By Ron Schwartz
To assemble is, “to bring together by joining together in an orderly way with logical selection and sequence. To fit together various parts so as to make into an operative whole (i.e a radio, or an airplane). To meet together with purpose.”
Many Christians believe that as long as they attend a Church on Sunday morning that they have fulfilled their obligation this passage demands. But author of Hebrews obviously had something more in mind that just a gathering of saints when he used the word assembly. You assemble an orchestra. You assemble an army. You assemble a football team. You don’t assemble an audience or group of spectators.
Some Christians refer to Church gatherings as a meeting, but are they really? A meeting is when a group gathers with a common purpose and with the intention to accomplish a mission, or to have a certain outcome. What this describes is essentially an assembly.
In a meeting, ever person gather must contribute their part if the meeting is to be successful. If someone holds back the outcome may not be complete or as it should. With this in mind, we must be questioned if most Church gatherings are even a meeting? When you have people attend out of some missed guided sense of duty or obligation, who do not participate more than to pay their (what amounts to) membership dues and to sing a few songs, and who experience no lasting change as a result of the gathering you must question if it was a meeting or just Christian entertainment.
Entertainment? Is that not a little harsh? When musicians and singer perform for their allotted 27 or so minutes, a minister delivers entertaining anecdotes and stories while the audience waits in anticipation for the performance to end so they can hop into their cars, head to the beach and enjoy their picnic lunch. Yes, that would be entertainment.
Consider a few examples of an assembly. I few years ago I went to the Grand Rapid’s Ballet to see the Nutcracker. Before the production began I became interested in what was happening in front and just below the stage. Musicians had gathered and were warming up. From their ranks came this awful squeaks, squawks and semi-musical trills as the musicians tuned and warmed up. I could not help but wonder how anything good could come from the unorganized group. Soon the lights lowered and a man (the conductor) walked up to the podium. Immediately, the noise ended and the group became a still as statues. The curtains parted and the conductor raised his baton. Every instrument from the group arose as if standing at attention. The conductor silently counted the beat and finally in unison and in perfect harmony the orchestra began to play. A beautiful melody began to resonate throughout the auditorium. It was almost breath taking.
To be assembled the orchestra must be in place and in tune. The woodwinds in their place and percussion in their place. When the orchestra is in tune, no instrument can be singled out. However, if just one instrument is out of tune or out of rhythm, it is very apparent exact which one it is. Consequently, an orchestra assembles weekly to practice the music till they can execute it flawlessly.
Consider the example of a football team. Every player must know and execute exactly what they are assigned to do. For a certain play the Center knows that he must hike the ball on two; the Quarterback knows that he must take three steps back and then throw the ball to the left exact 15 yards downfield; the Offensive Line Man knows t hat he must block the Tackle; the Tight End knows that he must block the Strong Side Line Backer; the Full Back knows that he must block the Safety; the Half Back knows that he must block the Cornerback and the Wide Receiver knows that he must sprint exactly 10 yards down field, turn to his right and catch the ball. If just one player fails to execute his assigned duty the play might collapse, the Quarter Back might be sacked, the ball intercepted or any one of a hundred different disasters. Consequently, they assemble weekly and practice over and over the same play until it becomes second nature. Then, when each player can execute exactly their part they can become almost unstoppable!
About a year ago Emmitt Smith became the all time leading rusher of the NFL. When he broke the record the game was momentarily stopped as fire works exploded, people cheered and the band played. The message of his accomplishment was sent all around the world. As the cameras focus on him there as 10 other men who were near and looked on – his team mates. Though they rejoice for him both they and he knew the truth: it took all 11 of them performing their role for him to be successful. Few people know that every year at Christmas Emmitt Smith would give to each of the Linemen and Full Back who blocked for him a Rolex watch, Mercedes automobile or some other expensive gift as a tribute of his appreciation. Emmit Smith knew that his success was by enlarge dependant upon how these men executed the part that they were asked to play.
With this in mind, ask yourself, “Why do you gather in a building with other believers?” Or, to use today’s vernacular, “Why do you attend church?” Assembling is more than just working together. Assembling is more than just gathering because of a common faith. Assembling carries the notion of purpose.
Most of the time when believers assemble the meeting can be divided into two parts – the Praise and Worship, and the message. Now ask yourselves, “What is my purpose in these two parts of the assembly?”
Consider first the Praise and Worship part. What is the purpose for praise and worship? Is it not to glory God and to create a habitation for His Spirit through our praise? If this is indeed the purpose then we must ask ourselves if we truly were part of the purpose. Did we hold back because of we are shy or uncomfortable with worshiping God in public? Did we hold back because we are worried about what other people think? To answer in the affirmative to these questions is to establish that we were not part of the purpose and therefore not assembled. When the purpose is to worship God, to hold back for any reason is to not be part of the assembly. What are we then? If you are not part of the assembly you are a spectator or audience.
Now consider the message that is taught. What is the purpose for it? Is it not to instruct us in righteousness? If this is the purpose of the Word being delivered then we must ask ourselves if we have allowed the Word of God to change us? Did we take the message and apply it to our lives? If cannot attest to this then we were not part of the purpose of the Word, and essentially we were not assembled.
What if most of the people are part of the purpose of the meeting? Does that not count for something? This does sound reasonable, however consider the following: you are about to leave on a trip and therefore you board an airplane. As you sit down you look out the window and notice that one of the wings are missing. This troubles you, so you call the stewardess and point out the missing wing. She smiles in an understanding manner and says, “We’re only missing one wing. The rest of the airplane is fully assembled.” Would you feel any better concerning your flight? Would this explanation be satisfactory? I would leave and find another flight with a completely assembled airplane.
Consider another example: when at the store you see a certain product that has a function (or purpose) that you need. You find the box that it comes in and purchase it. When you get home you realize that there is “some assembly required.” Even though all the pieces of the product are present, it is of no meaningful value until it is fully assembled. Consider a bicycle without a chain, or and vacuum cleaner without a cord. So is the body of Christ. It is necessary for each of us to fulfill our function if the purpose God intended for us is to be fulfilled.
Given all that we have covered I must come back to my original observation: most Churches today are not an assembly of believers and are more akin to Christian entertainment. The leadership is more concerned with filling the building then the spiritual quality of those who gather. To this end, the leadership hires professional program managers who compose the service, make sure musicians are in place and with the correct music, makes sure that talented people can lead in worship, and the gathering place is astatically appealing. The goal of the leadership is to require as little from those who gathers as possible and to insure that they are properly entertained so that they will come back. So week after week the leadership gives and gives while the believers who gather take and take. It is this very reason why the average shelf life of the average pastor of the average Church in the USA is 2 to 5 years. After which time the Pastor is sucked dry. Many times he leave disillusioned, bitter, disappointed and angry with the congregation and God.
Gifts of the Spirit
1 Corinthians 13:1-2 (KJV), “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.”
In messages such as this, it is not uncommon for the theme to revolve around the gifts of the Spirit of God, and the gifts are part of it. However, in the epistle of First Corinthians Paul addresses the chaos of those believers using their gifts in a disjointed manner. Most Pastors would be happy to have any of the Spiritual Gifts manifested in their gathering. But what Paul admonishes Corinthian Church that the gifts of the Spirit in and of themselves does not constitute an assembly. There is order and edification that takes place in the body of Christ. As for the gift of the Spirit of God? They will come when the body of Christ finally and completely assembles. It will be a natural (spiritually) phenomena.
Then there is what I call the “Little Drummer Boy” mentality. We have all heard people say something similar to this: “I have to gift to bring (par-rump-pa-pa-pum).” People claim that they are either not gifted, that their gifting is not good enough, or that any one of a hundred excuses to explain why their calling is to sit in the back and observe.
1 Cor 12:7-18 (KJV),
7 But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.
8 For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit;
9 To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit;
10 To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues:
11 But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will.
12 For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ.
13 For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.
14 For the body is not one member, but many.
15 If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?
16 And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?
17 If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling?
18 But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him.
Verse 7 tells us that “the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.” You are gifted, and your gift is not for you. It may even be something that goes against your nature like speak to a crowd. To sit on your gift and not contribute hurts everyone who has assembled.
Verse 18 tell us that “God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him.” You belong is a certain assemble and it is not your choice where this is or what function you are to provide. This verse instructs us that “God set…as it hath pleased Him.” You do not have the right to decide where to go or if you will be part of the purpose of that assemble. The do otherwise is to go against God.
Colossians 2:2 (KJV), “That their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgement of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ”
Colossians 2:19 (KJV), “And not holding the Head, from which all the body by joints and bands having nourishment ministered, and knit together, increaseth with the increase of God.”
We learn here that the body is knit together. True knits are made from a single ball of thread. It is woven together in an interlocking manner, which produces a piece of cloth hundreds of times stronger that the single strand of thread by itself. In like manner we are a single strand of thread as opposed to many individual strands. We tend to think as individuals when we make decisions and when we do things. A common attitude is that you cannot tell me what to do, or that I can do what I want. However, that is not the case for us as Christians. We are one body, or metaphorically speaking, a single strand of thread. We are accountable to one another, and we must be ready to offer explanations for our actions. You cannot make a decision and have it not effect me, nor I you. We are members of the same body. We share each others pains, and we rejoice in each others triumphs.
Other Spiritual Principles
There are a few other spiritual principles to remember.
First, entertainment is deceptive in that you can never get enough. People who attend a gathering of believers but do not assemble with them will eventually become discontent and move on. That is why we see in Churches throughout America “transient” Christians. They attend a Church for a few months to a few years and then move on to the next Church – constantly looking for the next places that can satisfy their every growing appetite. But it is never completely satisfied!
Finally, you can tell how disconnected from the assembly by how much you criticize. Many people come and go from assemblies of believers with hearts full of criticism. They sang the wrong music, or it was out of key or sang wrong. The Pastor is a hypocrite. All they want is money, or they don’t know what they are talking about. We have all heard these kind of response, and they usually come from people who will not assemble with the rest of the believers.
May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ bless and keep you.