ROOTED: The Morning Meeting Summary

Part 1: The Components

Relevant Readings: Matthew 26:26-29, Mark 14:22-25, Luke 22:14-20, Acts 2:42-47, 4:32-37, 1 Corinthians 9:8-14, 11:23-26, 14:26-33, 16:1-4, 2 Corinthians 9:6-15

1. What does a typical Sunday morning worship meeting at Newton Christian Assembly look like?

Details of our meetings are outlined on the “What to Expect” page of our website: https://newtonchristianassembly.ca/what-to-expect/

2. Which aspects of this meeting are instructed and/or described in Scripture?

  • The Lord’s Supper
    • For a definition of the Lord’s Supper, please visit https://newtonchristianassembly.ca/what-we-believe-in-detail/ 
    • Prescriptive instruction: 
        • Instituted by Jesus in Matthew 26:26-29, Mark 14:22-25, and Luke 22:14-20
        • Additional instruction given by Paul in 1 Corinthians 11:23-26 (about self-examination and the manner in which we partake)
    • Descriptive precedent: 
        • Acts 2:42 “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers”
        • Acts 2:46 “And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts…”
        • Acts 20:7 “On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread…”
  • Distinct Roles of Men & Women
    • Prescriptive instruction: 
        • 1 Corinthians 11:2-16, 14:33-35
        • ***We plan to cover this topic more in-depth in a future study***
  • Financial Giving
    • Prescriptive instruction:
        • 2 Corinthians 9:7 “Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” 
        • 2 Corinthians 9:12 “For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God.” 
    • Descriptive precedent:
        • Acts 4:34-35 “There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need.”
        • 1 Corinthians 16:1-3 “Now concerning the collection for the saints: as I directed the churches of Galatia, so you also are to do. On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper, so that there will be no collecting when I come. And when I arrive, I will send those whom you accredit by letter to carry your gift to Jerusalem.”
  • Multiple Participants
    • Descriptive precedent:
        • 1 Corinthians 14:26 “What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up.”

3. Which aspects of this meeting are flexible based on what we see in Scripture?

  • Where and when a commanded practice is conducted 
    • Descriptive precedent:
        • Acts describes many different examples of meeting places and times
        • Acts 2:46 “And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes…”
        • Acts 20:7 “On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul talked with them, intending to depart on the next day, and he prolonged his speech until midnight. There were many lamps in the upper room where we were gathered.”
        • Acts 20:20 “…I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house…”
    • Prescriptive instruction:
        • There are no commands related to the days and times of church gatherings
        • Paul often uses non-specific phrases like “When you are assembled” (1 Corinthians 5:4) and “when you come together” (1 Corinthians 11:33, 14:26) 
        • Though we often attribute great significance to Sunday as “the Lord’s Day”, biblically speaking there is only one mention of “the Lord’s day” in Revelation 1:10 and it is not used in connection to the breaking of bread or any other meeting of the church.
        • Throughout the New Testament, the “what” and “how” of church life is discussed with much more clarity than the “where” and “when”
  • The frequency of the Lord’s Supper
    • Descriptive precedent: 
        • Acts 2:46 & 20:7 (listed above) reveal that there were times that the early church broke bread daily, and times that they did it at the start of each week 
    • Prescriptive instruction: 
        • There are no commands related to the frequency of breaking bread
        • 1 Corinthians 11:26 “For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” 
        • Repetition is implied by the phrase “as often”, but how often is not mandated
  • The order of events
    • Prescriptive instruction:
        • Besides the command to do all things “decently and in order” (1 Corinthians 14:40), there are no commands pertaining to the order in which we must conduct certain practices during a church gathering

Additional Question: What does the Bible say about upholding tradition?

  • Affirmation of traditions
    • 1 Corinthians 11:2 “Now I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I delivered them to you.”
    • 2 Thessalonians 2:15 “So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter.”
  • Caution about traditions
    • Matthew 15:6-9 “So for the sake of your tradition you have made void the word of God. You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said: ‘This people honours me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.”
    • Mark 7:8-9 “‘You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.’ And [Jesus] said to them, ‘You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition!’”
  • Conclusion: traditions are valuable, but ought never to be considered of equal importance to God’s commandments.

Additional Question: How do we interpret Paul’s command to “be imitators of [him] as [he is] of Christ”? Does this command give us cause to treat early church examples as instructive?

  • Give consideration to the context of Paul’s statement.
    • 1 Corinthians 10:31-11:1 “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved. Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.”
    • 1 Corinthians 11:1 – “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ” – appears to be the conclusion of a discussion of how to navigate our Christian freedoms in a way that shows consideration for our brothers and sisters in Christ who hold opposing views. 
    • Later, Paul reiterates this point in 1 Corinthians 11:16 “If anyone is inclined to be contentious, we have no such practice, nor do the churches of God.” 
    • Though it is probably not wrong to aspire to learn from and imitate other aspects of Paul’s faith and character, that does not seem to be the point that he was trying to make in the context of the letter.
  • Consider other scripture that discusses the function of apostles as role models
    • The integrity of the apostles’ testimony is affirmed in 1 Thessalonians 2&4
        • 1 Thessalonians 2:10-12 “You are witnesses, and God also, how holy and righteous and blameless was our conduct toward you believers. For you know how, like a father with his children, we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.”
        • 1 Thessalonians 4:1-2 “Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more. For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus.”
    • In these same chapters, the believers are commended, not for their willingness to blindly imitate the behaviour of the apostles, but for the following:
        • Discerning the source of their message: “And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers.” (2:13)
        • Imitating and identifying with other churches: “For you, brothers, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea. For you suffered the same things from your own countrymen as they did from the Jews…” (2:14)
        • Being led by the Spirit to love others: “Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another, for that indeed is what you are doing to all the brothers throughout Macedonia.”
  • Conclusion: It is valuable to learn from the apostles, but the ultimate goal is to imitate Christ.
    • Paul’s statement includes the modifier “as I am of Christ”, likely because of how well he was acquainted with his own sin (Romans 7) 
    • We have so much more at our disposal than simply the behaviours of the apostles, namely, the completed Scriptures and the Holy Spirit. Our understanding of God’s will should be informed by all of the wisdom available to us, working together to refine our understanding.
  • Discussion of how to test and/or weigh the importance of practices that are not explicitly commanded in Scripture:
    • Three things to consider:
        • First, ask what Jesus said about the subject
        • Second, see what the apostles did in Acts
        • Third, ask what the apostles say about it in the epistles
    • Example: the “seat of the unlearned”
        • Not mentioned by Jesus
        • There are no examples of it found in Acts
        • Mentioned in the epistles 
        • Conclusion: the seat of the unlearned can be implemented based on the discretion of the leadership of the local church, but should not hold the same weight as other practices that are both commanded by Christ and are seen practiced in the early church (ex. The Lord’s Supper).

Part 2: The Purpose 

1. What is the ultimate goal of the Sunday morning meeting?

  • To remember Jesus:
    • Tangibly, this encompasses many practices including reading Scripture, singing, prayer, breaking bread, fellowship, etc. 
  • Personally, we seek to achieve this goal in many diverse, yet complimentary ways:
    • Reflection on Jesus’ life and teachings
    • Declaration of Christ’s death* and resurrection
    • Confession of the Lordship of Christ
    • Reminding ourselves how much we need Christ’s forgiveness for the week that is past, and grace for the week that is ahead
    • Glorifying God for the gift of Jesus Christ
    • Reflection on what Jesus means to the Father
    • To reflect the beauty of Christ back to God in the way that we have received Him during the week
  • Remembering Christ also has communal implications:
    • We depend on one another’s participation in worship and fellowship 
    • We align our thoughts and appreciation of Christ as we worship, increasing in unity and arriving at the table with clarity of appreciation and purpose
    • We express agreement by partaking of the bread and wine together
    • In fellowship, we practice our gifts of service and encouragement (obeying Christ’s command to love one another and build up the church)

*Thoughts about proclaiming the Lord’s death (1 Corinthians 11:26) rather than only His resurrection:

    • By dwelling on Jesus’ death, we come to understand the call of the Christian to be “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing” (2 Corinthians 6:10)
    • Luke 24:26 “Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” 
    • It is necessary to understand that Jesus’ death was not an unfortunate setback, but is the basis of His kingship and essential to the fulfilment of His purpose on earth
  • Bonus devotional thought from Kyle:
    • The first mention of wine in the Bible was negative (Noah)
    • The first mention of bread was negative (Adam)
    • The first mention of bread and wine together is positive (Jesus)

2. How do the different components of the meeting contribute to the ultimate goal? 

*We did not discuss this question because of lack of time and some overlap with prior discussion*

3. Based on what we see in Scripture, how important is the format of a service in achieving this goal?

  • Format can have a significant impact on the function of a church meeting or service. 
    • Having a regular format (times, order of events, weekly routines) helps to both promote order and prevent confusion in line with Paul’s instruction given in 1 Corinthians 14:26-40
    • Generally speaking, different people will benefit from different styles/formats; for example, some will focus best in silence, and others with the help of music.
  • There is much more said in the New Testament about the heart of worship than the structure of it.
    • John 4:23-24 “But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”
    • 1 Corinthians 10:31 “So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”
    • 1 Corinthians 11:27-29 “Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself.”
    • 1 Corinthians 14:26 “What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up.”
  • Though format is an effective tool in many ways, God has made it clear in His Word that He is more concerned with our attitude toward worship than the details of how we format of our church services. 

Additional Question: Is it reasonable to adapt the format of a church service to make it more approachable/accessible to the surrounding culture? 

We at Newton Christian Assembly believe that the answer to this question is dependent on the goal of the meeting or service in question. If we are hosting a public event with the express purpose of sharing the Gospel to non-churched audience, we believe that it is appropriate to make culturally sensitive adjustments to the format (ex. time, location, duration, formality, etc.). In other cases, like the morning worship meeting, we do not believe that it is necessary to adapt our format for the benefit of the visitor because the primary purpose of this meeting is for Christians to corporately worship Christ. 

Part 3: Our Worship in the Context of the Global Church 

Relevant Readings: John 17:20-23, Acts 11:1-18, 1 Corinthians 3, 10:23-33, 1 Corinthians 12-13, Ephesians 4:1-16, Titus 3:1-11

1. What are some examples of the different ways that churches format their worship services?

*We did not discuss this question because of lack of time*

2. Is the Bible clear about which format ought to be used by Christians in today’s churches? 

*We did not discuss this question because of lack of time and some overlap with prior discussion*

3. What does the Bible say about our interactions with other churches?

We approached this question from two angles:

Subquestion 1: Should we break bread with other believers?

At Newton Christian Assembly, we practice what we call a “guarded table”. This means that our elders endeavour to speak with all visitors prior to the worship service to get a sense of their testimony, understanding of the emblems, and degree of participation in a local church. The heart behind this practice is to promote clarity of the sacredness of the Lord’s Supper for the sake of the individual, and to preserve the unity of heart and purpose within the congregation. In the end, all are welcome to sit together with us in worship, but we entrust to our elders the task of exercising discernment in the act of welcoming visitors to partake of the bread and wine.

Additional thoughts:

    • God takes the matter of the Lord’s Supper extremely seriously: “For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.” (1 Corinthians 11:29-30)
    • Some believe that it is enough for the individual to decide for themselves whether or not to participate: “Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup.” (1 Corinthians 11:28)
    • One could argue that the individual is always worthy if they are in Christ, because they are dependent entirely on His merit. (Galatians 2:16)
    • The problem in the context of the Corinthian church was the unworthy manner (1 Corinthians 11:27) in which they broke bread, which in that case was a party.
    • If the issue is the integrity of the context rather than the integrity of the individual, then it stands to reason that we should take steps to guard the congregation and meeting as a whole in whatever way the leadership of the church deems wise. 

Subquestion 2: How should we regard believers in other denominations? 

  • All who accept the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ are our brothers and sisters in Christ. 
    • 1 Corinthians 12:12 “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.”
    • Galatians 3:27-29 “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.
    • Ephesians 4:4-6 “There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”
  • Jesus commands all Christians to love one another, so that our unity might be a testimony to the world of who Jesus is, and of our relationship with the Father.
    • John 13:35 “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
    • John 17:20-23 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.
  • Paul openly condemns division among believers.
    • 1 Corinthians 1:10 “I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.”
  • Importantly, Scripture does not condemn the formulation of convictions, nor difference of opinion. Convictions in and of themselves are not the enemy of unity. 
    • Romans 14:5 “One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind.”
    • Romans chapter 14 assumes that believers will hold different convictions about non-essential practices. Rather than commanding individuals to abandon their convictions, Paul gives instruction for how to engage considerately and lovingly with the believers we disagree with
  • Conclusion: We believe that it is so important for a local church to understand the purpose of what they practice, and to grow continually in knowledge of God’s Word and pursuit of His will. Exploring and defining our convictions is a vital and life-giving exercise on both personal and congregational levels. However, we ought always to be aware of the danger of pride, as well as the temptation to use our convictions to discredit or demean other believers, in effect “…[destroying] the one for whom Christ died.” With a spirit of humility and God-given love for our brothers and sisters in Christ, we endeavour to grow in both grace and knowledge as we worship our Lord (2 Peter 3:18).

 

*As always, we encourage you to reach out to us if you have questions or wish to discuss any of these topics further. Please email contactnewtonassembly@gmail.com with your question or to arrange a time to speak with one of our members.

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