Through our many and varied faith traditions, we believers in Yeshua have each had implanted within us an idea of what “church” is supposed to look like. Whether we come from the congregation of Christianity or the synagogue of Messianic Judaism, we typically view “church” as a sacred, physical place set apart for the purpose of hosting people in group ritual, rites and worship. Yet, as revealed in our exploration of this topic throughout previous teachings, today’s typical view of “church” actually bears little resemblance to the “church” concept of Scripture. And this reality is especially true in regard to how the Bible depicts the corporate gathering of the believers.
To review, there are six important characteristics of the true, biblical “church” that differentiate it from the typical view. First, the concept of “church” is better understood by its literal translation as “the Called-Forth.” This restoration in terminology helps us to break free of traditional misconceptions. Second, the Called-Forth is never a physical structure—a place to go or a thing to do—but is always, only, the people. Third, we as the Called-Forth are not meant to function as individuals, but as one organism made of many members. God has placed and gifted each one of us not to fit passively within a self-oriented, institutional form, but for the active, face-to-face building up of one another for the common good. Fourth, as modeled for us in the Bible, a weekly worship service was never the believers’ aim when they met together; rather, their gatherings occurred organically, as frequently as they could, and often daily. Fifth, our ultimate purpose as the Called-Forth isn’t for worshipping and meeting together, improving our personal walk with God, or even for building a community, but to become a living monument to the world—to collectively be a united testimony to Yeshua so that those who don’t yet know Him may receive His eternal salvation. And sixth, the biblical Called-Forth was built up for this purpose within communities of various size who gathered primarily in homes.
Embedded within the description of some of the earliest activities of the believers, Acts 2 may offer us a pattern for what such home gatherings without church buildings or synagogues might have looked like. According to verse 42, “they were continuing steadfastly in the teaching of the emissaries and in the sharing, in the breaking of the bread and in the prayers” (mjlt). This verse reveals the key elements for a possible framework of a biblical believers’ gathering: the breaking of the bread (that is, a communal meal, which verse 46 says took place “from house to house”), the teaching of the emissaries (which we now have in the Scriptures), the prayers, and the sharing—which is often translated as “fellowship.”
“The sharing” is both the fundamental and the overarching function of the biblical believer’s gathering. In the communal meal, for example, 1 Corinthians 10:16-17 teaches us that through the eating and drinking, we are symbolically sharing of both the Messiah and ourselves. In the prayers, we share not only our burdens with one another, but our spiritual faith and effort. And in the sharing of the Scriptures, we teach and encourage one another by sharing the commitment to God’s guidance and instruction. Simply put, the biblical believer’s gathering is not focused on self. Rather, through collective exhortation, the manifestation of the Spirit, and the building up for the common good, the sharing is supposed to be both the purpose and the fruit of the Called-Forth-Gathering.
The biblical pattern for the gathering of the Called-Forth of God in no way suggests the establishment of rigid, religious institutions and buildings, but instead reveals a Body of Messiah that was organic, human and flawed, yet active, expanding and alive. Let us go back to the word of God, working together to apply that “churchless” pattern of the first believers. Because Yeshua’s Called-Forth was never meant to be based on form or structure, but on us—the people. It is time to no longer be all about the brick and mortar, but to fulfill our true calling, and to go forth as Messiah’s living stones.
What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments below!