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What we Believe

Foundations for Christian Life

No.9 - Local Church Structures (Meetings)

Study verse: Hebrews 10:25

"Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another."

The local church is an organism that is formed by the joining of hearts with Christ first then with one another. The commitment is a sincere heart commitment to Christ and to his body the church and this is worked out as the body meets together. Therefore an important part of the local church is the two main meetings and their format. First the Sunday Service: This will normally include some of the following:-

a) WORSHIP All worship is ultimately personal. To be genuine it must flow from a thankful heart and from an appreciation of who God is and what He has done. To sustain worship we need to keep ourselves in living contact with Him and experience a constant revelation of who He is.

1. Worship is a decision of the will - Psalm 57:7-9. Worship doesn't just happen, it is produced by an individual's decision to co-operate with the Holy Spirit. The will is the first step in our worship to God.

2. Worship is a desire of the heart - Psalm 40:3. David was affected in his spirit. It often motivated him to song and frequently to dance, but David's worship was not confined to the closet. Walking in the countryside, observing God's beautiful creation, considering God's merciful dealings and times of comfort, deliverance and provision that he had received from God's bountiful supply. David was affected in his spirit and produced some of the most anointed psalms of worship. We need to take time to consider who God is and how precious He is to us personally.

3. Worship is a devotion of life - Psalm 33:3. As the voice is vital to the singer and colours to the painter, so a deep appreciation of who God is and what He has done is essential to the true worshipper. Our concept of worship is often limited to the context of meetings or the occasional quiet time, but worship is to be our lifestyle, a way of life. A person in love with Christ will spill over with more than enthusiasm; a strong passion will motivate him or her to spend time in adoration of Christ. Such a person will always be a provocation to others.

4. Worship is a demonstration of love - Psalm 81:1-2. Personal worship isn't fragile, it is very demonstrative, yet it makes skillful use of instruments. Unless the heart is engaged in worship, our times of celebration can degenerate into a noisy imitation of the true act of celebrating the living God.

5. Worship is an emotional response - Mark 12:29. Personal worship properly involves the emotions. Our relationship with God is not cold and clinical but loving and passionate. Jesus then goes on to define the areas of the human makeup through which this love is to be expressed. The heart is the seat of the will, the soul that of the emotions, the mind of our reasoning and strength speaks of our flesh. Worship is not excessive emotionalism, a soggy worship with soggy worshippers but the breaking of a box of perfume by Mary in the presence of Jesus was a very emotional act of loving worship.

6. Worship is a declaration of truth - Romans 12:1-2. Worship has no foundation unless it is anchored in the truth. We are to worship in spirit and truth. There can be no sounder foundation for personal worship than when we are gripped by the truth of God, that He is worthy. Once I begin to appreciate the glorious reality I cannot help but offer myself as a living sacrifice which is my spiritual act of worship.

b) BREAKING OF BREAD (Matt.26:26-29) is also known as The Lord's Table (1 Cor.10:21), The Lord's Supper (1 Cor.11:20), The Communion (1 Cor.10:16). The passover setting that Christ chose for its institution, with its reference to the substitutionary death of the lamb and the consequent redemption of Israel from death and bondage, provides the historical background against which the significance of the feast comes into focus.

His body and blood Christ said were given for - on behalf of - His own and His blood was shed for the remission of sins. Thus Christ our passover is sacrificed for us and we in sincerity and faith must keep the feast. In the symbolism of the breaking of bread our attitudes are more important than our actions. We must always be on our guard, as with every other biblical ordinance of just doing it out of habit rather than out of our heart. So there must be:

1. Preparation - 1 Corinthians 11 tells us what we should do.

a) Look back to Calvary - for we are proclaiming the death of Christ. The very actions of the breaking of bread and the pouring of the wine are visual reminders that what we celebrate is not merely that He was flesh and blood like us but that His body and blood were a sacrifice. That He "bore our sins in His own body on the tree" (1 Peter 2:24) and that His blood was the seal of the New Covenant in which we are partakers by grace.
b) Look forward - to His second coming. The breaking of bread becomes like a bridge thrown across the period of actual separation between the past presences of Christ on earth and His future presence when He returns. It is the means by which Jesus lovingly assures us that He will return to claim His bride.
c) Look inward - in our desire to avoid formalism or habit, we must never lapse into carelessness. This holy communion is a sacred encounter with God. We must therefore examine our motives and the manner in which we participate at the Lord's table, ensuring we discern the Lord's body, being in a right standing with Christ and with the body of believers (Matt.5:23-24).

2. Participation - we are to participate

a) Knowingly - 1 Cor.11:29, Acts 2:46-47.
b) Willingly - Luke 22:14-16 (desire to take).
c) Thankfully - Luke 22:17.
d) With one another - 1 Cor.11:33, 1 Cor.10:16-17 (communion is an act of sharing).

c) THE OFFERING This is sometimes called 'Tithes and Offerings' and is the means by which the church is funded and functions. The New Testament reveals that our attitude to money is very important (1 Tim.6:3-12). The word tithe means one tenth - one tenth of our income. In the Old Testament the Israelites gave a tithe for the support of their religious leaders, the Levites, who were thereby freed from the necessity of normal work to concentrate on religious duties. Malachi 3:10 - "Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. 'Test me in this,' says the Lord Almighty, 'and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it." Tithing is not specifically taught in the New Testament. It was a generally accepted part of Jewish religious life. It is mentioned, however, in Hebrews 7:1-2 in connection with Abraham, who paid tithes to Melchizedek, the priest of the most high God. This raises two points:-

1. Since Abraham is the father of faith (Gal.3:6-9) his example is one we would do well to follow.
2. Abraham lived before the law was given.

This suggests that tithing, like marriage and one day's rest in seven, is one of those principles which, though later embodied in the law of Moses, are principles of a more enduring nature than the law. Someone once said our tithe is only paying our rent in the kingdom, so our giving really only begins once our tithe has been paid. Look at and consider the following scriptures:

2 Cor.8:3 - "For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability..."

2 Cor.9:7 - "Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver."
1 Cor.16:2 - "On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made."

Clearly, God intends our giving to be:

1. In proportion to our means.
2. Systematically - regularly.
3. With a willing cheerfulness.

Let each of us realise the blessing of the higher law of love and not miss so much blessing by only 'legally' tithing.

d) THE AGAPE The agape was the common meal or love feast of the early church. Acts 2:42-46 -

"They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts."

Besides being a means of satisfying the hungry and distributing to the poor, it was a means for expressing unity and brotherly love. For this reason, at some services we have a meal together - a common meal from one table, each contributing as he is able. Eating together breaks down barriers and inhibitions and means that our time spent together brings a bond of love with the body that was experienced in the early church. This is also a time for people to be able to play together, which is an important time to break down some of the generation barriers. Not all are energetic, but just playing a board game with someone or chatting while others are playing brings about the kind of unity that God blesses. There is an old saying, "A family that prays together and plays together, stays together." Such meals need not be restricted to the times of the meeting; we encourage people within the church to be together as often as is possible.

MID-WEEK GROUPS The united meetings of the whole church is a glorious time of praise, proclamation and fellowship. In the New Testament they not only gathered together in this way but also had fellowship from house to house. We also need the more intimate fellowship with a smaller number of Christians. Look at the following scriptures: Rom.16:3-5- "Greet Priscilla and Aquila ... greet also the church in their house."
Col.4:15- "Give my greetings to the brethren at Laodicea and to Nympha and the church in her house." Philemon 1-2- "Paul...Philemon...and the church in your house."

The mid-week groups meet weekly for worship, prayer, bible study and evangelism. Each group is in the care of a mid-week group Co-ordinator who is either a leader of the church or is a mature Christian who has been given this responsibility by the eldership. The groups reveal the real strength of the church and are flexible enough to be ideal for reaching the unsaved and drawing them into fellowship. The informal atmosphere of the home is conducive to a relaxed and easy flow of the Spirit which encourages the participation of all.

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