The Early Church - Chapter 7 - How is Your Breaking of Bread?

Chapter 7 - How Is Your Breaking Of Bread?

Years ago many assemblies had their Breaking of Bread service in the morning at 11:00. After World War II many changed their schedule to have the Lord's Supper at 9:30 and a preaching service for adults with Sunday School at 11:00. Generally the feeling was that most people go to church at 11:00 and this schedule would attract outsiders. And in some cases it seemed to do so.

Then some suggested having the Lord's Supper Sunday evening. By having Sunday School at 9:30 teachers could profit from the message at 11:00. And the format would be more like most churches, making it more attractive to visitors. Why not do everything possible to attract the outsider? And certainly there is no time schedule in the Scriptures.

But as time has passed a disconcerting thing has happened, at least in some areas. The Sunday night Breaking of Bread has become one of the smallest meetings of the church. The big meeting now is at 11:00; the building may be comfortably filled. Many are regulars; they regard this as "my church." It satisfies their religious needs and costs them little. People are not pressed "to join" and there is no offering taken. Many come at no other time.

But should we not thank God that people at least come out at 11:00 and hear the Word? Is not that the main thing?

As one reads the early chapters of Acts he discovers not a congregation of nominal churchgoers but a group of highly committed disciples. Their faith was so fervent and radical that "fear came upon every soul" (Acts 2:43). Those who became saved and committed joined with them (Acts 2:47). "But of the rest dared no man join himself to them" (Acts 5-13a). It was hardly a popular group to join, this radical company following the Crucified One!

Their concern then was not to have a comfortable group of middle-class, 11:00 churchgoers but dedicated disciples. The whole group met for teaching, fellowship, the Breaking of Bread and prayer (Acts 2:42). The climax of their Sunday meeting was the Breaking of Bread when teaching which had sharpened their appreciation for God and His grace overflowed in enthusiastic worship and praise. Was not the cross central to their faith and hope (Gal. 6:14)? In those early days the disciples came together "to break bread" on the first day of the week (Acts 20:7). Worship was of primary importance.

Regardless of the time, if the Breaking of Bread is poorly attended it is a sign of feeble spiritual health. What can be done to restore life and vitality?
First of all choose a time when most of the saints can be present. Consider the elderly and infirm; the time should not exclude them. Teaching, worship and prayer should be available for all of God's people.

Second, be concerned that this time of worship be vibrant with spiritual reality and joy. Some meetings have the gloom of a morgue rather than the joy of the Lord. Singing should be animated and happy. Some of the newer songs and choruses can be most worshipful as well as the older hymns.

Third, encourage the sharing of the Word. The hymn book is opened too often and the Bible too little. At some meetings the Bible may never be used. A hymn, a prayer, a hymn, a prayer... The Word ministered in freshness by the Holy Spirit will stir hearts as nothing else. Brethren need to be in the Word on Saturday night instead of in the TV tube. "They shall not appear before the Lord empty" (Deut. 16:16).

There are advantages in not having a tight schedule following the Lord's Supper. The Holy Spirit loves to have time to speak to God's people. There may be a rousing exhortation. Or teaching, encouragement and comfort may build up God's people. Brothers need the time and liberty to speak God's Word (I Cor. 14:29).

We need to pray that the teaching and preaching at other meetings will be of such a prophetic quality that God's people will be stirred and motivated to true discipleship. We will then be a teaching, worshipping, praying and evangelizing church.