Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The Assembly is for Believers, Not Unbelievers

Read 1 Cor 14 with a fresh mindset, committed to reading it with an open mind, in order to understand the following.

1 Cor 14 indicates that the assembly is designed to benefit the unbelievers, not the believers. Unbelievers will benefit if they come,
but that's not the focus. So offering an invitation makes no sense.

We were tasked with going into all the world and making disciples, not with inviting them into our meetings designed for believers in order to try to convert them there.

Our assemblies are not for the purpose of worshiping God (vertical focus), or for pulling in outsiders to convert them, but for encouraging one another (horizontal focus). These other activities (worship and conversion) will take place in our assemblies, but they're not the purpose for our assemblies.

A special "Gospel Meeting" would be an appropriate time to reach out to unbelievers, but only if it was designed to appeal to unbelievers, rather than simply an extended version of our current meetings.

(While on the subject, notice that according to 1 Cor 14, our current meetings have the wrong focus (vertical instead of horizontal) and are organized in opposition to Paul's instructions, wherein each member uses whatever God-given gift he has in order to encourage others, one by one, so that all may encourage and all may be encouraged. This is reiterated by Peter, in 1 Peter 4:9-11: "Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.")

"Church" should be for the benefit of believers, not unbelievers, and if you're going to have an outreach program such as a "Gospel Meeting", it needs to be designed for the benefit of unbelievers, not believers.

Note that there's nothing wrong with evangelizing non-Christians within our assemblies; in fact, it's a good thing. What I'm railing against is that the Biblically-stated purpose of assembling is to build up the converted, and it seems to me that we've neglected that stated purpose for other things, such as worshiping (also a good thing in our assemblies (1 Cor 14:17, 25), but not the stated purpose for them (1 Cor 14:17, 26)) and converting. Both of these are good things, but not at the neglect of the God-stated purpose, that of the building up our own.

When you invite a non-believer to the assembly in hopes of the preacher converting him, you're in essence expecting the purpose of the assembly to be the conversion of unbelievers. It's great that an unbeliever might be converted (as happens late in chapter 14 of 1 Corinthians, not as the result of preaching, however, but of being convicted and judged by all the members, not just the preacher, thus revealing his inner secrets), but to expect that is to expect something that is not the purpose of the assembly.

All I'm saying is that we need to realign our thinking of the assembly to be more Biblical. The assembly is for believers, not for unbelievers.

Originally published at:


Kent West said...

HCSB 1 Thess 5:11 - Therefore encourage one another and build each other up as you are already doing.

Rom 14:18 - Whoever serves Christ in this way is acceptable to God and approved by men. 19 So then, we must pursue what promotes peace and what builds up one another.

Eph 4:11 - And He personally gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, 12 for the training of the saints in the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ, 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God’s Son, growing into a mature man with a stature measured by Christ’s fullness.

Kent West said...

NKJV Eph 4:15-16 - 15 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— 16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.