The assembly of people that began on the Pentecost following Christ’s resurrection serves as a model for us, even in the 21st Century. We follow the patterns that were set up by the early church in that we respect the way they understood the authority that governed them. We observe how the early church worshiped, and follow the pattern of a capella singing and remembering our Lord’s death and resurrection each first day of the week. We seek to follow the words given to Timothy and Titus in that we want the fullness of the gospel proclaimed in ways that befit sound doctrine. It is good that we follow the model of that church. I believe this is what God wants. But now consider an illustration.
Suppose some years ago a couple of men put together a plan for a sales organization. These entrepreneurs had the idea of gathering together groups of people, having regular meetings, introducing them to the products they had for sale, and then sending them out into the marketplace. Let us suppose that they were able to set up local chapters that had regular meetings so that the members could learn about the products, understand their organizational structure, discuss various ways of spreading the news about their products, and be informed about the benefits of their organization.
They faithfully met every week, had some good discussions, got to know one another, and thus developed a close relationship. After each meeting, they would go home and go about their normal routines, and then meet again the next week, on and on. Guess what. They had the model down, and profited from their times together, as they learned more and more about their company and their products, and enjoyed their friendships, but they rarely sold any of the products. Their mission was to get new customers and sell products and in the mission they were failing.
The company had both a method and a mission, but was only carrying out the method. Do you see a connection? Can we apply that to the church today? It is possible that we have the model pretty well down pat, but what are we doing about the mission of the church? Just like the company, we have a product to sell — the good news of the gospel!
Let’s now make the application to God’s “company,” His church. Many congregations meet regularly to worship, to study together, to remember our Savior’s death and resurrection, etc. They want sound teaching, and enjoy the company of other Christians. After assembling, they go home, and out into the world. They live godly lives, and treat others with kindness. They have the model down, but what about the mission?
Some may counter, “Yes, our church is active in this. We support several preachers in the U.S. and overseas. We have gospel meetings, and a VBS every summer.” All very good, but why then do we see so many churches that are barely growing, if at all, or are even declining in membership, or just “holding their own?” Could it be that we are satisfied that we have the model well in place, but that we are not carrying out the mission? I’m not talking about the mission of the church, as a body, but the mission of individual Christians. Please understand, the carrying out of the Great Commission is primarily given to individuals.