Schooled in the Assembly
Carl E. Armerding, PhD, attended three seminaries and was thankful for: "Hebrew and Greek, hermeneutical method and theological thinking." He adds, "Was it a great experience? Not exactly." Then he goes on to state three areas where he was disappointed: "Within the institutional church, I discovered that informed laity were mostly a threat to the model of ministry I was being taught, while the idea that ministry might take place in the workplace was almost totally unexplored....Moreover, the model of ministry itself focused almost entirely on preaching....My seminaries also had little or no idea of what worship meant, in the sense of people responding audibly and creatively to God's grace in Christ Jesus." (Christianity Today, October 8, 1990)
A healthy New Testament assembly should be an excellent place to learn God's Word and to grow spiritually. Of the early church it is said, "And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread and in prayers" (Acts 2:42, NKJ). There was a plurality of teachers from the very first. Later we read, "Now in the church that was at Antioch there were certain prophets and teachers...." (Acts 13:1). There was no rigid clergy-laity structure such as often marks churches today. Opportunity for participation encouraged the development of various gifts. "Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them...." (Rom. 12:6). The practice of the early church encouraged participation. "How is it then, brethren? Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching...." (I Cor. 14:26). Knowing one has the opportunity to participate encourages exercise of heart and study of the Word.
Hearing the Word taught by various teachers will give a balance to the teaching. God gives different insights and perceptions to His people in this way. Such teaching also tends to be practical; it is groomed and perfected in the marketplace of life. It is sad that the Holy Spirit is so often quenched by the clergy-laity system. "For you can all prophesy one by one, that all may learn and all may be encouraged" (I Cor. 14:31). Those with gift for preaching and teaching God's Word should have opportunity, led and encouraged by the elders (I Thess. 5:12-13).
There should also be the realization that all are gifted in different ways and should be concerned to use their gifts for the blessing of the saints and for the proclamation of the Gospel.
"But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all" (I Cor. 12:7). There is no ungifted child of God; each should realize his value and uniqueness. Do not bury your talent; use it for the glory of God. A dear friend said, "I believe God has give me the gift of helps." He was always busy helping people, a servant of all. Thank God for such gifts.
A New Testament assembly
emphasizes worship. Today it is popular to
orchestrate worship. The more formal churches
follow an established liturgy led by the minister with
the people dutifully responding at the proper time.
Often such services are read. A contemporary
movement has a worship team with a band and song leaders
that begin a service. It may resemble a cheer
leading session with the volume increasing as the service
progresses, and much repetition.. There is much
enthusiasm but again not much thought is required by the
participants. It is all planned by the worship
It is important to remember Christ in the breaking of the bread every Sunday, as the early church did (Acts 20:7). But many churches do this in a dead ritualistic way with unsaved church members going through empty motions. The early church had opportunity for participation, being led by the men (I Cor. 14:34). This keeps worship fresh. Here young believers begin to articulate their love and appreciation for the Lord and for His Christ. Spiritual hymns, rich in theology, inform the mind and warm the heart, stimulating fresh worship. Here mind and heart grow together in love and devotion to God. This, in turn, should lead God's people to greater consecration and obedience.
Whatever other education the child of God may get, he should realize that the primary place for him to learn the Word of God, to develop his gift and to learn to worship is the local church. This is all that the apostles established. "So when they had appointed elders in every church, and prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord in whom they had believed" (Acts 14:23). Saved by the grace of God, gifted by the Holy Spirit and led by spiritual elders the saints would grow and make progress. Paul could say, "And now, brethren, I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified" (Acts 20:32).
Looking for Christian
training? Try a New Testament church!