The question is often asked, "Do assembly principles apply to
meetings held outside the assembly?" The answers vary greatly depending on who you
ask. The real problem is that Scripture does not address such gatherings, and, as such, in
the eyes of many we are left to our own thinking.
It is evident from Scripture that in the early New Testament church the
local assembly was the gathering place. We read of the Christians "continuing daily
with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house." (Acts 2:46)
The apostle Paul states, "I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have
shewed you, and have taught you publickly, and from house to house," (Acts 20:20) It
seems that the early Christians met in small house groups, each in itself being a
Without large buildings and the modern means of transportation we
enjoy, and with many being servants and disowned converts, the saints were forced to
gather locally and to make the most of their time together. No doubt, they looked forward
to gathering with other believers, and welcomed each opportunity for corporate worship and
Today things are different. Saints are more affluent and modern
transportation allows saints to live miles away from the assembly. "Local" now
mean those saints gathering in an area of many square miles. In addition to allowing for
high speed travel to the assembly, transportation also allows saints to go to events other
than assembly gatherings. The assembly now has competition and is no longer the primary
gathering center for many saints.
The assembly has been disassembled by age and sex into a number of
groups. A variety of meetings and other activities held outside of the local assembly fill
the calendar. In many of these gatherings New Testament principles of gathering are set
aside. Women are no longer silent. Headcoverings are considered unnecessary.
It is not uncommon for those who faithfully attend such meetings and
activities, many not arranged by the local assembly, to be sporadic in their attendance at
the gatherings of the assembly, obviously placing a greater priority on these gatherings
than on the local assembly.
Young people are separated from the older saints, in some cases, never
coming together for any meeting. Youth are kept in Sunday School until they are well up in
years and some rarely sit under the sound of the "preaching" of the Gospel. We
should never wonder why a "generation gap" exists—we have created it!
Amazingly, despite all the different groups and gatherings inside and
outside the assembly, many saints are not grounded in the Word, and often assembly
principles are eventually set side in the assembly as well. It should also be noted that
each gathering outside the assembly is an opportunity for error to creep in unawares.
What is the answer to the question asked at the beginning of this
article? First, if we are going to divide the assembly into groups not envisioned in
Scripture, shouldn’t we follow the principles of gathering that we are given? Second,
maybe it is time to reassemble the assembly. To make the assembly the central place where
saints are taught, and where saints pray together as "an assembly." (Acts
4:23-24) It might even mean doing away with some of the non-assembly gatherings, or not
attending them, in order to place the proper priority on the assembly. We need a greater
emphasis on corporate gatherings of the local assembly with all the saints coming together
"in one place." (Acts 2:1)