This morning I am overwhelmed with gratitude to the Lord. He is letting me write this blog on the critical issue of church membership while I am teaching Burmese students in Myanmar for three weeks! In a country of great poverty, he has me in a nice hotel room with time to work on class material and a fairly strong internet connection! I am a blessed man.
But do I worship the Lord only when things are going well? I hope not. As we continue our examination of the early church and the issue of connection to the local church, we have been looking at a pivotal passage, Acts 2:41-42. Here’s that text again:
I’ve grown up in a denomination (the Plymouth Brethren) that has frowned upon church “membership.” Sometimes for good reasons. However, the New Testament testimony is that the early Christians bound themselves together to serve the Lord with four specific priorities in mind.
We have seen their emphasis upon biblical doctrine. We have also noticed their concern for genuine fellowship with one another. Let’s notice this morning their third priority which is —
Priority #3: The Worth of Worship
We learn from Acts 2:42 that the early Christians devoted themselves to “the breaking of bread.” This expression could refer simply to the sharing of a common meal together, but that would seem to repeat the idea of fellowship. The early believers practiced the Agape feast which archeologists tell us was the precursor to our pot-luck church dinners (I think they have uncovered the clay equivalent of a Tupperware casserole dish). Christians shared a common meal, fellowshiped over the things they had in common in Christ, then someone would make a smooth transition and bring out bread and wine so they could celebrate the Lord’s Supper together. Remembering the Lord’s death until His return was one primary form of worship for the early Christians.
I grew up in a tradition which has very few distinguishing characteristics. The “Open Brethren” celebrate a weekly Lord’s Supper, usually by a separate service dedicated to following the instructions given by the Lord Jesus in Luke 22 and repeated by the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 11.
That weekly service typically is not led by a minister. The men of the congregation are encouraged to come to that service prepared to share a Scripture or lead the congregation in a hymn which focuses on the sacrificial death of Christ for us. Some Brethren celebrations of the Lord’s Supper are painful (for example, when there are long periods of silence because the men have not prepared themselves to lead in worship, or one brother in particular waxes long on some pet doctrine, or the singing, often a capella, is so bad it would shatter a paper cup). Most I have found are encouraging and meaningful.
There are many ways to worship the Lord. “The breaking of the bread” was a reminder to the believing community of the sacrifice the Son of God gave that we might be forgiven and worship God “in the beauty of holiness” (Ps. 29:2). (from the book DocWALK: Putting into Practice What You Say You Believe, pp. 169-170). (to be continued)