Question:

I have a question about a certain type of assembly that I am not sure is scriptural.

During the invitation at the church building tonight, the speaker used Matthew 18:15-20 to distinguish between individual, group and church. I agreed with the points he made. After the lesson, there was some lively discussion between the speaker and another member of the church here that did not agree with a couple of the points the speaker made, and the subject of coming together overseas with a group of Christians on a temporary basis, complete with the Lord's Supper and the collecting funds on the first day of the week, was brought up.

Now I understand that it would be entirely unscriptural for a few Christians who are members of a local congregation who deliberately forsake the assembly to go hunting or fishing on the first day of the week and assemble in the woods or in a boat to take the Lord's Supper or lay by in store. But what about a group of Christians who are in the military in a time of war, assembling to do all five acts of worship, if they know the church will be temporary and not permanent?

I know they can come together to sing, pray and read or preach the word of God any day of the week. On the first day of the week, I might see how they could also partake of the Lord's Supper. But what about collecting funds? Doesn't a church have to be established in one location and have a definite work to do in order for this to be authorized? What would the funds be used for when this temporary church disbands? (Of course, this is all irrelevant if this activity is unauthorized to begin with.)

How about membership? Is it scriptural for these group of Christians to form a temporary congregation in a different locale and still retain their membership at the church they know they will be returning to? 

I hope I have conveyed all of this in a way that is understandable. Thanks in advance for responding to these questions.


Answer:

"Therefore those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word" (Acts 8:4).

A good question, for which I don't think I have a really good answer.

La Vista is near a military base and we have had members who were assigned to distant regions on a temporary basis. What generally happens is that Christians in the same locale try to gather for services while there. One of our members joined such a small group while he was stationed overseas. Much depended on the duty cycles as to how many came. They worshiped together and took turns presenting lessons. They tried teaching others on base and even went so far as to set up supplies for the next batch who might come in so they did not have to start with nothing. Always the hope was there would be overlap between those leaving and those coming, but it didn't always work that way. But what each viewed themselves as doing was worshiping with other Christians while visiting. They do not see themselves as establishing a congregation in that location.

If there is a local congregation, these Christians will try to met with them, but there are a number of places where the military goes where Christianity is not welcomed in the country. Often these Christians must resort to meeting on bases in order to worship. Though these groups are short-term, it doesn't mean they are wrong. All of us visit and worship with other congregations while traveling. A person does not need to become a member of a congregation before he can worship with fellow Christians. I know many Christians who first learned about the Lord through such groups. These are men and women who have been scattered and who used the opportunity to teach some they will only know for a little while.

These people did assemble as the called out body of Christ. They do come together as a church for the time they are together (I Corinthians 11:18), though each is visiting from other congregations. I guess you can say they are "congregations" made up entirely of visitors.

I once knew a preacher who went into southern Vermont to try and establish a congregation. He worked in the area for about five years. A few people were converted, but in the end there weren't enough people to keep a congregation going. Was that group not a church because it only lasted five years? How long must a group exist in a locale before it is considered a church? I can't think of a passage that specifies a time frame.

Meeting together with Christian knowing that the gathering will only be temporary is not ideal, but sometimes you have to work with what you have available to you. Your two examples are different because hunters have a choice to take a break from their hunting to go and meet with a congregation in the area. Military people and some business people are not given a choice, but they work to make a poor situation into one that can profit the Lord.