Donald L. Norbie, Greely, Colorado, USA [SEE PROFILE BELOW]
When Jeroboam led the ten tribes in rebellion against Rehoboam, he decided to set up his own religion in the north. He said to the people, ' It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem', 1 Kgs. 12. 28. God had commanded His people to go up to Jerusalem several times a year to worship. But Jeroboam was concerned that this practice would weaken his hold on the people. He would make a religion more convenient for them with local shrines.
A friend was recently visiting some families who used to be in fellowship in a New Testament assembly. He suggested that they start meeting together, break bread and form an assembly. Their response? 'It is too hard!' For some time they have been going to large denominational churches and had found it very comfortable and easy. They could be absent, go fishing or hiking, and hardly be missed. The preacher was hired to preach and to lead the worship; that was his job. It left the men free from the need to be prepared to participate in the services. Yes, it was easy to be a part of the group. Little was required except to be faithful in giving so that the staff could be paid.
But what does God want? What is the instruction and pattern of the New Testament? To follow the model of the early church does require commitment and enthusiastic participation. It requires New Testament Christians, people so committed they are willing to die for their faith. To those who are lazy and self indulgent, 'It is too hard!' Shame on us if that is our attitude.
What marked those early disciples? They were committed to meeting together regularly. 'And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread; and in prayers', Acts 2. 42. There was joy and enthusiasm as they met together and deep love for one another, Acts 2. 44. There was zeal in evangelism; souls were being saved and added. There was freedom for the Spirit to lead and all were expected to come to the meetings with exercised hearts.
'How is it then, brethren? Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification', 1 Cor. 14. 26. While sign gifts and working of miracles passed with the death of the apostles, edifying gifts remain in every age.
If the Lord's Supper is a ritual led by the priest or minister, it requires little preparation by the believers to participate. But if it is an open meeting, led by the Spirit of God, it requires spiritual preparation all week. How rich that time can be if hearts are all prepared and men stand up to lead in worship, filled with the Holy Spirit. Yes, it is harder to function as a New Testament assembly than just to be part of a large conventional church with a pastor. But we grow as we participate and it is a great stimulus to Bible study to have the opportunity to share the word. And there is a richness to worship as various believers share their love for the Lord and appreciation of what He has done. There is liberty for the Spirit of God to speak to His people through various voices.
Yes, it is harder but it honours God and brings great blessing to His people.
AUTHOR PROFILE: Donald Norbie is in fellowship with the assembly in Greeley, Colorado, and is a commended full-time worker. A regular contributor to Precious Seed and other assembly magazines his ministry is widely appeciated throughout N. America and the UK.