Blog - Supporting Believers
Church-from-Scratch: "Each Othering" (Part 2)Monday, November 26, 2012
"If you could create it from scratch,” a reader wrote, "what would a church look like that fully embodied a proper theology of work and really empowered its members to be ministers in the workplace?” This is the second blog in a series responding to this question.
To build the theology of work into its DNA, a church-from-scratch should settle on the New Testament’s reason for gathering: to build up, spur on, equip, and encourage one another. By contrast, our church traditions lead us to think we assemble to worship. So we have worship centers, worship services, worship teams, worship music, and worship leaders.
But no less than I. Howard Marshall, the respected evangelical Bible scholar, thinks otherwise. In "How Far Did the Early Christians Worship God?” Marshall, after a careful study of the New Testament words for "worship,” writes:
"From this survey of the ‘worship’ language in the
New Testament a firm result emerges. Although the whole activity of Christians can be
described as the service of God and they are engaged throughout their lives in worshipping him,
yet this vocabulary is not applied in any specific way to Christian meetings.” He says further that, "the vocabulary of worship is used
remarkably infrequently in the descriptions of Christian meetings.” http://www.churchsociety.org/churchman/documents/Cman_099_3_Marshall.pdf
Instead, the "gathering” passages in the New Testament focus on "each-othering.” For example, in Heb. 10:24-25, why are we not to give up meeting together? So that we may encourage each other and spur one another on to love and good works. Why, in I Cor. 14:26-31, is it possible for all present to speak in various ways to the others in the meeting? For the "strengthening of the church” and so that "everyone may be instructed and encouraged.”
As pictured in the graphic, we ought to worship in all we do, 24/7—even when we assemble. But what if we shrink our idea of worship to a weekly meeting with other believers—or (smaller yet) just to singing with them? Our undersized concept of worship will leave no room for something as "unspiritual” as our daily work. But what if from the outset a church structures its meetings to cultivate mutual up-building in all areas of life? To return to the reader’s question, what possibilities might that open up for workplace equipping?
If the meeting format allows it, those with decades of experience in the workplace can share how God uses them as light and salt there. Those with gifts of instruction can open up the richness of what the Bible says about our everyday work. And newbies to the work world can ask questions that stimulate others to help them prepare for the places to which God will send them to represent his Kingdom during the bulk of their waking hours.
Imagine the dialog coming from that kind of mutual encouragement from the Scriptures and from the experience of those seeing God move in the work world. It could cause those present to suck in their breath in awe as they realize what his Spirit is doing through ordinary people in their daily lives. In this way real—not artificially stimulated—worship would arise from the assembly to the glory of God.
The body of Christ in includes a variety of members with diverse callings and gifts. When those members assemble, they must have the opportunity to cross-enrich each other. As Paul puts it in Eph. 4:16, the whole body "grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.” When it meets, the from-scratch church should aim for each-othering.