Archive for the ‘Gathering of Believers’ Category

Reformation Day 2013

Wednesday, October 23rd, 2013

Next week is Reformation week, containing Reformation Day, October 31 – the celebration of the event that is the source of all Protestant denominations.

Yet in 99% of North American churches, including the one I attend, nary a word will be spoken of this great event. It is truly a travesty and betrayal of all those saints and martyrs who went before us by the Grace of our Lord…


Reformation Day or Halloween?

Friday, October 30th, 2009

This time of year brings a strange situation that I have puzzled about for years – the non-starter of Reformation Day in almost all Protestant denominations and churches.

Fact -> If the pivotal event of Reformation Day had not occurred (by God’s grace, of course), then each and every single person in all Protestant denominational churches would today be a Roman Catholic or a non-believer, or both.

Fact -> Not only does Reformation Day and the events thereof go largely unnoticed and uncelebrated in most churches of 2009, but the church seems much more concerned with Halloween silliness than with any awareness of the events that shaped their church history (and still does).

What does this mean? What does it say about the church today?

I have, over the years, attended a number of churches – mostly Baptist and mostly Reformed to one degree or another. With one exception, they have proceeded to ignore the Reformation almost completely, as if the work of the Reformers of the 1500 and 1600s was largely unrelated to their freedom from Rome and their beliefs.

I have no explanation other than intellectual hubris and entitlement of the first order, and I just don’t understand it.

They look hither and yon for alternatives to Halloween, running about in many case with great anst over things are for the most part meaningless. At the same time, they ignore that which formed the foundation of their beliefs and which would provide something to celebrate in the Lord.

I can only attribute the phenomena to a subtle man centered philosophy that will concentrate on almost anything of flesh rather than celebrate the reality of spirit that has shaped the church.


Regulative Principles

Sunday, October 11th, 2009

A couple of verses that we have discussed before to start…

“And they were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” Acts 2:42.

Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” Colossians 3:16.

And there are numerous others addressing the assembling of the beloved in Christ.

The question is, are these regulative for the gathering of believers now? And what precisely are they describing?

As I stated in a a previous article, my interest in this was initially focused by several articles in the Canons of Dordt. In those sections it is pointed out that the believer can draw great assurance in the fact that they are assured of there standing before God by the very beliefs that saved them – in Christ and Him crucified (in the words of Paul), and not necessarily in other outward signs. Further, it is pointed out that believers should continue to diligently avail themselves of the ‘Means of Grace” that were provided by the Lord in support of their justification, sanctification and assurance.

In the two verses quoted above we find a Scriptural proscription not only for the assembling of the Saints, but even more for their ongoing life in Christ. I am more and more convicted that these specifications from Scripture are both regulative in nature and exclusive in scope. Moreover, there are no alternatives specified in Scripture.

The obvious counter argument is that these were culturally based, for those times alone, and thereby can be redefined today for modern times. However, I do not see any specifics of times and culture in them that would indicate that. In fact, the terms used are sufficiently general to define a model for life as opposed to some specific actualization of that cultural venue. That said, I reject that argument.

Next, am I implying a narrow reading of the principles that would imply a specific instrumentation (a big issue today) or style of hymnody? Not at all. Though I think that there are some restrictions implied, we are not talking about an RPW (Regulative Principle of Worship) which demands the accapella singing of KJV-only Psalms. In its restrictiveness, I think that would defy the regulative principles implied here just as much as many emergent approaches most certainly do.

We are talking about an ‘attitude’ model as much as anything else, and the actualization falls naturally from that, not the other way around.

What is that model? Well, let me close this post by parsing the verses above for the implied components:

1. devoted to the Apostles’ teachings – for us, the Scriptures
2. fellowship – notice that is fellowship in the teachings
3. breaking of bread (communion, not dinner)
4. prayer
5. Word dwell richly within you, (the Word) teaching and admonishing in
5.1 songs
5.2 hymns
5.3 spiritual songs
all rejoicing in thankfulness to God.

There you have it – a gathering focused upon the Lord in every way, directly and primarily through the Scriptures and things drawn from them – always looking up so to speak. Not a single word about anything at all of man – no mention of programs, books about programs and self-actualization, etc., etc.

These plus a few others that expand upon them embody the sole regulative model in Scripture and thereby the regulative model for God’s people, the beloved in Christ – a model for all time.


Proscriptive Principles of Small Groups

Friday, September 25th, 2009

In the previous post in this series it was proposed the paradigm for small assemblies from the early church was still applicable today. Further, there has been no other prototype given in biblical revelation that replaced that paradigm for Christian gatherings that properly support the growth of the believer in all required ways.

Any assumptions the contemporary social science has developed further or even superior paradigms that make biblical paradigms less sufficient or outdated in effect proposed that the Scriptures are incomplete, insufficient and in need of help, or all three. That is simply not part of our beliefs.

So, are small groups the answer to the apparent insufficiency of mass Sunday assemblies in supporting Christian growth biblically? I would have to answer with the proverbial yes and no.


Church Small Groups vs Biblical Gathering

Friday, September 25th, 2009

The contemporary church (mostly irrespective of denomination) has seen a legitimate need to minister to individuals outside of the usual Sunday Service and Sunday School. This comes from a realization that a mass gathering does not often reflect the mentoring requirements for individual Christian growth and accountability. This is valid realization since though the Bible makes clear that we are to study the scripture and be accountable in community, a large group generally stifles more intimate sharing and questioning.

In our time, however, this justification for mentoring and smaller group fellowship has often been combined with the theories and assumptions of both secular and New Age psychology surrounding personal growth, self esteem, group dynamics and the individual entitlement of man over the assembly. Not that these areas of study do not yield results for society, but they are frequently not based upon biblical principles and make very different assumptions about the status of man. They are at their root completely at odds with Biblical values.

Secular values are predominantly post-modern, with a relative value structure, an assumption that all truth is relative either societally or individually, and an entitle of the individual to self-drive actualization. Most congregants operate unconciously from a mindset which combines both these conflicting sets of values, with each set given almost equal weight or the post-modern more weight in actual life.

This is completely at odds with the Biblical truth of absolute universal laws and individual responsibility to precepts beyond individual entitlement of any sort.

Put more practically (and to use the biblical analogy of Isaiah 29:16 very loosely), society see the clay as entitled to a hearing and compliance from the potter, while the biblical truth of creation is precisely the opposite. with the potter is completely independent and sovereign over the clay, owing it nothing whatsoever (Isaiah 64:8, Jeremiah 18:4).

Why does this matter? It matters because the view point that current small group ministry grows from determines whether it can fill the need that the formal church does not, that of the smaller integrated fellowship described in the early church (see our previous post).

So, we have something of a quandary. Does the present small group structure in most churches address the Biblical proscription modeled in the early church gatherings – one based on wholly biblical precepts?

Let me also close this post by pointing out that this discussion does not discount the many wonderful benefits of fellowship in current groups. The question is whether they address the biblical model and any regulative principle that is implies, since all biblical principles are by definition important.


Gathering in the Beloved

Saturday, September 19th, 2009

Let us start with a biblical prototype for believer interaction – “…be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord;” Ephesians 5:18-19.

Notice that there is no indication at all that this is culturally or time period relative. That is, it is time independent prototype.

Now, continuing, we also have method. As we gather – “ Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” Colossians 3:16

And motivation to gather regularly – “…let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.” Hebrews 10:24-25.

So prototypically, we have believers gather together regularly to study and speak of the Word and the Lord, thankfully (and by implication humbly) rejoicing in Psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.

Further, the disciples modeled this in their behaviour once they were on their own after Pentecost – ” They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” Acts 2:42

And again ” Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart,” Acts 2:46. It is also significant to note the “Day by day continuing”. This was not something occurring only periodically, be that weekly or monthly. It was a daily mode of living the believing life.

Putting this all together, what do we have and what happens when we follow this paradigm? First we should take note that, though church is vitally important, this does not sound anything like a church service anywhere that I know – interesting in itself.

A key here is that the focus and feeling centered around a humble thankfulness in salvation, and the upon the Lord, through the primary means he specified, scripture. This may have taken several forms and expressions, but the focus was on Him and His Word.

It is useful to note what the focus was not on. It was not on ‘activities’ outside of praise, worship and directly associated fellowship. It was not on the work of the assembly in the community. Not that this work did not exist or was not important, but it played not part in the assembling. It was external to it. For example, there was no focus on the men who were helping the widows. In fact, it appears from their appointment elsewhere that they were appointed so that their work would not be disruptive to the gathering in the Lord’s name.

The sole reason for the beloved to gather was to fellowship in rejoicing in the Lord and His work. All the activities were an expression of that rejoicing. And this was a daily way of life, which would result in that mindset overshadowing all other activities.

Considering what the Lord has done, rejoicing in Him that eclipses all else would seem only appropriate, but we see it modeled here explicitly.

So, how about us in the 21st century? I don’t see that anything has changed at all. Yes, life has become cluttered with countless distractions of the world, and that same world would have us believe that this clutter is of over-riding importance. Remember who the world represent and to whose ends this worldly emphasis contributes – none other than the Prince of the Air (Ephesians 2:2). Further, the Scriptures have not changed. There has not been any new revelation that changes these prototypes as given in the existing canon.

The result is that we are to follow suit in our focus. And having said that, I would atest that the experience is wonderful, humbling and convicting even on a small tentative scale.

Our recent gatherings of this kind have been so. The morning after the latest one I can only paraphrase David in Psalm 139:6 “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; It is too high, I cannot attain to it.” The humble thankfulness and joy of gathering with other believers to give thanks and rejoice in the Lord in Psalms, hymns and spiritual songs is just too wonderful for us to fully take in.

If I sound like I am gushing, that would true and I am without apology. It is the only appropriate response.