Where & How to Meet?
Today, as we look across the current landscape of
present-day Christianity, we find hundreds of different “churches” dotting the
cities where we live. On one city street alone in
In the face of such a plethora and diverse range of church choices today, how should a new believer or any believer choose? Or put differently, how can a new believer know where to meet and how to meet to faithfully fulfill our Lord’s clear injunction to all His children to “not forsake the assembling of ourselves together” until His imminent return (Heb )? Is there a better way to choose where to meet, where to find a “church home”, than flipping through the yellow pages or “church-shopping” until we find a church that fits our tastes?
So many times, we look for “what we want” or a church that meets our needs, our outward as well as spiritual requirements, and our ecclesiastical wish list. But how many of us have really asked the very sobering and difficult question: “What does the Lord want in His church today? What does He, the unique Head of His church, desire to see in His Body in these last days, where we sense his imminent return?” When we begin to see this matter of what the Lord desires to see and accomplish in His Body today, we realize it no longer becomes a matter of what we want – our own personal, spiritual, ecclesiastical wish lists, and even perhaps very scriptural agendas, must be completely put aside. For we must be absolutely clear that we CANNOT and MUST NOT try to build the church or “help” Him build the Church. If we build, it is not the church; it is something else built with human hands and intention. (PS 127:1) Because ONLY HE, the unique risen Lord and Head and Savior of His blood-purchased Body CAN build His Church and, in such a Church in which He is the sole Author and Builder, even the very gates of Hades shall not prevail against it! (Mt 16:18) THIS is THE Church and is the very Church we need today. All the powers of the Devil and darkness shall rise up to destroy such a Church, yet will not prevail! For the sole Head and Authority of this Church is the only One who holds the very keys of Hades and Death in His hands! ()
So, the first step in answering the question where & how
to meet is to dare to ask that very terrifying and difficult question to the
Lord Himself: “Lord, as the Head and
life of your Body, where & how do You want your
people and your Body to meet?” Is it Your divine will
and perfect intention for Your people to meet as they do today, needing to
choose where to “go to church” in face of thousands of different flavors and
types of “churches”? Where it seems, even from an unbeliever’s “unschooled”
perspective that everyone (the church today) seems to be doing what is right in
their own eyes, as in the chaotic day of the Judges (21: 25). Where is the King
To bring this analogy to the present day chaotic state of the 21st century church world, how many times have your unbeliever friends asked you, “If you all believe in one Lord and God is love, why are there so many different kinds of churches today? Why doesn’t the Christian church reflect the message of spiritual unity and love that it so ardently preaches?!” An even harder and more painful question a new convert asked me after I shared with him that the Church is the Body of Christ is: “If so, then why is there so much infighting and mudslinging between different churches over gaining members or saying this church is good and right and that church is bad and wrong?” Oh! My dear brother and sisters in the Lord, how do we answer these very astute questions that even unbelievers are asking us today? Should we not be ashamed at the outwardly divided state of His Body today on the earth?! Can this present pluralistic, over “31 flavors” status quo church condition really satisfy our Lord’s heart for the expression of His Body on this earth today? Or, does our Lord have a better way for His people and His Body to meet that will fulfill that beautiful and impassioned prayer for His Church on this earth that He, as the unique High Priest of His Church, cried out to His Father before His crucifixion:
“I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who WILL believe in Me through their word; that they may ALL be one, as You, Father are in Me, and I in You; that they may also be one in US, that THE WORLD MAY BELIEVE THAT YOU SENT ME. And the glory which you gave Me I have given them, that THEY MAY BE ONE, just as We are one: I in them and You in Me; that they may be made PERFECT in one, and that the world may KNOW that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.” (John 17:-23)
This is clearly what the Lord deeply longs to see in His Church even before day one, when He was on the earth! Our risen Lord simply wants to see the Church He loved and died for MADE PERFECT IN ONE, as He and the Father were, as a crystal-clear and undeniable testimony to the unbelieving world that HE IS THE ONE the Father has sent. That HE IS THE CHRIST.
THIS IS WHAT IS ON HIS HEART FOR THE CHURCH. HE HAS NO OTHER AGENDA. ALL OTHER CHURCH AGENDAS ARE NOT HIS.
So now that we know what He wants, what He gave his very
life and blood for, what do we do? What can we do? Yes, what can we do in such
a complicated and cluttered 21st century church landscape to still meet in a
way that satisfies the deep-seated longing of the Lord Himself to see His
Church PERFECT IN ONE in this age, before He returns? Now the two biggest
questions we must each soberly ask ourselves before our Lord: Is there a way
the Lord Himself has shown us to attain His heart’s desire for His Body on this
earth AND more importantly, if there is such a way, are WE willing to take that
way at all costs, so the Lord can get what He desires in these last days?! Oh,
my dear brothers and sisters, I implore you to ask these two questions that He
may get the Church He is looking for when He returns. If we have truly SEEN
what the Lord Himself most desires of His Church, then we will realize we
have no other way. For there is only one way for His Church today to be
MADE PERFECT IN ONE – that is, to be MADE INTO ONE PERFECT CHURCH. This does not
mean a perfectly, sinless church devoid of all the human errors and defects of
fallen sinners (of which we all are, but by the grace of God), but simply
Now we come to the heart of the matter. We come to a very sticky subject: you mean
the Lord wants “
And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, TO A PERFECT MAN, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. (Eph 4:11-13)
So, now we see perfection is the Lord’s call to us individually and corporately as His Body, until we all attain the stature of the full measure of Christ Himself – to ONE perfect MAN! What the Lord desires today for His Church before His return is clearly a perfect Church as He is, “a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing…holy and without blemish.” (Eph 5:7)
This is the Church that Christ loved and gave Himself for, nothing less will satisfy His heart! Nothing less than the perfectly glorious, holy and unblemished image of Himself in His Church is what He is looking for today. How can we settle for anything less than His best for His Bride today?
Today, we look at the chaotic complexity of the church
landscape today and say, “one perfect church today??
IMPOSSIBLE! There are already TOO many churches already…and more being formed
all the time!” But, that is exactly
what we see when the church first began, over 2,000 years ago. The
“impossible” Church was a reality and the only reality of the Church.
One perfect church in the New Testament (NT) was the norm. In the NT, we simply
see just ONE church geographically dispersed in different cities in the New
Testament, meeting PERFECTLY according to the Lord’s desire in blessed
simplicity and unity! (Again, I repeat, this does not mean that the ONE
NT Church expressed in each locality was perfectly holy and sinless, as we see
clearly in Paul’s epistles to the many problem-ridden local churches,
especially the Church in
The point is: in the New Testament days, a new believer
never had to ask and probably never even thought about asking that most common
question we hear asked today: “Where should I go to church?” Because, as a
newly born child of God and member of the Body of Christ, there simply was only
ONE church for him to choose and belong to and that was the
An examination of what the church looked like in its inception clearly reveals that, in NT times, there were not many different types and flavors of “churches” or denominations as we find is the norm today, but ONLY ONE NT Church: ONLY ONE expression of the entire Body of Christ which visibly manifested itself as different local churches in different cities. So, in the Word of God, we ONLY see many different local churches meeting from city to city – the ONLY REASON for the division of one local church (local body of believers) from another was solely and simply based on what city the church was located at.
Brother Watchman Nee, the well-known founder of what became
known as the “Little Flock” Church movement that raised
up hundreds of local churches throughout
Any division of the children of God other than geographical implies not merely division of sphere, but a division of nature. Local division is the only division which does not touch the life of the church… It is our being in Christ that separates us from the world, and it is our being in a given locality that separates us from other believers. It is only when we reside in a different place from them that we belong to a different church. The only reason why I do not belong to the same church as other believers is because I do not live in the same place as they do…Difference of locality is the only justification for (any type of) division among believers. (The Normal Christian Church Life, p. 106-107)
As far as what the NT local churches were called, we do not see an encyclopedia of different churches each with their own distinct “brand name”, but merely simple descriptions of the one local expression of the Body of Christ in each city. That ONE gloriously unified expression of the Body of Christ in the NT practically and visibly expressed to the unbelieving world really had no other special and fixed name or title per se. No doubt, because of their notorious fire for passionately following their risen Lord Jesus and their remarkable individual and corporate semblance to their Risen Master and sole Head, they were collectively described by the observing world and their enemies as the people of the Way (His Way, or He as THE Way) (See John 14:6; Acts 9:2, 19:23, 22:4, 24:22) and labeled “Christians” (which means “those following/belonging to Christ”, because they all lived and looked like their Master so.) (Acts , 26:28) As to any other “names” ascribed to the many different local churches we see in the NT, we see them only described in different ways by the apostles as they address different local churches in their letters. Below are some of the “names” or, more accurately, simple descriptions used in the NT:
Now in the church that was at
To all who are in
To the saints who are in
To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ who are
in Colosse (
To the church of the Thessalonians…. (I Thess 1:1)
As we can see from each example, the church in the NT had no other name – no other church “flavor” or “brand name” - other than simply the church that met at a specific city. Whether they are called the “church at a certain city”, “all the saints or brethren who are in a certain city”, or the “church of all the citizens belonging to a certain city, such as “the church of the Thessalonians”, each “name” is simply a physical description or designation of all the believers that resided, met together and constituted the one Body of Christ in that locale. (So, we see even “the church” was not a fixed label or set name or title for the Body of Christ in a particular locality! The “church” (“ekklesia”) was just ONE of the more common ways to describe the collective gathering of the members of the Body in a locality.) Otherwise, how could the Apostle Paul write a letter and address it to the entire church in that city, to all the saints in a particular city – how could he presume to address the Church of the “Thessalonians”, all the Thessalonians believers there or to ALL the called saints in such a giant city as Rome? We also see ample examples of the entire church of one locale meeting together in one place in a specific place or even single home, even from the very beginning as they met together in the upper room for 10 prayer-filled days! (Acts 1:13-14, 2:1-2, 44-47; 4:31-33; 14:27; 15: 22; 20:7; 1 Cor 11:18, 20; 14:23). So the NT record clearly shows that ONE church, ONE local expression of the Body of Christ in ONE city comprising all the believers in that city, meeting in ONE place was not only an actual practice of the early Christians, but a normal and frequent practice of the early church!
To sum up, we see no precedent for multiple, independent and different-named “churches” co-existing in one city as we see today. We see only ONE local and singular expression of the church in each city, with no other name. All the saints in that city simply met together as the ONE gathering of the church in whatever city they resided. Later, we will see in more detail that the most frequent and common way of meeting for the saints throughout the city was actually NOT the citywide gatherings of the whole church in one location, but the countless gatherings of local saints in their own HOMES.
Besides the crystal-clear example of the practice of local
churches meeting as the one local expression of the Body of Christ from city to
city in the NT, most importantly, we see that even our risen and ascended
Lord Jesus Himself, the sole Head of the Church, when speaking to Apostle John
about the condition of the churches on this earth sees and addresses them as
individual local churches! (;
Rev 2-3) Our ascended Lord Jesus specifically addresses the spiritual condition
of seven actual local churches in
When we see this matter of one church comprising all the believers of His Body in one city, a common objection is: “How is that possible?! What does that look like when practiced in the real world? How is it possible for all the thousands of believers in one city to meet as one church! “ The conclusion reached is then: “Yes, it’s a beautiful blueprint for church unity, but just not practical in today’s modern 21st church scene. It’s not possible or practical for the whole local church to meet in a stadium all the time whenever it needs to gather.” Fortunately, the NT Church also provides a clear and simple answer to these very valid concerns.
Frequent Large “whole church” meetings, but MAINLY daily and weekly MEETINGS IN THE HOMES
First, it must be pointed out that the whole, city-wide local
church gathering in one place, though a normative and frequent way of meeting, was not the primary and most common way the
early local church saints met. The primary place for the regular daily or
weekly gathering of the local church was in the very own homes of the different
local saints. Of course, when there was a necessity for large “whole
church” gatherings, we see the whole church meeting in larger settings, such as
the entire over-8, 000 member Church in Jerusalem meeting in a larger public
setting, such as the open courts of the temple and Solomon’s porch. (Acts
2:46a, ) We also see such giant
gatherings when the apostles would hold special or impromptu (Spirit-led)
evangelistic or special ministry meetings for believers and unbelievers alike in
these larger settings! (Acts -26;
-21, 25, 42, ; 19: 9-10; 20:7-9) Of course, one of the most
common public places the early apostles would preach the gospel is the many
existing Jewish synagogues (Acts 17:1-2, 13:5, 14:1). But no matter how large
the numbers of believers would swell in one city-wide church, we never see ANY
evidence of the apostles and the local church planning to erect a giant
permanent church building or edifice to house these large whole church
gatherings! It must be remembered that the temple courts in
The NT record clearly shows that the primary and regular
setting for the meeting of the saints in each locality was in their very
own “living rooms” or “upper rooms” – in the everyday homes of the saints.
Even church history indicates that for the first three hundred years of its
birth, the NT local churches simply met in the homes of the saints. “ It was not “until the third century do we have evidence of
special (church) buildings being constructed for Christian gatherings. “
(Paul’s Idea of Community, Banks) This appearance of church buildings also
happens to coincide with the rise of the merging of the Church with the State
in church history. We see that the very
first place the early disciples assembled together, after the risen Lord
commissioned them to stay in Jerusalem and wait for the outpouring of His Holy
Spirit, was the upper room of a house where they staying. (Acts 1:13-14) And
then they all stayed in that house (over 120 of them by then!) and prayed
together with one accord in that one place for the next ten days! When the Day
of Pentecost came and the promised Holy Spirit was poured out upon them, they
were all “with one accord in one place”, as was there custom, and the Holy
Spirit “filled the whole house where they were sitting.” (Acts 2: 1-2) So,
the intimate setting of the homes of the saints was even the very spiritual
birthplace of the NT Church! This initial pattern of the entire local
church assembly meeting in the homes of the saints (if the assembly of local
believers was small enough) is continually seen repeated throughout the
history of the NT church. (Romans 16:3, 5; I Cor ,
Below are some clear examples:
So continuing daily with one another in the temple, and breaking bread from House to House…(Acts )
As for Saul, he made havoc of the Church, entering every House… (Acts 8:3)
How I kept back nothing that was helpful, but…taught you publicly and from House to House…(Acts )
We see that even outside persecutors of the church, such as the unconverted and zealous Pharisee Saul, knew exactly where to find and go make havoc of the NT Church: in the different homes of the saints meeting there! For other NT scriptures that amply illustrate how frequently the early church gathered in the hospitable homes of the local saints, see also Acts 2:2, , ; , 34, 40; 17:5-7, 18:7, 21:8.
A “Mountain Pattern” for Today’s NT Church
So, by now, it should be sufficiently clear that there is a clear, at least outward NT local church “mountain pattern” outlined for us in the Word of God for how the early Church met. In the NT, The Lord in His Word, as in the OT, has not left us completely devoid of a clearly revealed and divinely instructed pattern for His NT “Tabernacle” (See Ex. 25:40, Heb 8:5), the collective gathering and expression of His NT “Church (‘Ekklesia’) in the wilderness”. (Acts ) We have clear NT church meeting patterns, examples and practices presented by the wisdom of God for His NT church. Apostle Paul even admonished the free-wheeling, independent-thinking Corinthian church that such NT church patterns, orders, practices, or traditions passed down and laid down by the apostles to the church needed to be soberly revered and adhered to as not just Paul’s thoughts about how to “do the NT church”, but the very “commandments of the Lord Himself. “ (1 Cor. 14:37) Paul even warns those rebellious Corinthian saints: “If he ignores this, he himself will be ignored.“ (v.38)
The clearest word from Paul on the absolute importance of holding onto the apostolic church traditions is in 2 Thess. 2:15: “Therefore stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or epistle.”
With such grave scriptures, how can the NT church today still feel like they have any right to “do church” as each sees fit in their own eyes to do?! How is it possible for all the hundreds of different ways and flavors of how to “do church” be according to His heart’s desire for the simple unity of His Body on this earth and His divinely-revealed “mountain pattern” in the NT? If we have now seen this matter of what the Lord wanted for His church from the very beginning, and the simple and beautiful “mountain pattern” He has clearly laid out for us in the NT, the question now comes back to each of us: “Do we want to leave all the current confusion and complexity of the 21st century church situation and simply return to the overwhelming simplicity, purity and unity of the NT local church “mountain pattern”? If the Lord does engender in our hearts such a simple desire for what He wants, what is our next step? What can we do in today’s current church situation?
What can we do? Taking The Next Step.
To answer this question, I will quote from the insightful words of our wise elder and Brethren teacher William MacDonald (the author of the well-known “The Believer’s Bible Commentary”), who puts it so beautifully below. (I think our brother provides a clear answer and way for those who want to seriously take this way.)
MacDonald writes the following:
But the question still remains, "What should a person do after he has obeyed the scriptural injunction to 'come out'?" (2 Cor. 6:17-18) In answer to this, we would suggest the following scriptural plan.
Gather together in Christian simplicity with a group of likeminded believers.
Gather to Christ alone; make Him the sole attraction. Though such a policy will not result in large crowds, it will at least provide a nucleus of faithful believers who will not be easily moved by trials or discouragements.
As far as a meeting place is concerned, a home is entirely satisfactory, and has a great deal of scriptural precedent (Romans 16:5; 1 Corinthians ; Colossians ; Philemon 2). Those who require a splendid edifice with religious hardware have never really discovered the all-sufficiency of the Lord Jesus as the Person to whom His people gather.
Adopt no name or policy that would exclude any true believer from the fellowship.
Adopt no denominational affiliation, and steadfastly refuse any outside control or interference that would infringe on the sovereignty of the local church.
Resist the constant tendency to allow the ministry to drift into the hands of one man. Rather allow the Holy Spirit to use the various gifts which Christ has given to the Church, and provide for the active manifestation of the priesthood of all believers.
Gather together regularly for prayer, study of the Word, breaking of bread, and fellowship. Then engage in an active gospel effort, both individually and collectively.
In short, seek to meet as a New Testament church in the truest sense of the word by giving a faithful representation of the body of Christ and by obeying the commandments of the Lord.
Those Who Have Come Out
Interestingly enough, this is being done by Christians all over the world today. With no guidebook but the Bible, they have found these principles to be divine, and have followed them in spite of reproach and slander. They own no head but Christ, no fellowship but His Body, no headquarters but His throne. They seek in true humility to witness to the unity of the body of Christ. In their fellowship, they seek to provide a sanctuary for true believers who are oppressed by modernism and related evils. There is no directory on earth that lists these churches, nothing of an earthly nature to bind them together. Their only unity is that which is formed and maintained by the Holy Spirit, and they are content that it should be so.
There is no reason why similar fellowships should not continue to be formed by the Great Head of the Church through the sacrificial and prayerful exercise of His people. Where Christians have caught the vision, and are willing to suffer for it, the Lord will reward their exercise and endeavors, and fulfill their longings for His glory.
May He who loved the church, and gave Himself for it, bring it to pass, for His own glory!