How can Christians gather and not be the church?


We have addressed several people on the subject and I went to the computer and found different ones saying the same thing. My problem was I just couldn't figure out how we could not leave the building and still not be assembled.  The church is the called out and when we are gathered in one place we become the called out. Where we go now, we do not have a kitchen, but when we have a gospel meeting, we have a pot-luck at the community center. I have a problem with that also but the way you explained how we can come together and still not be the church, I can see where they think they can do that. I still have a problem with that "coming from a church that had a kitchen," so we just don't do it at all.


Every gathering is not necessarily a meeting of the church. When a group of protestors gathered, "Some therefore cried one thing and some another, for the assembly was confused, and most of them did not know why they had come together" (Acts 19:32). Even though the word ekklesia, which is typically translated "church" is used, this was a "called out gathering;" it was not a church.

This is clear in Paul's discussions about why worship services needed to be treated as special. Notice the wording:

  • "you come together" (I Corinthians 11:17)
  • "when you come together as a church" (I Corinthians 11:18)
  • "when you come together in one place" (I Corinthians 11:20)
  • "when you come together to eat" (I Corinthians 11:33)
  • "the whole church comes together in one place" (I Corinthians 14:23)
  • "Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification" (I Corinthians 14:26).

Therefore a church service is:

  • Christians coming together for the purpose of being a church. There have to be intentions to assemble as a church. Everyone gathering at the Hamiltons for pizza would not constitute a church even if all the members of the congregation came.
  • Christians coming together at a designated time and in a designated place. It isn't a haphazard, casual, or accidental grouping of Christians. Just because it is the first day of the week and some Christians wander in during the afternoon, it doesn't mean they are the church.
  • All Christians in an area being called to come. A ladies' class isn't a meeting of the church. It is a meeting where the whole church is called upon to assemble.
  • The assembled Christians are performing acts of worship, such as eating the Lord's Supper, singing, praying, and teaching.

I don't want you to go against your conscience, but I would like you to consider that there is a tendency when encountering error to swing to the opposite extreme. There isn't anything wrong with Christians getting together and enjoying each other's company (Acts 2:46). When it becomes wrong is when people make it a function of the church to sponsor such gatherings, since it isn't a work of the church. "But if anyone is hungry, let him eat at home, lest you come together for judgment" (I Corinthians 11:34).

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