Reassembling the Assembly

The question is often asked, "Do assembly principles apply to meetings held outside the assembly?" The answers vary greatly depending on who you ask. The real problem is that Scripture does not address such gatherings, and, as such, in the eyes of many we are left to our own thinking.

It is evident from Scripture that in the early New Testament church the local assembly was the gathering place. We read of the Christians "continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house." (Acts 2:46) The apostle Paul states, "I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have shewed you, and have taught you publickly, and from house to house," (Acts 20:20) It seems that the early Christians met in small house groups, each in itself being a "local assembly."

Without large buildings and the modern means of transportation we enjoy, and with many being servants and disowned converts, the saints were forced to gather locally and to make the most of their time together. No doubt, they looked forward to gathering with other believers, and welcomed each opportunity for corporate worship and prayer.

Today things are different. Saints are more affluent and modern transportation allows saints to live miles away from the assembly. "Local" now mean those saints gathering in an area of many square miles. In addition to allowing for high speed travel to the assembly, transportation also allows saints to go to events other than assembly gatherings. The assembly now has competition and is no longer the primary gathering center for many saints.

The assembly has been disassembled by age and sex into a number of groups. A variety of meetings and other activities held outside of the local assembly fill the calendar. In many of these gatherings New Testament principles of gathering are set aside. Women are no longer silent. Headcoverings are considered unnecessary.

It is not uncommon for those who faithfully attend such meetings and activities, many not arranged by the local assembly, to be sporadic in their attendance at the gatherings of the assembly, obviously placing a greater priority on these gatherings than on the local assembly.

Young people are separated from the older saints, in some cases, never coming together for any meeting. Youth are kept in Sunday School until they are well up in years and some rarely sit under the sound of the "preaching" of the Gospel. We should never wonder why a "generation gap" exists—we have created it!

Amazingly, despite all the different groups and gatherings inside and outside the assembly, many saints are not grounded in the Word, and often assembly principles are eventually set side in the assembly as well. It should also be noted that each gathering outside the assembly is an opportunity for error to creep in unawares.

What is the answer to the question asked at the beginning of this article? First, if we are going to divide the assembly into groups not envisioned in Scripture, shouldn’t we follow the principles of gathering that we are given? Second, maybe it is time to reassemble the assembly. To make the assembly the central place where saints are taught, and where saints pray together as "an assembly." (Acts 4:23-24) It might even mean doing away with some of the non-assembly gatherings, or not attending them, in order to place the proper priority on the assembly. We need a greater emphasis on corporate gatherings of the local assembly with all the saints coming together "in one place." (Acts 2:1)