If you are like me, the idea of visiting a New Testament gathering of the saints has always been a desire and a longing of your heart. But, how do we go back 2000 years? How do we erase from our own brains 2000 years of man-made traditions and rituals?
Surely, His Spirit would speak to those who are hungry and thirsty for the real thing today. Oh Holy Spirit, how we need your help in the 21st century. Father, it is our prayer that as we write you would take over and use us like a pencil in your hand. Help us understand those things previously hidden from us and bring revelation up from the deepest part of our soul where you dwell. Father, use this article to breathe life back into your Ekklesia.
Have you ever wondered what a New Testament gathering was like? Well, one thing I know is there is a lot of difference between life in the first century and life in the 21st century. So gathering exactly like they did in the 1st century is out of the question. Yet, as the church of the Lord Jesus Christ, I believe there are values that transcend time and space, which we must recover in the 21st Century if we are to be effective and make a difference in our world.
Compare a Gathering of the Church of the New Testament with what we call “Church”;
1. “Go into all the world,” instead of “We exist to establish our local brand”
First century Christians were passionate about the expansion of His Kingdom. The type of expansion witnessed by the Christians of that era could not have happened by chance. Nor could it be attributed to any particular brand, and it could not have happened without the full strength of His unified Body.
Acts 5:28 And look, you have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine,
Acts 19:10 so that all who dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus
2. All Christians Ministered to One Another instead of being serviced by Paid Professional Clergy
Every believer was a brother/sister and a sent minister of the One Church of the Lord Jesus Christ. The early church also believed in on-the-job training instead of sending people away to seminary or Christian ministry school. All Christians considered themselves to be sent to their schools, homes, and the marketplace. Some were sent to cities where Christ was not yet known. Being sent was a 24-hours-per-day, 7-days-per-week lifestyle, not a job or a position. They brought that mindset to their meeting so it was hard to pick out who the leaders were. Today it’s not hard just look for the person the lights are shining on! We are in trouble when a suit or a robe separates a man or woman from the rest of the family, thereby giving them the worship and respect they apparently need to serve Him.
3. Everyone Knew Those Who Ministered Among Them instead of Paying Famous but Unknown Ministers to “Come In to Minister”.
In a New Testament gathering each disciple had a relationship with Christ which was not based on bible verses or rituals. The Christ Life produced in them the fragrance of Christ and the nature of God which is love. Since ministry was not work but a lifestyle, they did not expect to be paid for caring for each other and loving each other. Ministry happened continuously among them – they didn’t turn their Christianity and gifts on and off once a week like the church seems to do today. The Lord made it clear what a hireling was, and the apostle’s backed up this teaching with their everyday life proving they were no hirelings. Today we pay guaranteed honorariums and minimum upfront fees before “God’s Generals” or “Psalmists” will bless us with their gifting. The sad thing is the modern church is happy to pay these honorariums and fees so they can proudly say that this celebrity preacher or that popular worship band came to “minister” to their congregation. God have mercy on us!
4. Gatherings were to Express Love Toward God and Each Other instead of Designed to “Do Worship” or “Get Teaching.”
The New Testament gathering was alive! They were much like a family reunion with various groups sharing, talking, and enjoying fellowship together. It was okay to have fun together. There was no spiritual time and secular time. Songs broke out spontaneously from different people and in diverse places. The apostles mingled through the group helping and praying for the sick and needy. Miracles and shouts of praise went up like popcorn from all over the gathering. There appeared to be no order, but the Lord Jesus was in charge, and the Holy Spirit was orchestrating everything. These were not services. People came and left as they were able, and things pretty much started and ended without fanfare. Today we attend as spectators who need to be guided in our worship by the elite, the qualified, and the graduated. This is to make sure what we do is “spiritual and doesn’t get improperly done.” What a farce!
5. Structures were Optional for Ministry instead of Being Essential to “Do Ministry.”
These 24-hour Christians had no thought of buildings for the purposes of “doing ministry.” Wherever the Spirit took them during the day, that place was considered holy. By a tree, under an awning, or out in the open field, the place became a place “on earth as it is in heaven” because the Kingdom of God had arrived. Every believer had a unique familiarity with the Lord. They believed He was always with them, just as he had promised. This was so very different from our contemporary services with rituals and routines to conjure Him up like other gods. His presence was unconditional and His power to change lives was unquestionable.
6. Gatherings were for the Care of the Family of God instead of Outreach to the Lost
It was obvious that wherever one went, the visible expression of the love of God for His people could be felt. The strengthening of the Body of Christ was in full effect. Some were being fed, others were being clothed, items were being shared, and everywhere one looked, God’s family was experiencing the love of Christ. If you came near to the teachers (plural), the subject was Christ and how to model His life in our daily walk. Missing was the “come and get saved message” which is so common and redundant that it has created an entire army of unprepared and immature saints in the modern church. The early Christians knew that living their daily life well before the lost was more powerful than any outreach or cooked-up event. This family was interested in making disciples who followed Christ instead of getting new members into a local congregation. Gatherings were held in homes and were known by the homeowner’s name, not by the name of some leader (pastor). If our main reason for gathering today were to express love to God and His family, the institutional buildings used for contemporary worship would be almost empty. These buildings simply cannot facilitate the interaction of family dynamics.
7. They Modeled their Lord’s Sacrificed Life instead of Looking for Personal Comfort
In a New Testament gathering no one person was alone and by themselves. It was understood they were there to serve each other. When an unbeliever would curiously come into the group, they were greeted and welcomed. The Holy Spirit was given freedom to flow, and saints did not mind divine “interruptions.” Those who were younger treated the elderly and the widows with great respect. It was common for the younger person to go out of their way to make the elderly and widows comfortable. Some had walked for miles. So quickly, they had their feet washed, oil was applied to wipe away the dust, and water was given so they too could participate once refreshed. In this “all about me” culture, good meetings are measured by how we feel instead how we made others feel by serving them. No Sunday morning clothes or any type of external hypocrisy or hype could be found in those New Testament gatherings. Hours went by and nobody would leave. It felt like you had just arrived, but as it started getting dark groups started leaving. You could hear the followers of Christ for miles. They left like they had arrived, singing songs and rejoicing in what the Lord was doing among His people.
See 1 Pet 2:4,5 Eph 1:22-23 + 2:20-22 + 3:14,15 1Cor. 3:16-17 + 12:27 Rev 5:9-10 + 21: 2,9,10 Acts 1:8 + 2:42-47 + 4:32-35 Math 16:18 + 28-19,20 and many other verses
Why can’t this be a testimony of our gatherings together?
Why is the following so common among our fellowships?
- We know about God, but we do not REALLY know Him.
- We think knowing the Lord is memorizing bible verses.
- We think Christianity is about doing instead of being.
- Like our leaders, we love at arm’s length instead of allowing people to get close.
- We ask Him for Mercy for us, but to others we dispense judgment.
- We think buildings are the Church, and we worship them.
- Leaders leave their place of calling and burden to be trained, then sell their resumes to find “better” places to minister (work).
- Most of our worship is like the worlds, just external.
This list could go on and on………..
This kind of gathering is not a dream but the unsung cry of every “born from above” child of God. This is not a voice of judgment, but an earnest plea that “we consider the fruit of our ways.” There is still time to repent, ask forgiveness, and seek His face. His arm has not been shortened that He can not come to our rescue. Hear the warnings of those who cry out to the wilderness of religious world. Will you listen Called-Out ones? Will you ask Father to fill us with His love for a hurting world? Don’t you feel the shaking? Don’t you hear the hoof beats of an impending crisis? May the Lord speak to your heart, and may His Name be glorified on the earth because of it.
Jose Bosque, with Wes Schoel
Jose has ministered in Jacksonville since 1987 and served the city since 1992 as a citywide servant leader. Jose is considered a resource and a spiritual father to many leaders in the city and in the 70 nations where the Lord has sent him to serve. Originally born in Cuba, Jose has resided in Jacksonville since 1966. Contact Him at: www.RevivalPartners.net or ForRevival@aol.com Editors Note: Please help us continue to get this word out for free- No amount is too small- Thanks for your generosity! DONATE CLICK HERE