I really look forward to getting together with people I love. I come from a large family with five sisters and two brothers, not to mention the countless aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, and now the many, many in-laws. Gallagher family gatherings have become legendary as times of great joy and celebration. It is very easy for me to take God’s admonition to His children to heart when He tells us we should be meeting together.
Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing…
Unfortunately God’s nemesis, His archenemy the Devil, is always trying to cause separation. In fact, division is one of the greatest tactics the Devil uses in his fight against God and His people. Sadly, the testimony of history is that he has been pretty effective in its use, which causes me to think that we must be tenacious in our efforts to be connected to each other.
One of the ways our Enemy pulls God’s people apart is by getting them to shift their focus from the things of Yahweh to the things of the world. Throughout time men and women have been ablaze with the fire of revival, only to have their flames slowly wane because they get distracted by the pressures and pleasures of this world. God gives us numerous examples throughout the Old Testament of men and women who have been defeated because they turned their faces from God to seek idols. In Ecclesiastes 1:9, God says that “there is nothing new under the sun,” and this is certainly the case when it comes to people separating and falling away from the path of righteousness. It should be no surprise then, since the Adversary is so energetic in his efforts to cause separation, that this is the polar opposite of what God wants us to do. God empathically tells us “not to give up meeting together” (Heb. 10:25).
When reading this exhortation in Hebrews the thought struck me, “What a sad testimony that these first-century saints not only were not meeting, but that their not meeting had actually become their habit.” For a period of about ten years I became disillusioned with fellowshipping with other Christians. I had been disappointed in some Christian leaders, generally as a result of my own false expectations about them, and I allowed it to dampen my desire to be connected with others. I slowly pulled away from my Christian relationships, and as I did I became less passionate about the things of God. Then, one day I woke up after taking a hard look in the mirror and realized there was little difference between my actions and the ways of the world. I had become spiritually dull, insensitive to the ways of God, my hard heart was calcified, and I was far removed from the “living epistle” that I had once been. How did this all happen? After looking back on my steps and the path I walked, I realized one significant factor was my lack of Christian fellowship. Like the recipients of Hebrews, I too had gotten in the “habit of not meeting” with fellow Christians.
People often become desensitized to the massive amount of disconnection that is being promoted by the world. It used to be necessary that people interact socially with others in order to get things done. We used to have to talk to people to do our banking and shopping, whereas now all of these things can be done in isolation from others via the Internet. Sadly, one of the main consequences of the Devil’s attack has been the shattering of the family. The Devil is relentless in his promotion of division, so we need to be even more diligent in our efforts to fight for connection with others.
Three Reasons Why We Should Meet
Since the fall of Adam in the Garden of Eden, the Adversary has opposed God’s plans for mankind’s redemption. His opposition continues as he attempts to thwart and stop the spread of the gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ. From the first days of Christianity, people met with the purpose of spreading the gospel.
Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ.
It is noteworthy that they “never stopped” proclaiming the message of Jesus being the Christ. This was their principle motivation and passion, and it should be ours too. Every Christian should have a burning desire to share his story with others about what Christ has done for him. Paul, despite being under house arrest, was faithfully promoting the gospel as he met with people in his rented home in Rome. His purpose for doing so is clearly stated in the close of the book of Acts.
Acts 28:30 and 31
(30) For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him.
(31) Boldly and without hindrance he preached the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ.
Like Paul, our first-century brothers and sisters were passionate about telling others about the Lord and they met to spread the message of the good news. Some people will be more effective at evangelism than others, but anyone can invite someone to come to a meeting with other Christians. Spreading the good news about Christ is one of the fundamental reasons we should be meeting.
A second reason why we need to meet is to help raise people to spiritual maturity. Once a person has accepted Christ he needs time to grow and mature, learning his ways and practicing his newfound faith. Jesus commanded his disciples to “make disciples” (Matt. 28:19), which involves more than just bringing people to him. Making disciples involves teaching, mentoring, and raising people past the elementary truths of Christ so they can be weaned off the milk of the Word and onto the meat (1 Cor. 3:2, Heb. 5:12 and 13, 1 Pet. 2:2).
The birth of a baby can be a joyous occasion, but the point of birth is not to remain in infancy, but to grow up to be a responsible and independent adult capable of producing one’s own children. We seek new spiritual children but, beyond that, we desire to see God’s children grow up to their full potential, and that takes discipleship. The Christian author, Frank Viola, in his book, Pagan Christianity: The Origins of Our Modern Church Practices, describes two ways that Christian workers were trained in the first-century: living a shared life with a group of Christians, and learning the Lord’s work under the tutelage of an older, seasoned worker. 
Having a “shared life” and being under the “tutelage” of an older, seasoned worker are functions that meeting together can fulfill. Meeting together gives us a place to serve others in a variety of ways and to grow in our giftings. All of our gifts and callings are to be used for the benefit of others, which requires that we “be with others.”
A third reason we should meet is because God has designed us for relationship and without it we are incomplete. I believe there is a hole in every man and woman’s heart that yearns for connection with others. It is only through our connection with others that we can be fulfilled because all our gifts and callings become of little value if they cannot benefit others. There is a great sense of personal satisfaction when we see how we benefit others through our acts of service.
We are all very vulnerable when we are alone and isolated. I learned through personal experience that isolation lulled me to sleep and set me up for a great deception. There truly is strength in numbers. When I am with others then they can lift me when I am down, and I can do the same for them. If I am blind in an area of my life then others can help me to see, and if I come under spiritual attack they can help to warn me and also to fight for me. We must keep meeting together if we are to fight together.
Is There a Biblical Model for Meeting Together?
The book of Acts provides great insight into the spread of the gospel and how our first-century brethren operated. Of course, thousands of years have passed since then and there are many cultural differences between our modern times and theirs, but one thing we can be certain of is they met, and they did so wherever they could.
It would have been unthinkable in the first-century for a person to become a convert to Christianity and then not be connected to a local congregation. The local congregation was more than just a circle of religious friends. For thousands of years obtaining the simple necessities of life, such as getting water to your home, obtaining oil for your lamp, and even having food for the day, involved a full community cooperation. There was little separation between a person’s family life, social life, and his religious life.
For many first-century Jews, one of the unfortunate consequences of accepting Christ was that it meant they were barred from their local synagogues. This did not just have religious ramifications. In many ways it had a serious impact on their very ability to provide for their life’s needs, because there was an intertwining of every area of their life. Today, if I am not happy with a church or pastor, I can often leave and go join a new church. This is different than what most Christians through the ages have experienced. In years past, once someone was cut off from the synagogue or church they had to find others and band together. They needed to work cooperatively to provide for their daily needs as well as for their mutual protection.
Likewise, since the synagogue was no longer available for the first-century saints, they met in the places that were readily available to them. This is why the New Testament epistles often speak of them meeting in their homes.
(3) Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus.
(4) They risked their lives for me. Not only I but all the churches of the Gentiles are grateful to them.
(5) Greet also the church that meets at their house.
1 Corinthians 16:19
The churches in the province of Asia send you greetings. Aquila and Priscilla greet you warmly in the Lord, and so does the church that meets at their house.
Philemon 1:1 and 2
(1) Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother, To Philemon our dear friend and fellow worker,
(2) to Apphia our sister, to Archippus our fellow soldier and to the church that meets in your home:
Give my greetings to the brothers at Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church in her house.
Christianity was a spiritual movement that, unlike the majority of the world religions, did not begin with any sacred buildings or objects. This was a grassroots spiritual movement where people met wherever they could with a focus primarily on one thing, spreading the good news of Jesus being the Christ. With this as their goal, they met on the roadsides (Acts 8:26), at public gateways into the temple area (Acts 3:1), in the temple courtyards (Acts 3:11 and 5:12), in the home of a Roman centurion (Acts 10 and 11), on the side of a river (Acts 16), and in rented buildings (Acts 19:9). The point God seems to be making is that it does not matter how we meet, but rather that we meet.
What Caused Christian Meetings to Move Out of the Home?
Many people today equate involvement in Christianity with “going to church,” the large religious building on the corner where followers of Christ meet every Sunday morning. What happened to cause Christianity to disconnect from its grassroots simplicity? A large part of the answer is that soon after the emperor Constantine converted to Christianity a very profound series of events was set in motion. Around 324 A.D., Constantine ordered the construction of church buildings throughout the Roman Empire. The churches he built followed the general construction plans of pagan temples, which had raised platforms, altars, high vaulted ceilings, etc. In many cases, pagan temples were even merely stripped of their pagan gods and then converted for Christian worship. In addition to the construction of churches, Constantine also established the clergy class, separating the priests from the people. He also merged the civil and ecclesiastical governance into one body, and made many other changes that had a great cultural impact on the way Christians worshipped and conducted themselves. One of the most significant impacts was the loss of the “simple church,” because it was replaced by these new buildings we now call “churches.”
Small or Large Meetings: Where Should We Go from Here?
As I stated previously, I do not believe God cares where we meet, but rather that we do meet. We are free to utilize a broad range of meeting styles rather than being restrained by any one model. There are advantages and disadvantages to every meeting style, so what we do should employ the best meeting format for our needs and purposes.
Most Christians now recognize the great value in the meeting format that can be conducted in the home. This type of meeting is frequently referred to as the Simple Church because it is relatively easy to do since it does not require a special building or elaborate preparation. The simple meeting also allows for greater participation and mutual service by the members. On the other hand, any home church is limited in its resources and abilities merely because of its small size.
On the other end of the spectrum is the larger congregation that generally meets in the traditional church building. Some have referred to this as the “Legacy Church” model, and it too can be very effective. By its nature, the large numbers of people with differing gifts means there are a great number of ways for people to serve and to be served. I love the feeling of praising God in the large congregational settings where my voice becomes one of a thousand others. The large congregation also enables people to pool their resources and provide for such things as parochial schooling, evangelistic outreach programs, homeless shelters, etc. Yet despite those advantages, the larger setting also has some drawbacks. Organizationally they tend to put a lot of focus on a few individuals who do most of the work while the rest of the members become spectators. The “spectator mentality” that can creep into Christianity can cause people to think they have done their Christian service by just showing up once a week for church and giving their financial offering.
Christianity is not a spectator event. We are all members in particular with individual gifts and callings, all of which need to be in action and service to others (Eph. 3:6, 4:25 and 5:30; Col. 3:15). There are over thirty places in the New Testament where the phrase “one another” is used. We are called to love one another (Rom. 13:8), to encourage one another (Heb. 3:13 and 10:25), and to be devoted to one another (Rom. 10:12). It is impossible to follow any of these commands of God if we are not with one another. Again the point is not how we meet, or where we meet, or even when we should meet, but that we do meet.
As we have seen, there is great value in both small meetings and large ones. Actually, we all need both, and the optimum situation for any meeting is to make the meeting style fit the goals that we are trying to accomplish, as determined by the needs of the people. We need each other, and God needs us to fulfill our calling as His ambassadors, so let’s not let the Adversary succeed at isolating us. Rather, let’s be diligent to get together with other Christians.