As you can imagine I get the Hebrews 10:25 question a lot. This email exchange might interest others of you who are wrestling with this same issue. My recent newsletter also talks more The Church Jesus is Building in our world today and how we can participate in it.
I wonder if you could give me some input as I struggle with the whole “church” issue? I’m no Bible scholar by any means, but I do get curious enough to look into this or that word. When I looked up the word from Heb. 10:25, “…not forsaking our own assembling together…” I discovered that it’s from a Greek word, “episunagoge” and means, “a complete collection; gathering together. It’s from “episunago” which means, “to collect upon the same place.” From your comments I wonder, do you feel then that this this kind of “collecting upon the same place” gathering is not necessary?
I actually have many really good, deep, Christian relationships, which I maintain with gratefulness to the Lord. But I also desire the kind of gathering that Paul described when he said, “When you assemble, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification.” Can you give me any input here? What is your thinking on this? We left the institutional church last October, and have been getting into the (Scriptures) and fellowship around the Lord together. It’s not that we desire to make or create a house church just to have a house church, as if that’s our goal. I see Jesus and the disciples spending time together in serving God, and I think that this is the real model for us to live by. So they collected upon the same place while Jesus was with them in His flesh. Also I was thinking that after Jesus’ ascension God gave gifts for the building up of each other, and that seems to present the “episunagoge” gathering concept.
My response: I love getting together with believers as well and sharing our journeys together as well as the gifts and insights God gives each one. It’s HOW we do that that’s important. House church can be a great tool, if people come to really engage God and each other. It can be a really sick substitute if people are committed to house church not other brothers and sisters.
So I understand your hunger and your concerns about Hebrews 10. But Hebrews 10 is not primarily talking about a meeting, it is talking about connecting in relationships and walking alongside each other in that way. And this was to a group of people who WANTED to do so, but were so afraid of the persecution that being together put them at risk. The writer is telling them that being together anyway is worth the risk for the encouragement it offers. That’s a far cry from being an obligation for Christians to get together.
Here’s what I know. Believers who love each other will get together. That’s what friends and family do. My kids and grandkids get together every week or two. We don’t do it because we have to, because we’re trying to form a family, or any other reason other than we love each other and enjoy being together. Community is like that too. When we have people we care about we will be together. What so many groups miss is that the relationship must take precedence over the meetings. Meetings are a byproduct, not the method or the goal. If we’ll engage caring relationships first and begin to find a common heart together over dinner and evenings together as friends, we will find time to gather together as that network expands. I think it’s backwards to start a meeting first and hope friendships grow out of that. They can, but rarely do. I’ve been to many home groups where people meet together regularly but it is obvious they don’t really care about each other, spend time with each other beyond the meeting, or are truly friends in Christ. Believe me, that’s pretty empty.
I don’t know how God will accomplish this in you and your area, but I know as you follow him, he’ll begin to connect you to people when he is ready and those connections can become a link into real community. We’ve got a group of folks that are just beginning to link up here. We’re not, however, starting a weekly meeting, just encouraging people to build friendships and then see how God might want us to gather. It may be sporadically and spontaneously, or something more set. It’s really up to him. We’re more focused on just sharing the journey…
Wow! Thank you very much!! I feel that what you are saying is so profound in our day and time, and I could sense the Holy Spirit in me bearing witness to your words. I’m so grateful as I’ve been wrestling with the “church issue” to read your wisdom, that I almost feel like crying. You have put a clear light on it for me, and I appreciate your kindness so much. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.