This post is long but it just flowed such in my mind that I couldn’t decide how to break it up. It was driving my editor, Sherlene, crazy also. It is made up of several very closely related subjects that I have not yet addressed on this blog. I have sought to look at these subjects from several angles.
I’ve already shared many of the questions I personally asked myself and asked God during those years of searching for truth. The years when I had to look at everything I had both been taught and had taught, to see if they were indeed truth, tradition, or just the workers interpretation of Scripture that had been passed down but never questioned by me.
One of them is the subject of church buildings. Buildings are key. The meeting church believes they are wrong and not of God. Acts 7:48 (quoted below) is the verse quoted to support why there is no official church building and why gatherings for worship are in homes. OK….let’s dig deeper.
These words in Acts were spoken by Stephen as he was addressing those who were accusing him. In previous verses, he was telling the stories of the Old Testament, one of which was how they had the tabernacle in the wilderness and then later Solomon built a house for the Lord. Quotes Stephen: “The Most High does not live in houses made with hands. As the prophet says, ‘Heaven is my throne; the earth is my footstool…’ “ God is everywhere and when a person accepts Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, the Holy Spirit then comes and dwells within that person.
We have enough sense today to know we do not worship buildings and to know that God’s Holy Spirit doesn’t dwell in buildings or places. We know that. So what is the big deal?
I have been in several church buildings the last 13 years and never once have I heard it preached that inside this building was the only place God’s spirit dwells. They don’t believe that or preach that. They are just buildings; a meeting place for believers to gather to worship God. That’s it. They are not evil places filled with deceived people. They are buildings provided for people who love Jesus to come together to worship Him.
In the meeting church, Gospel meetings are held in all kinds of buildings, including homes, tents, open air and even ‘church’ buildings and these are all considered ok because communion (the emblems) is not taken during those services. (The meeting church believes the emblems can only be taken in a worthy home. More on this in a bit.)
In Gospel meetings, those of us in the Work often felt God speaking through us in powerful ways. When we were listening in those meetings, we sometimes felt close to God there; we heard Him speak to us individually there. So, it didn’t matter where we were gathered; God was there and God could reach us. After all, He is never far from any of us.
Church buildings are just that; buildings. It is widely acknowledged in the Christian world that the church is the people. Yes, the building is often referenced that way (‘we are going to church’) but they know the church is the people. Centuries ago churches were built in an attempt to show a small portion of God’s glory and awe. Today, they are venues and campuses that provide a place for fellowship, worship, classes, activities, etc.
God can speak to you anywhere and at any time.
Money….the forbidden subject.
Friends and workers will argue about the money used to build them; how wrong that is. When I was considering this issue years ago, I remember asking myself, “What better cause could I spend my money on than the furtherance of the Gospel.” My goodness, take a look at what else we spend our money on. If you don’t want to go to a big church, then don’t go to one! Find out where God wants you to go. Where you are needed and where you need to be. The church I sometimes attend never begs for money; it is mentioned and the offering is prayed for and then bags are passed around. No one and I mean no one, looks to see who in their row is putting something in and who isn’t. It is done quickly without pressure or guilt and you have no idea how much someone is contributing. Yes, it takes money to keep those buildings maintained but so what! Again, what better place could I share with? The church I attend feeds 100’s of people a month, supports missions all over the world, supports causes locally and globally; they are not selfish with the money.
Whenever you gather together….except gospel meetings, special meetings or convention meetings…..do this in remembrance of Me.
Communion (or the emblems) was never taken in Gospel meetings, special meetings or conventions because the argument was the emblems could never be taken except in a home based on the Old Testament Passover meal and later Jesus giving them the bread and wine in the upper room before he went to Calvary. Today, we are not Jewish by religion so we do not have a traditional Passover meal. 1 Corinthians 10:21 calls it the Lord’s Table and 11:20 calls it the Lord’s Supper. I like those two pictures. Spend some time picturing those two things for a while and see what sweet thoughts come.
I find no Scripture where Jesus commanded them to only break bread and take the cup in a home. Again, it was part of a meal at the time and we eat all over the place nowadays. That isn’t the point. Once again, I saw so clearly the preciousness of this act of communion was all about Jesus, not where I took it.
1 Corinthians 11:27-32 says what makes someone worthy to partake of the emblems had nothing to do with where they were taking it but it was all about acknowledging the body of the Lord and examining our own hearts. Jesus’ only command recorded in 1 Corinthians 11:24-26 was: “do this in remembrance of me” until He comes.
Meeting together in a home for fellowship, worship and communion is wonderful but once again, the where often supersedes the Who.
One time at a women’s retreat I attended at the Oregon Coast, the women assembled on the beach at dawn and as the sun was just coming up and day was breaking, communion was taken. It was one of the most beautiful and meaningful events ever.
When Jesus was talking to the woman at the well in John 4, at one point she brought up the issue of where to worship. Jesus made it so clear that day that it wasn’t about where. It was about worshipping in spirit and in truth. Taking the emblems is all about celebrating the life and death of Jesus and saying a heartfelt ‘Thank You, Jesus!” and about re-purposing our hearts to follow Him only. You can do that alone or corporately.
Sharing communion at my church is now my favorite part of the service. We take communion every time we come together no matter what day of the week it is.
Years ago I remember grieving over the fact that in the meeting church, the emblems were never taken at convention or special meeting. What? Two of their most meaningful and special events and yet is it not done because, once again, the meetings are not taking place in a home. (Even though I have attended many a special meeting in a home!) The message being given subliminally was where we were gathering was more important than sharing the emblems together and telling Jesus how much we love Him and remembering his sacrifice. Do we honestly think the where matters at all to Him? Don’t our acts of worship and adoration mean immensely more to Him?
I have pictured in my mind how very impactful and powerful taking the emblems at convention could be. Wow! Sunday morning is always the pinnacle moment of the convention anyway, so it would triple in impact if the emblems were taken. The same for special meetings; those meetings held midway through their spiritual year when an extra boost spiritually was to be given. The strength from communion would be paramount.
Only non-sinner’s can take part in communion….what??
Here is one other subject I must address. Another travesty takes place all the time in the meeting church is when the workers decide who is worthy to take the emblems and who isn’t. I can hardly find words to express how horribly wrong and unscriptural this is. Seeing someone passed over from taking the emblems because of their marital state is beyond awful and un-Christian like. There is not one scripture to base that decision on. It is a worker enforced and worker rule only. It is incredibly hurtful, shameful and damaging. It is one of the reasons I had to leave the Work because I was 100% convinced that was wrong and I could not, would not be seen to EVER condone those kinds of decisions.
The reality is, there was never one single person in those meetings, myself included, who was worthy to partake of the emblems. We are all sinners. Sin is sin. Taking the emblems isn’t about who is worthy; it is about being thankful for Jesus, acknowledging Jesus as Lord and Savior and examining our own hearts.
My own experience.
The Sunday morning meetings were formal, prayers were mostly by rote and spoken in 3rd person, not personal, generic mostly, seldom specific. Testimonies were sincere but a ‘realness’ and relevance to everyday life was dramatically missing. The last few years I attended meetings I made it a purpose to be sure my testimony was relevant. Most testimonies are about what the individual could or should do more of rather than on what Jesus has already done and was continuing to do. The part of the meeting where the emblems were shared was at the end of the meeting and was a hurried affair. Always hurried. It seemed more important to get the meeting over in an hour than to slow down and fully embrace that part of the meeting. The singing was whatever it was but the same hymns have been sung for decades. They are mostly lovely but new songs were seldom brought into the experience.
The Wednesday night Bible studies are another story IMO! The exact same arrangement as the Sunday morning meeting (very formal and structured) and that was the very thing that caused me to quit going to those meetings first.
When I began attending Bible studies at a local church here, I remember so clearly getting in my car afterward and saying to myself (or sometimes out loud!), “Yes! This is what I’ve always wanted a Wednesday night Bible study meeting to be like.” These studies were informal but highly impactful. We visited a bit at first, and then someone opened in prayer. It was asked if anyone had any specific prayer requests for the group. Then we would discuss around the room the study. Interaction was back and forth. Anyone could participate but no one was required to.
The best part of those times was, if, during the study it became apparent that another deeper issue had surfaced that might have had nothing to do with the actual subject of the study, we simply went with the present need. We would pray specifically for that person and that situation. We would find Scripture to support the experience. We would listen and share our own experiences that were relevant. It was wonderful. We really got to know each other.
A Clearer Vision
I love and cherish how the Lord has opened my eyes and heart to see the bigger picture of who He is and what He wants to do in hearts and lives today. I am fully aware that even still I am only seeing through a glass darkly but I can definitely see more than I used to. I’ve not only seen God more clearly but I have seen myself more clearly.