A Brief Discussion of the Way We Gather
A movement of the Spirit of God during the past 180 years has formed groups of Christians throughout the world who meet solely in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ as the divine gathering center (Matt. 18:20). They have sought to return to New Testament principles and practices. Believing that "the church of the living God," which the Spirit of God has formed, is composed of "one body" of all born again, Spirit indwelt believers in Christ, they meet together locally simply as members of that "one body" (Rom. 12:5; 1 Cor. 12:12-13; Eph. 4:4). The Spirit of God is owned as the rightful president and leader in the Assembly and the Bible as the all-sufficient, divinely inspired guidebook and authority.
The Bible teaches these believers that all true Christians are a holy and royal priesthood, so there is liberty of the Holy Spirit to use whomsoever He will as His mouthpiece in prayer and praise (1 Pet. 2:5,9; 1 Cor. 12:11). These believers acknowledge that Christ is the Head of the Church and has given gifts to His Assembly, such as prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers, and that "unto everyone of us is grace given according to the measure of the gift of Christ … for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ" (Eph. 4:7-12). So these assemblies do not have a "one man" or an "any man" or a humanly ordained ministry, but a ministry of the gifts that Christ has given to His Church.
These companies of believers have no church organization, headquarters, presiding bishops, appointed elders, or ordained clergy. Yet there is no independency. They function together, "endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" (Eph. 4:3). They believe that each assembly is a local representation of the whole Church and recognize its actions in the name of the Lord and according to God's Word as authoritative and binding everywhere (Matt 18:18).
If you enter the modest meeting place of Christians meeting together thus on a Lord's Day morning, you will see them gathered around a table upon which is a loaf of bread and a container of wine. This is the only prominent feature, for there is no presiding clergy, elder, or human in charge. If you ask what the program is, the reply will be that there is none. If you inquire as to who will dispense the bread and wine, you will be told that any brother in good standing in the assembly may do so. The purpose is to bring praise and worship to the Lord, to remember Him and to show forth His death. In this meeting the believers function as "a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ" (1 Pet. 2:5). A brother may minister the Word of God after the observance of the Lord's Supper.
What then is the purpose of this service? It is an honest effort to fulfill the request of the Savior on the night of His betrayal, "This do in remembrance of me" and to carry out the instructions given by revelation to the apostle Paul as to observing the Lord's Supper (Luke 22:14-20; 1 Cor. 11:23-29). The endeavor is to follow the example of the early Christians who "continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and prayers" and "upon the first day of the week … came together to break bread" (Acts 2:42; 20:7). In reception to the privilege of partaking in the Lord's Supper, the practice is not an "open" or a "closed" communion, but a "guarded" table of the Lord in responsibility to the holy character of Him whose death is commemorated.
These Christians own and practice the spiritual presidency of the Holy Spirit. Believing that the Spirit of God divides "to every man as he will" (1 Cor. 12:11), any brother not under discipline may name a hymn to be sung by all, lead in prayer, read Scripture, and give thanks for the bread and cup in participation of the Lord's Supper. In obedience to the divine injunction, "Let your women keep silence in the churches, " sisters do not lead the congregation in any audible part. They also cover their heads in recognition of God's order as to headship (1 Cor. 11:3-13; 14:34).
At the meeting for remembrance of the Lord in His death and worship, an offering is received from those who participate as known Christians. As the sacrifice of praise and the sacrifice of giving of our substance are associated in Heb. 13:15-16, the only collection of the assembly for its expenses, as well as for giving to servants of the Lord and His work and to the needy, is, generally speaking, taken at this service. This is also in accordance with the instructions as to collection for the saints upon the first day of the week, as given in 1 Cor. 16:1-2.
A service for children, commonly called "Sunday School," is held each Lord's Day in most assemblies. Bible classes are conducted for various ages, and adults usually join in this hour in a Bible class of their own. On Lord's Day after the Breaking of Bread meeting, the Gospel/Ministry is presented from God's Word through the leading of the Holy Spirit.
A mid-week service is usually convened for prayer and study of the Bible. When a visiting servant of the Lord is present, He is given the opportunity to minister the Word. Sometimes the Bible study takes the format of an open discussion. Meetings for youth and special meetings for women may be held periodically.
As for names, these believers prefer the simple title of "Christians," "saints," "brethren," etc., which apply to all children of God. Refusing denominational names, they desire to be known simply as "Christians gathered unto the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ." James 2:7 speaks of "that worthy name by which ye are called."
A welcome is extended to anyone interested in hearing the Gospel of God's saving grace and ministry of the Word of God to attend meetings of these assemblies. The answer of the Lord Jesus Christ to perplexed and questioning souls was, "COME AND SEE" (John 1:39).
– text adapted from A Glance at Assemblies Gathered Unto the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ as Members of the One Body of Christ, by R.K. Cambell