An Assembly Guide
Some basic things every Christian should consider about a scriptural assembly are set forth herein, and we trust they are fully in accord with the Word of God --KJV Bible. The reader is encouraged to "search the Scriptures" (John 5:39; Acts 17:11). Christians need a return to God's Word from traditions, rituals, and innovations. The Bible is our only authority. One may contact Bible Truth Publishers for more complete ministry on these subjects (P.O Box 649 Addison, Il. 60101; e-mail: BTPorders@bibletruthpublishers.com). - By R. L. DeWitt: CA14; 2/95; add 2019.
1.0 The word translated CHURCH in the New Testament is the Greek word "ecclesia"---meaning assembly, but was rendered church by the translators, from "kuriakos" (commonly called kirk and later church), and meaning: pertaining to God. The change may have been to avoid confusion with civil assemblies. In practice we generally understand it to describe the "called out assembly pertaining to God", which seems what the translators had in mind.
1.1 Believers need to know that the Church or general assembly is viewed in the Word of God
in both a universal way (e.g. I Cor.1:9) and in a local way (e.g. Rom. 1:7). Worldwide it is
every true child of God, and locally it is every believer in a locality ---"unity of the faith" is
2.0 A gathering at a designated address (referred to generally as an assembly) should be representative of the WHOLE CHURCH in that locality ---not independent, sectarian, a denominated system. Only geographical distance, or some such barriers, would justify having more than one assembly in the world.
2.1 There is no such thing in the Word of God as going to "the church (or assembly) of your
choice", as some people say. There is no choice given, and denominated groups are not of God.
Properly, a true believer cannot "go to church", because he or she is part of the church. It would
seem, therefore, that faithful saints should not acknowledge these "choices" (sects) and give
them credibility. They are dividing the testimony.
2.2 Certainly we must not link the Table of the Lord with man's tables. One might consider and apply these verses: Lev.10:10; I Kings 12:26-30; Amos 3:3; Matt.15:9; Matt.18:20; I Cor.
5:6-8; II Cor.6:17-18; I Tim.5:22; II Tim. 4:2-4; Heb.13:9; II John 8-11; Rev.2:5-7. This does
not speak against faithful saints who are unlearned of these things, but against man-made sects
and division groups.
3.0 God describes His church as the "one body" of Christ (i.e. a spiritual union), and this speaks of our calling, unity, and privilege as a people of God (I Cor.12:12-27). He also sets it forth as the "house of God", which speaks of conduct, discipline, and responsibility (I Tim.3:15). It is viewed as the "candlestick" (holder of the light) in connection with God's testimony established by Him in a place (Rev.2 & 3). When our union and eternal hope in Christ is considered, the church is described as the "bride" (II Cor.11:2; Rev.19:7-9).
4.0 Christ is the center (object) of gathering and the "one body" is the ground (position) of gathering (Rom. 16:16; I Cor.1:2; Phil.4:21-22). God chooses the place and we "are gathered" by the Holy Spirit (Matt. 18:20) ---not man's choices, and privileged to be called unto Him there (Luke 22:7-12; Heb.10:25).
4.1 It is not an organization. It is a simple scriptural fellowship of true believers in Jesus
Christ as Lord and Savior, who have experienced the new birth (John 3:3), and desire to
remember Him in His death (I Cor. 11:23-25) and learn more of Him and God's ways (John
14:9). We come together to worship, learn, join in prayer, and enjoy communion with Him as
a "holy" and "royal priesthood" (1 Pet. 2: 5 & 9) ---not for religious sake or entertainment.
The BIBLE-ONLY gathered saints are on holy ground and can enter in to the inner vail, as
well as represent God in the world as priests of God. There might well be pleasant social
activities among the saints, but that is outside the assembly meetings and God's order. It is
the permissive will of God, not His directive will.
5.0 The gathering should not take names and titles (which is sectarian), because the church is nameless and should not be divided in practice (1 Cor. 12:25-27). We can only be Christians gathered to the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ alone, and with all that everywhere call upon His Name in truth.
6.0 We are exhorted to keep the "unity of the Spirit" (Eph. 4:3), which is surely a concord with the mind of God (Phil.1:27; Phil.2:1-2). It is not the union of Christians that is foremost, but the glory of God. It requires love, humility, yieldedness, and honor and obedience to the Lord.
6.1 True unity comes from a determination to set aside personal thoughts (reasoning) and preferences to preserve God's testimony. There is liberty
for believers to exercise their priesthood in the fellowship (I Pet.2:5), but that is not unrestrained behavior or permission for the flesh. There is always
order in God's assembly (I Cor.14:40, II Thess.3: 7-11).
6.2 A brother has his place and work, and a sister has her place and work (I Tim.2:8-12) which is not the same. This has been a difficulty for some
Christians to accept, but it is God's assembly and we ought to be yielded to His will and purposes. If one does not follow God's pattern and path, he
dishonors God before the heavenly host. This is what Moses did when he struck the rock again at Meribah. This spoiled the typology, and God was
7.0 Reception to the fellowship at the Lord's table is something we should not hurry. It is A HOLY UNION AND PRACTICE, and the assembly has a responsibility for examining and receiving one who comes among the gathered saints (I Tim. 5:22).
7.1 A true believer needs to be baptized, as given by the Lord (Rom.6:3-4), and the fellowship needs to see that it is done. We must be careful to follow
Scripture on this.
7.2 The assembly, too, must not be associated with leaven (I Cor.5:6-8) and become partakers with those walking contrary to the Word. It has been
said by some that gathering depends on life, not light, and it is true that knowledge of all the truth is not required, but all the saints must first understand
some things about the gathering. The applicant must know and receive the fellowship, as well as the fellowship knowing and receiving that one.
Reception is a two- way thing. One is brought into the local gathering of the universal fellowship in the world ---this is shown clearly in the Epistles.
8.0 Brotherly love ought to be displayed in the fellowship, by helping each one to go on well (Phil.2:3; I Cor. 12:26). We ought to be careful to not criticize or otherwise stumble one. Pettiness or pressing our individual conscience on another is not good and is dishonorable. If one has fallen, love will desire their recovery and restoration (Gal.6:1), but not at the expense of the truth. In other words, one who is unrepentant must first be restored to God before the fellowship embraces him. A union of Christians is not greater than the unity of the Spirit (Eph.4:3).
9.0 Letters of commendation should be used when one visits another assembly for the first time and when not known to many there ( Rom.16:1-2;
II Cor.3:1; etc. ).
10.0 In Acts 2:42 we find the essential purpose of the gathering is to "continue steadfastly in the apostle's doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers". This tells us our fellowship is about the apostles teaching, and to remember the Lord in His death, and for prayer. Our meetings are to carry this out. We might conveniently have classes for the children, while the adults are having the reading and study of the Word; and, we also might appoint a time and come together to preach the gospel to the public. This is all in accord with the Scriptures. We should not turn to man's traditions, rituals, or innovations.
11.0 The remembrance meeting ("breaking of bread") refers to our Lord's instruction to "show forth" His death by the Lord's supper, and remember Him in His sacrifice until He comes again (Luke 22:19-20; I Cor. 11:23-26; etc.). It surely is our privilege to keep His atoning work freshly before us. This is not a time for preaching or any activity apart from thanksgiving, praise, adoration, and remembrance; and is by the singing of suitable hymns, prayers of thanksgiving, receiving the emblems, the reading of portions of the Word related to God's love, in giving His beloved Son as the sacrifice on the cross.
12.0 Prayer is good at all times, but one should pray with understanding. We would not normally petition the Lord for personal needs during a remembrance meeting. A prayer meeting is the place for our collective petitions, intercession, and supplication. That is a meeting where all the brethren may humble themselves before the Lord to seek His mercy and blessing.
13.0 A Bible study is a time for reading and discussion of the Word by those brethren present who are gathered. The elders would be expected to take the lead if they have something to share, but brothers should participate as they feel led of the Lord. The sisters might take notes and ask questions after meetings (I Tim.2:11-12).
13.1 We should state here that a woman's place does not suggest inferiority. It speaks of submission, as the church is subject to Christ (I Cor.14:34-35;
Eph.5:23-32). It is a most holy thing and "of great price" (I Pet.3:3-4). She wears a head covering (I Cor.11:5-6) and covers her "glory" to show
submission (I Cor.11:15). Her garments and bearing is somewhat like unto the high priest in his coat and robe with the mitre, the ephod, and
breastplate with the precious stones; being a silent GODLY TESTIMONY (Ex.28) ---appearances can be important. What a privilege it is to be given
a position and role by the Lord. A sister doesn't speak in meetings, but she may exercise her priesthood in her life and testimony. Her rewards before
the Lord are no less than the brothers (Gal.3:26-29). Consider also the Levites among Israel. They had a work of handling the holy things, but they
were not superior to the rest of the camp. It all speaks of our work, obedience, and faithfulness.
14.0 This is a condition of the heart and a matter of conscience, and displays our "holy priesthood" (I Pet.2:5). The gathered saints can worship in all our thoughts, though in a collective way believers can together worship by showing forth the Lord's death 'til He comes (I Cor.11:26). Each Lord's Day (first day of the week) we have the privilege to come together and remember our Lord Jesus in His death (John 20:19; Acts 20:7; I Cor.16:2). We worship by prayers and hymns of thanksgiving, reading, and adoration; and finally by giving thanks and breaking the loaf of bread (a type of the wounded body of Christ) and drinking the cup (which speaks of His blood), and is all as our Lord requested (Luke 22:8-20); noting this as a new thing (verses 19-20) following the Passover time for Israel.
15.0 The only two ordinances given to us by God to keep are baptism and the Lord's supper.
15.1 One should understand the distinction between the Lord's supper and the Lord's table. As stated in the beginning here, God sets the table and His
testimony in a place (the lampstand). When Christians leave the Lord's table it is usually that they want the assembly to be something God never
intended (see Acts 2:42), or they refuse God's government, or they are dissatisfied with their brethren. A Christian may say he is not leaving the Lord's
table; rather he is going to another one in a different fellowship ---which is not possible. God does not gather to rival centers, nor is He the "author of
confusion" (1 Cor. 14:33). A brother once used the analogy of "a wayward son, who left his father's table and took his supper elsewhere. He might
enjoy the supper and even think about his father, but he cannot say he is at his father's table". Consider Luke 22:19-20 and I Cor. 10:16, which speaks
of the communion of the Lord's supper. Now consider Luke 22:9-14 and I Cor. 11:26, which speaks of the place and testimony. It seems evident,
therefore, that one might partake of the Lord's supper (having Him in remembrance), and not be at the Lord's table. Does that honor God (John 17: 20-
23)? ---certainly not, and it divides the saints and the testimony.
16.0 Worship, individually and collectively, is a joyous privilege to give thanks and praise for what God has done for us. "We love Him because He first loved us" (I John 4:19).
17.0 The scriptural assembly doesn't have a certain kind of ministry ---just the full Word of God and individual believers who minister. Spiritual gifts are given to believers for the gospel work and the edification of the saints (Rom.12:4-8; Eph.4:7-8). God urges us to "covet" (or desire) the best gift (I Cor.
12:31). If we can we should "do the work of an evangelist" (II Tim.4:5). There are some who are "apt to teach" (II Tim.2:24). Perhaps we can pastor (shepherd) the flock by showing care. A few are gifted as prophets (1 Cor. 14:3) to discern God’s mind and maintain His testimony. We need not be called to full time work as a ministering servant to work at it. We should not presume, however, to be acting when it is not spirit-led. The flesh naturally loves to assert self.
18.0 We should note, too, that there is no such thing in a local assembly as a one-man ministry. The Lord guards against the flesh by keeping the ministry in the plural in His gatherings, lest nicolaitanism (rulers over God's people) should prevail (Rev.2:6). Pastors, teachers, and evangelists are gifts to the gathering, not appointed positions.
18.1 Full-time servants are commended out to the whole world for Gospel ministry, and for encouragment and help in needed places ---not set as
leaders of a local assembly. A full-time minister should clearly have gift, the anointing of the Spirit, and the confidence of the local brethren before
going forth everywhere. If exercised to go forth in God's work, one should receive the "right hands of fellowship" (Gal.2:9). This is a bond in unity
that shows one accord and fellowship with the work, and gives all the saints confidence. Some saints with gift have gone forth without this
commendation, but that is independency and will lead to problems and trouble. It is a wrong spirit, creates confusion, and troubles the conscience of
18.2 Gift is good, but it is not the same as spiritual leading, which gives wisdom in the discernment of God's mind. Our ministry ought to have the
leading of the Spirit, lest the flesh be displayed.
19.0 It should be noted that teaching the children is a very responsible work, and should not be handled by a novice within the fellowship, and is mostly handled by Godly sisters. The purpose of these classes is to instruct, encourage, and occupy the young children with God and His Word, while the assembly is reading and studying Scripture. The teen-agers ought to be able to learn in the regular assembly meetings.
20.0 Care meetings by the brothers ought to be held regularly to discuss the assembly needs, dispersion of funds to the Lord's work, and any assembly problems (Acts 15:6; Gal.6:10; Phil.4:15-17; I Cor.5:7-13). This is a necessary function of the gathering rather than an assembly meeting.
21.0 Deacons are those who agree to certain duties in the assembly, e.g. managing the finances, building care, etc. It is an appointed service. Others may choose to help in various ways (Rom.16:1-15), not as designated.
22.0 As stated already, Scripture teaches us that God requires order and discipline, and our natural ways are not God's ways (Isa.55:8). One might have a spirit of legality or looseness, and thus sow discord, trouble the saints, and dishonor God. One might do evil, teach error, be disorderly, or go astray. God sets forth His government in His assemblies, and we are to conform to it to honor the Lord and maintain holiness.
23.0 While government speaks of responsibility (the "house of God"), it also speaks of wisdom, grace, and love. The purpose is that "all things be done decently and in order" (I Cor.14:40), for the good of the saints, the testimony, and the glory of the Lord. Any disciplinary action should be scriptural and have the thought of recovery and restoration.
24.0 God has set elders as overseers (bishops) in the local gathering for some guidance, the care of the saints, and to maintain the Lord's honor and His testimony (Acts 20:28; I Tim.3:1-7; I Tim. 5:17; Titus 1:6-9; I Pet.5: 1-5), and the brethren are exhorted to know them and esteem them (I Thess.5:12-13). God says also to obey them (yield to their guidance) as they "watch for your souls", for they must give account and should be able to do it "with joy and not with grief" (Heb. 13:17). They are to take "the oversight, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; neither as being lords over God's heritage, but being ensamples to the flock" (I Pet. 5:2-3). They should not force their will, but take a stand for the Lord and speak the Word faithfully. It remains for others to then decide where they will stand and what they will do.
24.1 The overseers are those brothers who have much experience, know the Word of God, and care for the testimony with love (Titus 1:7-9). Some are
to be counted "worthy of double honor" (I Tim. 5:17), which should also refer to fulltime servants who are commended to travel about in ministry. There
are, of course, elderly saints (by age), who are not overseers. Others should be supportive of the elders and encourage them (Ex.17:11-12).
24.2 One should understand that the issue in government is not whether the overseers are correct on every thing. The issue is whether or not they
have the final responsibility from God to judge, and after much prayer, study, and careful review by all exercised saints, waiting upon God in humility,
they can act. God says they do have responsibility on behalf of the assembly with support of other Godly brethren. They are seen symbolically as "the
angel of the church" by the Holy Spirit (Rev.2 & 3), and God holds them accountable as guides. They are not appointed by men, but by God, and they
are known by their walk and work. It is not always a gift to preach, but a gift of godly wisdom, maturity, and spiritual discernment. After all is said the
elders must make final hard decisions before the Lord sometimes. Others must not rebel against that, for God rules. Prayer by all is thus important.
25.0 A local assembly has the responsibility to act in judgment because the Lord is in the midst (Matt. 18:20), and judgment is committed to them as knowing a matter among them (ref. I Cor.5; II Thess.3:6, 14-15). Important matters are normally heard and considered first by the overseers (reception, discipline, etc.). It is then brought before the assembly. After the local assembly has heard a matter and considered it carefully and prayerfully together, a decision must be made, which is binding universally (Matt.18:18). Every soul should be exercised. Some will stand with the elders, some may not feel able to judge, and some may dissent.
25.1 The decision is not dependent on majority opinion alone, and unanimity is sadly not always present; thus God will honor the final judgment of the
respected elders, and so must the saints (I Cor.1:10) to maintain the "unity of the Spirit". A number of the saints may not appreciate the decision, but if
after all is said they rebel and go contrary to the overseers, there will be division. That is heresy (Titus 3:10-11) because the lampstand remains as God
appointed it and until He removes it. Most other assemblies will also support the elders.
25.2 Some will disagree with judgments at times, but should they then leave? Is that what citizens do when the courts or civil governments rule to their
displeasure? Should soldiers desert the army when they disagree, or players quit the team when a referee makes a judgment? God remained in a
cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night over the tabernacle with Israel, whether some left the company or not.
25.3 We can share our thoughts in humility and can pray, but we must know the Lord is "in the midst" where He has placed His candlestick” (lampstand
25.4 The greatest difficulty in assembly judgments comes when the elders disagree among themselves and are unable to act on important matters.
This is when the elders might need to seek counsel from other esteemed servants of the Lord elsewhere. Failure to bow to this order and these
principles has been the cause of much trouble in the past. Other assemblies must not interfere with local discipline or actions, unless the assembly is
found to be not judging known evil.
26.0 It appears there is only one reason that a believer could justifiably leave an assembly of Christians, scripturally gathered by God to the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ alone. It is refusal of the assembly to judge evil and deal with it. This kind of judgment needs to be taken up by other assemblies nearby. If there is not repentance, God may end the testimony there (Rev.2:5). In God's time He will put all things right, errors will be corrected, and the faithful will receive a reward for being faithful and not acting in the flesh (Heb.10:36).
26.1 One should wait upon God, and not be in haste to act. He will be rewarded in the end. One should never demand his rights or assert his will. His
humility will speak loudly.
27.0 The honor and glory of our precious Lord, the good of the brethren, and unity of the faith must be maintained. We cannot emphasize that too much. "What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder" (Matt.19:6). If after-all one cannot seem to comprehend the truths of God's Word, he can at least bow to the sovereignty of God, honor Him, love the brethren, and not harm the testimony (Rev.3:11).
28.0 God places us in the church as He pleases (Acts 2:47; Rom.12:4-8; I Cor.12:4-11) and we need to be settled and obey and serve Him.
28.1 So often our reasoning works against service to the Lord. We are prone to invent something and then attach God's Name to it, or otherwise do
things that seem good to us. Yieldedness and dependency is an important lesson to learn, and most pleasing to the Lord. Our stirring to witness to one
or do some other work for the Lord is good, and we should not "quench the Spirit" (I Thess.5:19). Such a work must be in accord with the Word.
29.0 Service is always an individual exercise, though others might be pleased to help. It concerns the gospel testimony and the edification of the saints. Service is not to encourage and strengthen the hand of the world. Baalam never understood that (Num.22:21-23; James 4:4; II Pet.2:15; Jude 11). The only thing God says to the world is to repent and believe. He loves all souls, and so should we, but we ought not to love the world system and values.
29.1 Service is our "royal priesthood" (I Pet.2:9), and we ought to redeem the time (Eph.5:16; Col.4:5).
29.2Service is that exercise of our gift, stated before, and accomplished in communion with the Lord (Acts 26:18; II Tim. 2:25).
MAY THE READER FIND HELP IN THESE FEW THOUGHTS. God urges us to grow in the truth and not remain as babes (Heb.5:12-14). The foundation is essential, then we need to build on it (Heb.6:1). As one comes into the local assembly, he or she ought to remember it is God's assembly. We are not gathered to the brethren. The brethren may err on something, but God doesn't err. The brethren may fail and one might even offend, but God remains faithful and true. If the brethren are our object, then sooner or later some saints will likely be disappointed and leave.
There is room for individual conscience, as long as it doesn't stumble the saints, affect deity, the trinity, the Person and work of Christ, or church truth. Differences should not divide the saints. We ought to love the brethren everywhere, seek their good, and value the testimony. If one cannot agree with these things, we urge him or her to "search the Scriptures" (John 5:39; Acts 17:11) and "be at peace" (Job 22:21). - RLD.
One will hear teaching and diverse ministry along our pathway from many sources . One should always test it by the Word of God (see John 5:39; Acts 17:11; II Tim.2:15; II Tim.3:16; Titus 1:9). Whether it is profitable often depends, too, on our state of soul. This paper is prepared with much care and prayer to be a help and honor the Lord. Comments and questions are welcome.
-RLD: see the Internet site at Biblecounsel.homestead.com.