Frank Viola in his book ‘Reimagining Church’ highlights that there were four different types of meetings evidenced in the pages of the NT. They were:
- Apostolic Meetings
- Evangelistic Meetings
- Decision-making Meetings
- Church Meetings
Apostolic meetings were those where the apostles would ‘preach’ to an interactive audience. ‘Preaching’ was rarely monologius, mainly interactive. The aim of these meetings were to lay the foundation of Christ at the beginning of a new church to help the church to grow and be birthed. Examples of these meetings can be found in Acts 5:40-42, Acts 19:9-10; 20:27,31. They were temporary affairs with the one intention to establish a foundation which meant that the body of believers could function under the headship of Jesus Christ without a human MC (eg Ephesians 4:11-16; 1 Corinthians 14:26). This is the reason that the apostles never hung around in their churches.
Evangelistic Meetings were rarely held because evangelism was often a marketplace activity (to Gentiles) or a synagogue activity (to Jews)(Acts 17:1-33; 18:4,19). When they were held, they weren’t ‘regular’ church meetings. These meetings were doing ‘in season’ and were often with the purpose of establishing a church or growing a current one. Philip’s trip to Samaria is an example (Acts 8:5ff)
Decision making Meetings was where the whole church came together to discuss important decisions or issues. The meeting of the church at Jerusalem in Acts 15 is an example. Its noteworthy that everyone participated and that the apostles and elders facilitated when needed.
Church Meetings were the regular gatherings of the church, the early equivalent of modern church meetings but with a very different format from today. The most significant thing that strikes me is that this meeting was a believers meeting although occassionally non-believers attended. From the context of 1 Corinthians 11-14 we can see that unbelievers were never the focus of this meeting. This is a really helpful model for dealing with the stylistic debate of modern churches where the focus is almost solely set on ‘putting on a good show.’ This is where the body, under the headship of Jesus, gather to mutually edify each other, not by listening to a sermon and enduring an hour’s inactivity en masse, but in operating a fully functioning priesthood. Everyone open and receptive to the spirit and willing to participate. Bear in mind, however, that the churches had been taught how to function by the apostles during the Apostolic Meetings so there was training and guiding involved. Over that, it was just sensitivity to hearing God’s voice and allowing Jesus to speak through any part of his body as opposed to one or two. Hallelujah!
You know, this sort of teaching is very unpopular. It is a threat to denominational systems and to a paid clergy systems but it needn’t be. I’m not at the place yet where we as a family have been able to step out of the established church to explore these things fully, but in the role I am in at the moment, its wonderful to engage in a sort of apostolic role helping the church here develop some of its discipling systems, outreach strategies and training people for ministry. Most of it is an absolute joy to see people begin to light up and blossom in even the possibility of developing their ministry contribution. Its about complete mobilisation as a first step in established churches. There are challenges, don’t get me wrong, but its great that there are established churches willing and able to change, thank God. We know, however, that this is what God is calling us on to…to explore much of the things I’m writing about. We are trusting God for his timing on that, but certainly happily engaged at Trinity.