunday evenings anymore, some don’t have mid-week Bible studies and those who do have mid-week Bible studies, the attendance is usually very low.

Some congregations don’t have any outreach programmes or ‘special meetings’ throughout the year and sadly some congregations just meet on the Lord’s Day for worship, although some will have a Bible study before or after worship.

I’m sure you know of other congregations that were once very active and I’m sure that some of our communities have noticed that the only time our church building doors are open are on a Sunday morning.

The Importance Of Meeting Outside Of Worship Times

I can’t speak for all Christians, but I do know some Christians, including myself, who aren’t as spiritually strong as some may think, you can call me a ‘weak’ Christian if you like, but I personally need that time throughout the week with my Christian family, Proverbs 16:18.

I need that time because of my past activities before I became a Christian, to help me fight the addictions I had. Spending more time with my church family, helps keep my mind off worldly desires, 2 Timothy 2:22.

Spending time with my church family helps me, help others who are also struggling with worldly temptations, 1 Thessalonians 5:11, and the list could go on. There are some Christians who are hungry for God’s Word and they want to study with other Christians so that they can grow in their spiritual walk with Christ, Ephesians 4:11-13 / 2 Peter 3:18.

There are some Christians who are lonely and just want to enjoy the company of other Christians, Proverbs 18:24 / 2 Timothy 4:9-13. Other Christians simply want to enjoy some fellowship time to give and receive some encouragement from other Christians, Hebrews 3:13.

Lina Martell once sang a song called,

‘one DAY at a time sweet Jesus’,

and she’s right, because none of us know if we will be faithful tomorrow, most would like to think they will be, but who knows what tomorrow may bring which would really challenge our faith, Proverb 27:1 / Matthew 6:33-34 / James 4:13-15. Spending more time with other Christians will certainly help us stay faithful today.

Don’t Give Up Meeting Together

‘And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.’ Hebrews 10:24-25

What does the Hebrew writer mean here? The writer clearly tells us that Christians don’t live in isolation of one another, each individual Christian is responsible for encouraging one another to remain faithful to the Lord, Hebrews 3:12-13 / 1 Corinthians 12:26.

The word ‘consider’ means ‘to observe fully’, in other words Christians are to fully observe one another and they are to do this in order to spur, or provoke, one another and those who aren’t Christians, on toward love and good deeds, Galatians 6:10.

The point is there will be times where Christians need to meet together, outside of worship times because love needs to be encouraged and deeds need to be done.

How much time do we spend thinking about ways to motivate each other to do good things? It ought to be something that we actively consider for one another. One of the ways we do this is by taking advantage of every opportunity to meet together, so that we can encourage one another.

The Day

Now what is the ‘Day’ the writer is referring to? It could be argued that the writer is speaking about the end of the world, Judgment Day, Matthew 12:36 / Mathew 24:36-41, and it could be argued that the writer is speaking about the fall of Jerusalem and the temple in A.D. 70, Matthew 24:1-2.

I believe, it can also be argued that the ‘Day’ the writer is speaking about is the Lord’s Day, Sunday, Revelation 1:10, the day in which Christians gather together to worship the Lord, John 20:19-28 / Acts 2:42 / 1 Corinthians 16:2 / Acts 20:7 / James 2:2-4.

The Lord’s Day

1. One of the Christian’s greatest privileges and most important responsibility on the Lord’s Day, is to worship Him with His people.

Not only was the Old Testament Sabbath a day of worship, but we also have the command about

‘not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together’, Hebrews 10:25

And the apostolic example associated with this command is worship ‘on the first day of the week.’ Acts 20:7 / 1 Corinthians 16:2. 2. All our activities on Sunday should reflect the fact that it is ‘the Lord’s Day.’

Remember, according to Psalm 118:24, every day is ‘the day that the LORD has made’, but the Lord’s Day is the Day, which He has set aside for His people to come together to worship Him in spirit and truth, John 4:24.

Background Of The Hebrew Letter

The Hebrews letter was written about 30 years after the establishment of the church, and, the amazing days which followed ‘Pentecost’ were just a memory, and very little had changed religiously. The old Mosaic religion was still very much alive, the temple and the priesthood were still active, and there had been no mass conversion of Israel.

Not surprisingly, Jewish Christians had begun to fear that they had made a terrible mistake and were in danger of apostasy. That is the historic reality, and the letter both encourages them to be faithful, and warns them of the fearful consequences of turning back to Judaism.

Needless to say, that all manner of explanations has been offered to explain what ‘Day’ the writer is referring to. Because we know that Jerusalem and the Temple were destroyed a few years later, in A.D. 70, I’m not surprised that Millennialists of all shades want to see the ‘Second Coming’ and ‘the End of the World’, in this passage.

One of the early English commentators, Matthew Poole covered himself completely, by offering a whole range of ‘possibilities’, ranging from the destruction of the Temple to the End of the World, and, of course, it has also been explained as relating to the Roman attack on the city in that year.

But, if you didn’t know about that event, you couldn’t possibly find it in this chapter! It’s a case of finding an event which fits the passage!

1. The ‘Day’ is mentioned in terms that imply that it was something about which they knew and anticipated, and for which they should be prepared.

Just look at what the verse says, because the words are very interesting.

‘Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.’ Hebrews 10:25

I think that, if the writer had had the final Judgment in mind, he would have said something about its importance. And, although he says, ‘as you see the day approaching’, they certainly saw NO signs of the approach of the Return of Christ, or the End of the World.

2. The word he uses for ‘assembling’ is very significant. It’s the word ‘episunagoge’, and you see the word ‘synagogue’ in it.

The writer is careful to distinguish between the Jewish Worship and the Christian Worship, by using ‘episunagoge’ alluding to the day set aside for the assembly for worship, which the believers to whom the letter was sent, were neglecting because of their depressed state of mind.

We can find the noun form of the word only once more, in 2 Thessalonians 2:1, but the verb form, ‘to assemble’, occurs in at least half a dozen times in the Gospels, Matthew 24:31 / Mark 13:27 / Luke 13:34, places where it’s translated ‘gathered together’.

Ignatius, one of the so-called ‘early church fathers’, wrote that by the

‘assembling of yourselves together the powers of Satan are overthrown, and his mischief neutralized by your like-mindedness in the Faith!’

The Point

Notice that the Hebrew writer says that Christians are to

‘encourage one another as they see the Day approaching.’

In other words, this encouraging needs to be done throughout the rest of the week BEFORE the Day arrives, that’s what ‘as you see the Day APPROACHING’ means.

This surely implies that Christians need to meet together ‘outside’ of worship times, it doesn’t necessarily have to be a whole church meeting, but any kind of meeting where Christians gather together to meet to encourage each other and promote love and good deeds.

The problem the church is facing today is that we ‘wait until that Day has ARRIVED’, and then we try to squeeze in as much time together as we can to encourage one another.

We quickly say ‘hello’ to each other, because we need to take our seats and get prepared for worship, after worship some will get together to have a cup of tea and biscuit, but others will quickly say ‘goodbye’ to each other because they’ve got dinner in the oven and things planned for the rest of the day.

I understand that the practical aspects of what this means, encouraging one another throughout the week, before the Lord’s Day arrives, needs to be practiced more.

The bottom line is that, regardless of whether the verse relates to the end of the world, the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, or the Lord’s Day, believers should be encouraged, in all circumstances, not to neglect the regular ‘assembling of themselves’ together for worship. For more about the ‘Day’ mentioned in Hebrews 10:25, click here

About the Lord’s Return and the End of the Age, we can do nothing about, but we CAN do something about our attendance for worship on the Lord’s Day.

Other reason To Come Together

‘Therefore, if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.’ Philippians 2:1-4

Yes, we can achieve a lot on our own and yes, we can achieve a lot when a few people get together but can you imagine how much more we can achieve if we did it as a family, as a church?

Instead of 500 homes being leafleted, we can do 5000, if everyone was committed and involved. Instead of speaking to 30 people in the street about Jesus, we can speak to 300 people, if everyone was committed and involved.

I understand that people work on the evenings the church has a Bible study or prayer meeting, I understand that we’re all tired and some would prefer to watch their favourite T.V programme. I understand that not all of us love painting, cleaning the floor or making meals for others to eat.

But maybe, just maybe knowing that some have lost friends and relatives and in need of some comfort. Maybe just knowing that some are being persecuted at work or at school simply because they are Christians.

Maybe just knowing that some are spiritually starving and need some extra spiritual feeding. Maybe just knowing that some are weak and are carrying a heavy load of worries, and need some encouragement and love, a bit more than they are receiving at the moment.

Maybe just knowing that some really struggle with temptation and want to give in to that temptation at times. Maybe when we get to know each other a little bit more, we’ll realise just how important coming together outside of worship times really matters.

Maybe if we understood Paul’s words more, we would meet together more regularly as a family, because we understand we’re not thinking about ourselves, we’re looking out for someone else’s interests.

Are Christians Commanded To Come Together ‘Outside’ Of Worship?

Whether you agree that the Hebrew writer is speaking about the Lord’s Day or not, there are other passages which imply we need to get together more than once a week.

Did you know that there are over thirty New Testament commands that Christians can’t obey on their own? To obey these commands, we need to be around other Christians, take the following for example.

‘Love one another’. John 13:34-35

‘Serve one another.’ Galatians 5:13

‘Be kind to one another.’ 1 Thessalonians 5:15

‘Have fellowship with one another.’ 1 John 1:7

‘Offer hospitality to one another’. 1 Peter 4:9

‘Confess our sins one to another and pray for one another.’ James 5:16

‘Carry one another’s burdens.’ Galatians 6:2

‘Encourage one another’. 1 Thessalonians 4:18

‘Rejoice and mourn with one another.’ Romans 12:15

Remember our worship is focused on God, and although we edify one another through the reading of the Word and preach from the Word and sing songs about the Word, 1 Corinthians 14:26, our main focus is on God, John 4:23-24.

Now let’s be honest with ourselves here, there’s no way on Earth we can fully obey all these commands listed above, and there are many others, on a Sunday morning during worship. There’s no way we can obey all these commands in the space of two hours when we meet together each Lord’s Day.

If a Sunday morning is the only time when most Christians will meet other Christians in the space of a week, and sadly, it is for some, how can any Christian fully obey all these commands?

Yes, the Bible doesn’t say, ‘thou shall meet on another day of the week’, it doesn’t say, ‘thou shall come together every Wednesday for a Bible study’, etc, but the Bible clearly commands us to do a whole host of things together and for each other, which are almost impossible to fulfil in the space of a few hours each Lord’s Day.

I believe the church is paying the consequences for not fully obeying these commands, our communities notice that we’re not out helping them or sharing the Gospel with them, we have brethren who leave, because the church down the street is more active in sharing their faith and they get more fellowship time and study time with them.

I believe one of the reasons our congregations are dwindling in number is because the church doesn’t get together often enough, Christians only meet and see each other for a few hours a week.

The church was once known as the ‘people of the Bible’, but with our Bible studies is serious decline in attendance, I’m not sure if we can be known as ‘people of the Bible’ anymore.

I’m not saying that Christians aren’t being faithful and I’m not saying that Christians don’t study the Bible at home or on their own somewhere, but there appears to be a lack of Bible knowledge amongst some and they appear to be content with what they know and they lack a thirst to come together as a group to study, Matthew 5:6 / 1 Peter 2:2.

Many Christians have forgotten that coming together brings accountability, it’s a time to build relationships, it gives us an opportunity to comfort one another, 2 Corinthians 1:4, it gives us an opportunity to encourage one another, Romans 1:12, and share that unconditional love with each other.

The Curse Of Modern Technology

Modern technology can be such a blessing these days, where we can text, call or email someone in a moment and encourage each other greatly, but it does have it down sides. Rather than going to visit someone and meeting people face to face, everything has become very impersonal.

Don’t misunderstand me here, I believe it’s encouraging when someone calls, texts or emails you to ask how you’re doing, but there’s something about the ‘personal touch’ which speaks so much louder.

Remember the disciples didn’t have modern technology as a quick convenience, they personally went to the hungry and fed them, they personally went and gave a drink to the thirsty, they personally went and clothed those who had none, they personally went and helped the sick and visited those in prison, Matthew 26:34-40.

Conclusion

Like I said at the beginning of this study, it isn’t focused on putting Christians on a ‘guilt trip’, it isn’t focused on encouraging better attendance during worship. Its focus is to get us all to stop and think about spending more time together as Christians throughout the week, ‘outside’ of worship times.

Instead of giving a hundred reasons as to why Christians shouldn’t come together outside of worship times, I wanted us to ask the question, why don’t we give each other some good reasons as to why the church should come together more often throughout the week.

If we believe we’re fulfilling all the commands to continually love, serve, be kind, have fellowship, offer hospitality, confess our sins and pray, carry one another’s burdens, encourage, rejoice and mourn with one another, then God bless us, but if we’re honest with ourselves and believe that we can fulfil all these ‘only on the Lord’s Day’, maybe we need to think again! 2 Corinthians 13:5.

Maybe we need to start thinking about the example we’re setting our non-Christian neighbours and friends, our children and young people within the church, Proverbs 22:6.

‘But 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

 

DAILY BIBLE VERSE

"Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience."

Colossians 3:12

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