Interesting stuff talking about fellowship yesterday from Hebrews 10 (check out "let us" statements in NIV) and this phrase, "let us not give up meeting together as some are in the habit of doing". He's writing to the church (house of God reference in same passage) so we can assume that he wants the church to keep meeting together.
I might translate this as don't miss church (as I said yesterday, not to get stars by your name, but because you and I both need you to be there for true fellowship to happen). But what exactly are we saying when we say, "don't miss church" or "go to church"? Where is that?
Many in our Christian culture are proposing that any group of people who get together to pursue Jesus constitutes a church. And while I agree that because of the Holy Spirit's presence in us where two or three of us come together, it is a representation of church. But many are ready to throw away the local church (I think mainly because they think that having a building, expenses, etc... are wastes of money that could be used somewhere else - say to save aids victims in Africa). I think we may be swinging the pendulum a little too far. I want to go on record that I believe that the local church was established in the first century as more than just a bunch of un-organized house churches who just ran themselves organically by the Spirit's leading. I know I'm not going to resolve this issue (even if I wrote a book it wouldn't) but here's my two cents on where church is (I welcome all comments, even if they don't agree):
1. A church is where there is a gathering of several people to worship God in a designated public place. The word used in Hebrews that is translated "meeting together" is a word with "synagogue" right in it. This denotes a public place of worship and as we know for a city to have an official synagogue, there had to be at least 10 Jewish men involved. Simple math, four to family, times 10 equals forty - meeting in a public place for worship - that is the pattern.
2. A church is where there are biblical leaders that Christ-followers can submit to. Since Paul told Titus to establish elders in every church, and since this was the practice of the early church I don't see how we can call any group of believers who do not submit to God-ordained leaders a church. There simply is no pattern for it.
3. A church is where the Bible is preached. If there is no preaching of the Word of God, then what in the world are we meeting for? Don't know and I have no further comment.
4. A church is where the number present is never enough. The church is always looking to multiply. Because we have the "good news" the gathering of those in a local church are never satisfied with their numbers until everyone in the world has heard this good news. That means a church of 40 needs to grow and a church of 10,000 needs to grow.
5. A church is where members see themselves as vital parts of the body, gifted by the Spirit to serve the needs of others in the body and are actually exercising these gifts.
6. A church is where people's lives are being changed for eternity.
7. A church is where people give generously of their resources.
Well, this is obviously not an extensive list. Honestly, I got way too deep for my brain on a Monday afternoon. But here's what I guess I'm saying. I love the church (the one church that God sees from his perspective and the congregations of all sizes that make up this church) and I believe it a place we should gather every Sunday because I need you to be there and you need me to be there and this is how God designed the church.