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Home : Articles :
Early Church Meeting

 

A look at the early church meeting
By Andy Zoppelt

The Remnant Call

Many of us struggle to see an authentic expression of the church (God's people). In our hearts nothing is able to fill that emptiness except God's purpose for us and His Bride. The longing for the real and the discontent for the false has been a driving factor for those honestly seeking to be a part of the real body of Christ, the remnant. Searching, tears and brokenness have become a way of life for those in search for the real expression of His Body in our day. Though there is much talk about power and love, there is little of it found in this country. Will we be stirred from our place of compliancy and safety to go outside the camp and find Him?

What were the defining seeds of the early church?

The first ingredient of the New Testament church was a devotion to Christ, the Apostolic teaching and a power and presence of God that caused it to function and to be uniquely united together as an expression of the son of God on this earth. Paul's letter to the Corinthians tells us much about the meetings of the early church. Paul's letters reveal the activities of their meetings and the guidelines of the moving of the Spirit of God. these guidelines where designed to keep the flesh from entering and controlling the meetings. These guidelines serve no place in a meeting void of body function and power. Without the manifestation of the Spirit, there is no power and no supernatural gifts being manifested to encourage and build up the assembly.

Jesus forbid the early church to begin without power.

"Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry (wait) in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high." (Luke 24:49, NKJV)

If the early disciples would have initiated the church without power, their meetings would have resembled much of what we see today. The lack of power would have forced them to "create" soulish and man centered activities to replace the power. They would have needed song books to sing, worship leaders to motivate them to worship, preachers to make up for the lack of body function, and programs to meet the special needs of the meetings. They would have had to depend on "form" in the absence of power. The power of God through the working of the Holy Spirit was the essential ingredient of the early church. Even our house church movement is a formula for the new testament church. Though meeting in homes is new testament, meeting in homes without power isn't. The first few expressions we see in the scriptures is the power which the early church enjoyed and something totally foreign to us. A casual reading in the book of Acts demonstrates their power and their unity.

"So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls. They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles. And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved." (Acts 2:41-47, NKJV)

Spend some time and examine carefully the results of God's power working in the early assembly: "Continually devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship…" The salvation of three thousand persons, inflamed by the power of God, ignited an authentic holy Spirit function among them and a fellowship from house to house. How many homes did it take to accommodate the 3,000? Plenty! The city was dotted with the presence of God's assembly. The reality of God's assembly was only a few steps away in their neighborhood.

"Everyone Kept feeling a sense of awe." This was no temporary feeling, like much of what we see today. This was the presence of God in new wine skins, producing and manifesting the life of Jesus for all to see and experience. Sad that our old traditionally bound wine skins cannot contain for long the moving of the Spirit. The dove of God no sooner descends to demonstrates His love and power and He just as quickly retreats. We enjoy the excitement of the presence of God, but are unwilling to expand to accommodate Him. The Lord is once again looking for new wine skins for the new wine which he is about to pour out.

God honored the apostles and those who were committed to their teaching. It was a supernatural fellowship, spontaneously lead by the Holy Spirit.

"Day by day continuing with one mind."

How we struggle today to meet once a week. And then when we get there we are often late. It is only because the things we want take priority over the things of God. We are divided in mind and purpose. Our churches are competitive in nature and we are quick to brag concerning "our" brand of religion. We are absolutely deceived in the manner which we subtly promote our "divisions" of religion. "A house divided cannot stand."

Our meeting are plagued with divided hearts and we are intolerant over the idea of meeting more than twice a week…. The "awe" is gone. If we had the power, the fellowship would follow. Who wouldn't want to meet seven days a week if we had such power. No one would care about the sports events, the news and movies on TV if God was healing and delivering those in bondage. It would be hard to leave the meeting and go to work. We simply do not want to face what it would take to find Him and the reality of His meetings (I purposely leave out the word "church" in referring to God's people meeting together, it is a mistranslation of the Greek word ekklesia)

Their prayer meeting

"And now, Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant unto your servants, that with all boldness they may speak your word, By stretching forth YOUR hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done by the name of YOUR holy child Jesus. And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they (the united, functioning body… not an audience with a building called the church…sick) were assembled together; and they were all filled (something we desperately need) with the Holy Ghost, and they spoke the word of God with boldness (an immediate answer to their prayers). And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul (what a condemnation on our denominations): neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own (the absolute destruction of independence and selfishness); but they had all things common. And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all. Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, And laid them down at the apostles' feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need." (Acts 4:29-35. KJV)

"And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul" In the new testament division was an abomination, a heresy. How little respect for the unity we have today and how readily we accept our denominational division, one would think it was apostolically established.

"our traditions of division have taken on the garments of orthodoxy; they appear biblical, but they are not…. When pure Christianity degenerates into divided camps of ambitious people, it literally destroys the harmony, power and blessing of the 'temple of God.' The individual who brings or supports such carnal divisions in the church has positioned himself in a very dangerous place before God. The temple of God is holy. Our unity together is holy. Our love for one another is holy, for the Father Himself dwells in the resting place of caring attitudes and loving relationships. Collectively, we are the dwelling place of God on earth. The warning is severe: 'If any man destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him.'" (THE CREDIBILITY FACTOR, by Francis Frangipane)

Compliancy is the enemy of hunger. In Rev 3:17, the Laodicean church found itself satisfied with the status quo and declared they were "in need of nothing" or lethargic. It must be that we are satisfied with the rituals of our traditions instead of a breaking with those traditions and seeking Him with a hunger to see the establishment of His kingdom. We cannot be driven by a deep hunger for what is real and what gives Him Glory on one hand and be satisfied with what we see today. Shame on us!!!!

Jesus clearly told the apostles that two things would happen upon His death and resurrection: the Holy Spirit would come and they would do greater works than His. The power of the Holy Spirit fell on the early saints and immediately 3000 and then later 5000 people were ushered into the kingdom… and without silver and gold. It was a demonstration, of the character and power of God through His saints. The apostles were doing what Jesus could not do while He was on this earth. Through the Holy Spirit they were building a "living" temple, not made of stones, but saints of one mind and one soul. God's body of believers became vessels of the Holy Spirit to empower a functioning body with His Glory. It was a body representing function and purpose for "every" member. They were not an audience to the glory of a building or a person (pastor, priest or pope), but a body which God honored as an extension of His presence and power. Their love for one another and unity was manifested before all the world. The world is not moved by our indifferent audience once a week, and God hates it. Shocked with those words, then read the letter to the seven churches in Revelation chapter two and three with an open mind.

"But they had all things common. And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all."

They were characterized with having "all things common.." True Christianity cannot exist with self-interest. Every man calling the things he possess as his own leads to selfishness and pride. In fact, our religious belief has lead us to selfishly possess more and calling it God's blessing. The Holy Spirit will only manifest Himself in unity and love. True love operates in the interest of others . The result of a loving body is not more possessions, but "great power," and "great grace."

Our churches in seeking more silver and gold are in poverty of power and grace.

"But whoever has this world's goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? (1 John 3:17, NKJV)

"how does the love of God abide in him? The answer is obvious, He doesn't. Sobering words. We are simply not building according to the teachings of Jesus and according to apostolic traditions.

They gave "unto every man according as he had need."

"They gave," is a work that Jesus could not do as an individual while on earth as a man, it takes a body of believers supporting one another. Jesus had to die opening the way for the way for the Holy Spirit to fill the hearts of believers so they could function in love to one another. .

"But when He (Jesus) saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd." Matt 9:36, NKJV

Wasn't Jesus a shepherd? Couldn't He shepherd the multitude? Why was He looking for labors in the harvest of men? It is because Jesus understood His limits as a man while on this earth, He knew His limits as being one, and His inability to closely connect to all those in need. He wanted to reach through mankind to build mankind. Jesus effectively chose only twelve to begin His building (people). Later He empowered them to build his assembly. Jesus made it clear that upon Him (the rock), He would build His assembly. Praise God, it is happening, He is building, He is empowering to fulfill His commission in places like China.

If the great power and grace is going to work in our midst, there must be a great working of brokenness and humility to lay the groundwork. It would have to destroy our denominational divisions, our independent arrogance, and we would need a desperate search for the real and to be real.

Let us make this point very clear, if we minister without "power" we must therefore seek a "form" to replace the power.

The early church meet with power

"How is it then, brethren? Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, (each of you) has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification." (1 Cor 14:26. NKJV)

"…God has dealt to each one a measure of faith. For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; or ministry (better serving), let us use it in our ministering (serving); he who teaches, in teaching; he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness. Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer; distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality." (Rom 12:3-13, NKJV)

Wow! That is the church: "having then gifts…" The only gift we primarily experience in much of our meetings today is the gift of teaching and that is organized to function primarily through one person while the others "must" keep silent. We have failed to see the damage caused by institutionalizing the body of Christ: its failure in maturing the saints and its failure to give expression to the manifestation of the Spirit through the body of Christ. Without the manifestation of the Spirit, there is no manifestation of the body of Christ. Jesus did not die for an organization in His name with well oiled programs, but a bride, a body functioning. The early believers were a demonstration to the world of their separation from the world and their life together.

Taken from an article by Cal Thomas in "Religion In America," and quoting Alan Wolfe in his book titled "The Transformation of American Religion: How We Actually Live Our Faith.

"'After traveling the country observing various denominations and religious services, far from living in a world elsewhere, the faithful in the united states are remarkably like everyone else' he makes the point that religion in the United States 'has never existed in practice the way it is supposed to exist in theory.' He goes on to state that the 'American culture has triumphed.'

Cal Thomas quoting Luisa Kroll, an essay titled, Megachurches, Megabusinesses, from Forbes magazine's web page, "'maybe churches aren't so different from corporations.' Kroll lists big church that have recording studios, publishing houses, computer graphic design suites, satellite networks and huge TV budgets (one in Huston, she says, spends 12 million annually on air time alone) and 'pastors often act as chief executives and use business tactics to grow their congregations,' writes Kroll. How many of these misspent resources could be invested in transforming people's lives instead of building monuments to pastorage egos? We may put 'In God We Trust' on our money, but in fact , it is in Dow we trust.'"

The New Testament home church meeting.

This is not a meeting where coffee and donuts are shared while sitting in our comfortable couches. This is not a meeting of sharing this weeks events. Not a meeting to make us feel we are the remnant or the New Testament church. No, this must be a meeting marked by the presence and power of the Holy Spirit. For if the Holy Spirit doesn't show up, there will be no meeting. It is a meeting with the Father through Jesus and empowered by the Holy Spirit. It is a love-come-together.

Let us pick up on the verses we just read and give a picture of the typical meeting of the saints in the New Testament.

We first set out to establish that the early church was a supernatural expression of Jesus on this earth, and continuing where He left off. Let us now look at what must have been a typical meeting of the early believers:

As the saints leave their homes and go to the home of another brother and sister, they carry a sense of expectancy and excitement. As they walk in the door they sense the presence of the Holy Spirit, they are aware that He is there to minister in their midst and to use them and to reveal Jesus. They gather together and take their places in the home, and suddenly a prayer goes up with the awesome presence of God from one sitting over there, it sends shock wave of glory throughout the room. Brothers and sisters are caught in the spirit of the utterance, they begin with one mind and one heart to flow in adoration to Him. The power of Jesus' presence intensifies, He is pleased to be there and He is free to express Himself without the traditions of men (old wine skins).

Suddenly one begins to lead a song given by the Holy Spirit, others are caught up in the spirit from which that song sprouted and they find the utterance filling their own heart and mouth. The worship and the presence of God is awesome. A person begins to speak in tongues and then another interprets. Another begins to prophecy, an unbeliever is present and falls on his face stating of a truth God is here. The group falls in further worship and the sense of awe in His majesty the King fills the room. The meeting goes for hours without any looking at the sundial to tell time.

The neighbors, in curiosity, visit and are struck by their own need for Him and witness the love of God in the midst of the assembly. They hear of hundreds of homes open in their city to the building of the saints together. Everyone is special, everyone is being used and all care for one another. They sit down and have a meal together in the gladness of their hearts. They are in anticipation of sharing a meal with Jesus again in heaven, maybe this will be their last meal on this earth. Everything they do is filled with meaning. Everything they do is orchestrated by the Holy Spirit. Truly He is in control. The new saints quickly find a father figure in their midst, one which responsibly watches over them and mentors them. The supernatural bond carries them onward and forward. The body grows as each member is given function and gifts supplied by the Holy Spirit. The early church changed the world to match their faith and not change their faith to match the world.

Today we need our song books or projection equipment to sing. We need our worship team to pump us up, just in case we don't feel like singing. Most of the times we don't realize the words we are singing. Rightly does A.W. Tozer say: "Christians don't tell lies they just go to church and sing them" Our music is more geared for our taste and the world's standards than a spontaneous response from the Holy Spirit. The tongues, interpretation, prophecy is all left to one man with a commanding view from the pulpit (an unbiblical article of furniture). In our church today we are not recognized by our love and the giftings of God, but rather our buildings and pastors….. Lord give us eyes to see and ears to hear what the Spirit is saying to your assembly.

The Large meetings.

On occasion they all came together in one place. They gather together to hear an apostle or one sent with a certain message. Let us look at one of their meetings. Acts 20:7-12, in this meeting in an upper room, the crowds gathered, Paul is passing through, he is going to speak. "On the first day of the week we came together to break bread. Paul spoke to the people and, because he intended to leave the next day, (he) kept on talking until midnight. There were many lamps in the upstairs room where we were meeting (third floor). Seated in a window was a young man named Eutychus, who was sinking into a deep sleep as Paul talked on and on. When he was sound asleep, he fell to the ground from the third story and was picked up dead. Paul went down, threw himself on the young man and put his arms around him. 'Don't be alarmed,' he said. 'He's alive!' Then he went upstairs again and broke bread and ate (ate after the meeting). After talking until daylight, he left. The people took the young man home alive and were greatly comforted." (Acts 20:7-12, NIV)

few today can last more than a couple of hours, let alone all day, all night and the next day. I remember when I first met the Lord, Since I had already experienced going to church, I was not excited of attending. It took several months for me to make the decision to go to church. the scriptures I read concerning the body of Christ were exciting. I was upset with God for giving the early church all the glory and us in America all the boredom. It has taken me years to understand that the scriptures were right and we were building wrong. It was hard for me to imagine spending the rest of my life having to sit in a church with my only function being part of the pastor's audience and giving 10% of my money to something that bored me.

Our system of church is based on going to a church that feeds us and preaches the word. Our meetings are oratory gymnastics: the teaching is peppered with a joke, a story, 3 points and go home. Our meetings are for information, not life changing. We are impressed when our pastor is cool and talks with a cool expression. Or maybe we like the King James preachers using the "thee's" and the "Thou's." But are we being "church?"

"That we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up (together) in all things into Him who is the head--Christ-- 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." (Eph 4:14-16, NKJV)

I realize now my birthplace is in Laodicea. I have been taught the Laodicean ways and impressed with the Laodicean ministers. Resulting in indifference, wars, compromise and lethargy. The awe is gone… and I want it back and Him and His body back. I can't live without Him and His body. I hate every substitute and every false way.

"For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors (betrayers), headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!" (2 Tim 3:2-5, NKJV)

Isn't it interesting to note that Paul is not referring to the world, but the so-called church, "Having a form of godliness." You can be sure the world doesn't have a "form of godliness." Whenever the body of Christ is reduced to a "form" or formulas, it will garnish all the sins of the world in its diversity. When people are not full of the Spirit to function, we must find a form to replace it. We need Sunday schools, youth programs, ceo pastors, etc..

We gravitate to one man leading us, much like Israel. Can you hear the crying hearts of Israel, "Give us a king." Or "Moses you let God speak to you." Our cry today is "Give us a pastor, a building." Let one person represent us. This was not the intention of Jesus. He sought a body, He sought for us to be His representatives and to be full of the Holy Spirit and His gifts and ministries.

God's way, the triune God flowing through a diverse body:

"There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit (Holy spirit). There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord (Jesus the Son). And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God (Father) who works all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills. For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ." (1 Cor 12:4-12, NKJV)

Think about it!!!!!!!!!

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