the weblog of Alan Knox

But what do you do when you get together with the church?

Posted by on Jun 10, 2013 in edification, fellowship, gathering | 36 comments

Last week, I had a great conversation with a brother in Christ on Facebook. That conversation reminded me of another conversation.

A young man started gathering with us on Sunday mornings a few years ago. Soon, he completely understood what we were all about, and he was sharing his life with other people among the church. He began serving people with the many gifts and talents that God had given him. In spite of being part of churches (even famous churches) for many years, he loved and thrived in an environment of mutual edification and discipleship.

He began to explain our understanding of church to his friends. He would explain about sharing our lives with one another – spending time with one another throughout the week – hanging out with each other at coffee shops – going to dinner with one another – helping each other with service projects – and on and on.

Eventually, (he told me) his friends would always come to the same question: “Yes, but what do you do when you get together with the church on Sunday morning?”

He would tell them that we often pray together, sing together, study Scripture together, eat together. They would tell him that they do the same things with the church on Sunday mornings (except eat together). He would try to explain that he’s not talking about the things we do when we gather together; he’s talking about a shared life in Jesus Christ, with a planned gathering as only one aspect of that life.

But, as much as he would try to explain it to them, they would always return to this: “But, we do the same things when we gather with the church.”

See, the thing is, my friend had learned that church is not about the things you do when you get together with other believers. Instead, the fellowship and shared lives is more important than any particular activity. Oh, there will be certain activities. You will want to pray for one another, and you will want to sing along when God has placed a song on someone’s heart, and you will want to understand Scripture, and you will want to eat together…

However, the activities are not the point. In fact, the activities should flow out of our shared lives together. The activities are not a beginning or an end in themselves.

But, until someone understand the importance of fellowship in Jesus Christ – actually sharing lives with one another, not just attending a meeting together – then the activities have to take central stage. (And, thus, we have fights and wars over exactly how to do those activities…)

When fellowship in Jesus Christ becomes central – because Jesus Christ is central – then the activities (and exactly how to do the activities) become less important.

So, “what do we do when we get together with the church?” We share our lives with one another… “No, I mean, what do you DO? What activities?” Whatever is necessary to help one another grow in Jesus Christ.


Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 6-10-2013

    I do not “get together” with the church. I am part of the church wherever I go.

    Yes there are times that more than 2 or 3 “gather” at a time.

    But, to “get together” is to define the gathering itself as the church, and the church is not a scheduled gathering, it is Christ.

    Just wanted to add to the confusion of “church” πŸ™‚

  2. 6-10-2013


    Ah… but you do “get together” with those 2 or 3. While the people my friend were talking to were referring to just one type of “getting together” (i.e., the “scheduled gathering”), that’s not what we refer to as “church.” That is simply one way that we “get together”.

    By the way, the Greek term “ekklesia” is almost synonymous with the phrase “get together.” Of course, we add different nuances to the term when use the English term “church,” in that we’re not talking about just any gathering anymore.


  3. 6-10-2013

    Yep.. I am talking about the scheduled gatherings too πŸ™‚

  4. 6-10-2013

    So true!!!

    “But, until someone understand the importance of fellowship in Jesus Christ – actually sharing lives with one another, not just attending a meeting together – then the activities have to take central stage.”

    ahhh this makes me want to jump up in a “yes” because I believe it so much and desire to share life with others… I desire to live this out with people….and for all who are doing it, to understand that’s what we are doing….

    but then I have to sit down with my tail between my legs because we are just not there.

    The people that I actually “share life with” – don’t believe we are being the Church by that sharing. I guess maybe they sort of do…. but still “go to church”.. so probably don’t…I don’t feel the need to explain to them what we *should* do..and don’t want to ruin what the Lord is doing by even trying to talk about it…. so I just have to let Him work on them and just share away…

    and then..the people who DO understand (I think) and desire to “share life with us”… because of life situations – family things, work, distance in travel – we only get to see them once a week… so it feels very “activity” driven… since it’s not really the intimate 2 or 3 where all really share our hearts….

    I guess my point… is that I have had to learn to have such a contentment in less than what *I* want. I wish it was so organized and we all understood why we gather and what we are doing.

    But I guess that’s the religious part of me that the Lord wants me to be free from. The desire to have an organized, planned out time. The desire for all in the group to be a certain place of maturity or understanding. Everybody to be ready in their lives and in the right place geographically, life stage… to mesh as I want it to.

    The reality is so far from what anybody who is experiencing “church life” and “sharing of life” spells out the ideal to be.

    So anybody who needs the bar lowered for Church life…. come chat with me. Very humbling experience!! πŸ™‚

  5. 6-10-2013

    Interesting topic of conversation, perhaps Alan can help me understand this better: What really is the purpose for christian gatherings or sunday church services and a host of other activities? As a lay christian, I should think that the early believers in the new testament christian body gathered mainly to share the teachings of Jesus since the Bible was not available to everybody back then; their primary way of learning about christian living was through the teachings of christian leaders such as apostle Paul and the others.
    Today, on the hand we have the Bible and many other resources from which we can learn and experience Christ without learning from church leaders and other christian teachers. Besides, there are so many different teachings today it’s had to figure out who is right.
    While there are good reasons for christians to get together to share, to encourage one another and to interact with other humans of similar belief, is there any strong necessity for regular church attendance today?


  6. 6-10-2013

    The Church gathers because they have fellowship……..when you truly live together in community established on authentic relationships birthed and orchestrated by the Spirit, you will meet regularly but not necessarily routinely. One of the hardest things to do is try and explain a corporate Kingdom community expression when people are predisposed to “church” as it has always been known. They are of completely different natures and, therefore, operate differently. Life in the Spirit produces form. We aren’t suppose to produce a regimented form and expect God’s life to bless it. It is an Old Testament paradigm that must be forsaken in order to embrace the Fundamental New Testament truth that God resides in His people and connections between those lives is how Life flows.

  7. 6-10-2013

    My wife and I are currently laying the groundwork for a simple church in our house. We are proceeding slowly; my wife commented this past Sunday that she was having some fear. It is the fear of moving past just attending church on Sundays to actally being the church on a daily basis. We are working on deepening our relationship with Christ and each other before inviting others to share our lives together. There is some putting off as well as putting on in this journey. It’s not necessarily the journey you take, but how you take the journey.

  8. 6-10-2013

    Like many other things, we’ve taken the simplicity of living in Jesus and with each other and complicated it with programs, events, and meetings.

  9. 6-10-2013


    Yes, I’m talking about the scheduled gatherings too, but not only the scheduled gatherings.


    I love your comment! In it, you demonstrate exactly where I try to live. Yes, I love to spend time with those who understand how important fellowship is. But, when God brings brothers/sisters in Christ into my life who are part in traditional church organizations, I want to share my life with them as well… as much as they allow me to.


    Thanks for the comment. While the Scriptures are extremely important, the fact that those early Christians and Christians today are indwelled by the Spirit of God means that they and we can gather together and build up one another in Jesus Christ.


    There are many brothers and sisters in Christ who are part of church “as it has always been known.” It is not “they” vs. “we.” Instead, we should all seek to share our lives with one another in Christ and help one another grow in maturity and understanding.


    I definitely understand the fear you wife is feeling. Moving through that fear is definitely part of the journey.


    Well, the thing is, programs, events, and meetings are much easier to measure and control than “the simplicity of living in Jesus.”


  10. 6-11-2013

    Not sure you picked up on the intent of my comment, Alan. I wasn’t implying that it is “they” vs. “we”. What I said was is that it is hard to explain the difference of function when someone is still thinking in terms of church as we have known. Given the context of the post, I thought it was a relevant point.

    I have just as many relationships with people in “churches” as I do with those who have migrated away from existing forms and I never suggest to any of them that they should leave where they are. That is the Holy Spirit’s job.

  11. 6-11-2013


    You’re right; I did miss your point. Thank you very much for the explanation! It sounds like we’re on the same page.


  12. 6-13-2013

    You seem to have a real good grasp of what church is supposed to be Alan. I wholeheartedly want to encourage you to continue being a voice for truth in this area through your blog. God knows how much voices like yours need to be heard.

    I myself have entirely ceased to “go” to Sunday services. I’ve had enough. If I never step into another “church” foyer as long as I live that will be just fine by me and as far as I can tell just fine with the Lord.

    Instead I have decided before the Lord to begin reaching out to others through my natural relationships, through flyers, or whatever other means I can where I live (San Diego) to gather anyone interested in discussing what the Lord meant church to be at a local McDonald’s.

    The Lord has led one Christian to join me for discussions and although we have only met once so far, it was very good (we’re meeting again tomorrow morning). My prayer and hope is that others might come out of the woodwork to join us.

    I do wonder sometimes how effective this is going to be as most Christians are in churches already. I mean the Sunday thing type of church.

    As such I would think that most will not want to go discussing things at a McDonald’s with others. I mean church for them is this convenient thing that happens on Sundays. Something many are quite content with.

    Still…I am hoping that there are some, somewhere that are disappointed with church as it is, read about a different practice of church in the New Testament, and want more of what they read than what they have experienced of Christ in the church in North America.

    You know one thing the Lord has laid on my heart these last few days is how greatly lacking in real love so-called Christians really are. I mean probably 95% of what happens “in” church (i.e. the building connected activities) is…well…TALK.

    Nothing but TALK. Sermon talk. Singing talk. Home fellowship talking. Bible study talk. Prayer meeting talk. Talk, talk, talk.

    I know people who are in need all over the place! One man I know has lung cancer, diabetes, hepetitus C, doesn’t have car insurance, lives in his car. The cops have told him he can’t stay in the parking lot he was in (a church parking lot no less!).

    He is dying and literally has no resources and no place to simply park or even take a consistent shower.

    And where are the so-called Christians?

    In their buildings having a good ol time. Makes me sick.

    The Lord has enabled me to be a wonderful testimony to him and to befriend him but I have no resources to speak of to be able to help him (I sleep in a tent myself – long story).

    I know no Christians who would even let him park in their driveways until he dies!


    Anyway…yeah. I am all for being the Body of Christ in this world alongside others. People can keep their Sunday churchy thing. I don’t want anything to do with it anymore.


  13. 6-15-2013


    Thank you for your comment. I thought it was worth more visibility, so I shared it here: “The Church that Gathers at McDonalds.”


  14. 6-16-2013

    what do we do as a fellowship on any given day, Sunday? and why? what is church ? to me I am in Christ, I am his these activities are expressions of worship a church is about the people not a building however grand. where I am the Holy Spirit is, in Christ I am where the kingdom of God is, what ever we do as “church” regards as always yours in Christ Richard, as a side point when i signed up to receive emails Alan you said “Howdy” being english this made me smile, my dear brother in Christ may you and the fellowship in which you reside be blessed in Jesus name Amen

  15. 6-17-2013


    Yes, where I am the Holy Spirit is, and where I am with other brothers and sisters in Christ, the church is – regardless of what we’re doing. I agree that whatever activities we do when we gather (whenever we gather) are expressions of our love for God and love for others (“worship”).


  16. 6-17-2013


    I generally agree that wherever we (the Christians) are the church is. I say generally because I have begun to wonder a bit about that perspective in view of what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 14.

    Specifically the following…

    1 Corinthians 14:18-19 (AKJV)

    “I thank my God, I speak with tongues more than you all: Yet in the church…”

    Notice the wording…”in the church”.

    Then in 1 Corinthians 14:35 he says…

    “…for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.”

    Notice the phrasing again. I don’t want to detract from your blog post by getting into an all out discussion of what Paul meant by the role of women and speaking out here (and won’t get into that here) but it’s the phrasing that causes me to wonder about the perspective that wherever we are the church is.

    It is not a shame for women to speak to husbands at home (two or three Christians gathered together) but it IS a shame for women to speak out the same way IN church.

    So Paul apparently thought that the one was not the equivalent to the other with respect to being church. Or that is how it seems.

    I haven’t delved into this one a whole lot but on the surface it does seem to call into question that belief. I realize there may be something in the Greek that clarifies this and that the English translation may not do it justice and so forth but again…I haven’t take the time to delve into this quite yet.

    Would love to hear any thoughts you might have on this apparent distinction in what is church and what is not in what Paul said Alan.


  17. 6-17-2013


    I think the phrase often translated “in the church” might better be translated as “among the church.” Think of “church” as a collective noun like “crowd” or “team.” So we might say “in the crowd” or “among the crowd.”

    Interestingly, some would argue that Paul’s statement about women in 1 Corinthians includes their interaction with their husbands. There are other ways to interpret that instruction as well.

    I would say that “whenever you come together” (1 Corinthians 14:26) would include any time we are with our brothers and sisters in Christ, even if that’s just the brothers and sisters who happen to be our “immediate family.” But, as you can imagine, that immediately changes how and why we relate to our family.


  18. 6-17-2013

    But if “whenever we come together” includes whenever any of us are together including when just family members are present…well…that presents a problem in that if such is the case then a woman could not ask their husband about things even at home when it was just their husband and themselves (going completely against what Paul said to do).

    Whatever Paul meant by his prohibition against women speaking when the church assembles I think it’s pretty clear that Paul saw a distinction between when the church assembles and when a woman is at home with just her husband.

    The part I am still not clear on are the implications of that for our understanding of church.

    I’ll have to pray over this and study this in more detail at some point but I was just curious what you thought Alan.

    Thanks for your input.


  19. 6-17-2013


    You said, “That presents a problem in that if such is the case then a woman could not ask their husband about things even at home when it was just their husband and themselves.”

    There is another option: in 1 Corinthians 14:34-35, Paul is not commanded complete silence by women, just as he is not commanding complete silence by the prophets or tongues speakers in the passages above. (He uses the verb for “let them be silent” in all three cases.)


  20. 6-17-2013

    I agree that Paul is not commanding absolute, never ending silence Alan but I am not clear on what options that gives us in differentiating between a setting where women are told to be silent (respecting at least prophecying and tongues speaking out to the church and not asking their husbands about things) and one where they are encouraged to speak to their husbands in a…well…not church setting I suppose.

    In other words if church is whenever Christians gather, whether one or two or many – whether they are just husband and wife or others, then why does Paul say in one context that it is NOT okay for women to speak out while he says in another context that it is?

    I mean if it’s all church one would think Paul would have said that either women could never speak out or always speak out but not both (depending on a difference in context).

    I hope I am saying things clearly Alan.


  21. 6-17-2013


    I think I need to clarify a couple of things:

    1) I’m not suggesting that I know the answer to your questions. I’m just suggesting that there may be other options.

    2) I’m not suggesting that Paul is talking about a gathering of only husband and wife in 1 Corinthians 14. It’s clear from the context that Paul is talking about more than 2 people gathered together. But, that doesn’t mean that a gathering of only husband/wife would not be considered “ekklesia” (church) by Paul.


  22. 6-17-2013

    Hi Alan,

    Not sure why we seem to be having trouble understanding each other bro.

    I’ve known all along that you may not have answers for everything so no problem there (though I do respect what you say).

    It is likewise clear that Paul is not just talking about a husband and wife in chapter 14. Most of the context is about when the church gathers (1 Corinthians 14:26). In that context Paul commands that women be silent (I will leave aside whatever that silence is for purposes of this comment). Whatever that silence is it is commanded in the context of the whole church gathering.

    But in 14:35 (the beginning of it) the context changes. Now, instead of a gathering of the whole church we have a context of the man and wife meeting at home “And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home”.

    At the end of 14:35 Paul comes back to the whole assembly context again “for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.”

    So we have two contexts. One is the gathering of the whole church when Paul commands that women be silent (again leaving aside what that silence is). The other is a context of at home (where presumably it is just the husband and wife along with perhaps some children – maybe even an aged mother) where Paul says it’s okay for women to speak up and ask their husbands things.

    What I was pointing out is that in Paul’s mind and in what he said there appears to be a very clear distinction between the context of the whole church gathering and a context of a family of Christians gathering.

    What women are allowed to do or not do changes with the change in context.

    Having said all that the question I was raising was regarding what that clear change in context says about our understanding of church.

    If church is what happens all the time any time any number of Christians gather then such a definition does not make sense in view of what Paul said for he allows women to speak in one context and not another.

    If church happens all the time then either Paul would have said that women could never speak or that they were allowed to speak to their husbands at all times even in so-called church.

    If church is what happens when the whole church assembles and NOT when just a family assembles at home then it makes sense in view of what Paul said. For in the one context of church he says women are not to speak and in the other context of just a family gathering he says they can.

    Meaning that the family gathering is not quite the idea of church that Paul had in mind when saying that women should not speak out “in church” calling into question the whole idea of church being what happens whenever any number of Christians (whether in a family or not) meet.

    That’s as clear as I can make things so I think I will leave it at that. I know you don’t necessarily have an answer Alan. I was just wanting to know what you thought about this as I pondered the meaning of church.


  23. 6-17-2013


    It seems that our only point of disagreement is in this statement:

    “Meaning that the family gathering is not quite the idea of church that Paul had in mind when saying that women should not speak out β€œin church” calling into question the whole idea of church being what happens whenever any number of Christians (whether in a family or not) meet.”

    I would say that “the family gathering is not the church that Paul had in mind when writing 1 Corinthians 14.” I would also say that doesn’t mean that Paul would not consider the family gathering as church; it’s simply not what he had in mind in 1 Corinthians 14, especially at the end of the chapter. For example, in 1 Corinthians 14:23, Paul writes, “If, therefore, the ‘whole’ church comes together…” Why would he point out “the whole church,” and not simply “the church”? Again, just pointing out that Paul may have a specific form of gathering in mind in 1 Corinthians 14.


  24. 6-17-2013


    So you are saying that both the whole assembly and the family were church but that Paul had in mind a specific type of gathering in mind when he prohibited women speaking out in it whereas in the church of just a family meeting he allowed women to speak out?

    Hmm…if that is the case and if that is what you are saying Alan do you have any idea as to why he might have prohibited the speaking out in the church of a whole gathering vs not allowing the speaking out in a church of just a family gathering?

    Regardless I am glad you stuck with me in this as I never thought about both being church just a different type of gathering is all.

    Thanks for sharing that insight (if that is what you meant).


  25. 6-17-2013


    I don’t know why Paul would tell women to be silent in some circumstances. Of course, he also tells prophets to be silent in some circumstances and he tells tongues speakers to be silent in some circumstances.


  26. 6-17-2013

    Good points Alan! In the end like the Marines supposedly said somewhere…it’s not ours to question why but to do or die (trusting the Lord to know what he is doing and leaving all the unanswered why’s to Him).


  27. 6-19-2013

    I hope u don’t mind me interjecting… I’m a woman πŸ™‚ and I wasn’t invited into the conversation directly.

    maybe Paul knew about what was happening in a specific type of gathering at that location that he is writing to. perhaps certain women at the gathering that was happening outside the home and immediate family setting… were being very talkative (a stereotype yet – but it still exists today that talkative personalities are much higher % women than men) and not letting their men get a word in edgewise with each other πŸ™‚

    Jon Zens has some interesting thoughts on Paul’s word on women too..what was happening in that culture at that time regarding women.

    I don’t know. Just throwing it out there. I don’t know.

    Oh and regarding – are we really still the Church when we are just in family settings? — Just like I was writing here…

    I just don’t know the answers… but trying to explain it to my 6 year old was just very telling…

    Mommy: no we aren’t going to meet with any other Church family today…

    Raymond: but aren’t we a Church family just us?? are we not Church enough?….

    Mommy: yes, but….

    Raymond: well if we aren’t. then Mommy who else do we have to have to be with the Church? one other person? but MomMom is here…

    Mommy: true….I guess maybe somebody outside of our immediate family?

    Raymond: What about a cousin, would that count? or too immediate?

    Mommy: Oh Raymond I think I’ve royally confused us both. We are the Church, yes!! πŸ™‚ Absolutely, we are! <3

  28. 6-19-2013

    Hi Randi,

    I don’t want this to turn into an all out discussion on the role of women in church life (not that I personally mind but this isn’t my blog and I don’t want to hijack this post) but if I may encourage you to seriously consider the following…

    There isn’t a single, solitary shred of definite historical evidence supporting the objections you have heard and mentioned.

    It’s nothing more than conjecture, assumption, theory, historical revisionism, and what have you.

    Christians all over the place repeat such things to one another until everyone convinces themselves that it must be so.

    Like a lie that is so often repeated that it must be true.

    I encourage you to think about what Paul actually said and whether the latest theory or conjecture shooting down what Paul said is fact or fiction?


  29. 6-19-2013

    I guess that’s really the back & forth I have with it. What DID Paul actually say!? Even just in one chapter, there’s a lot of back & forth. Let’s take the scriptures you referenced. I Cor 14:

    Paul: “26 What then shall we say, brothers and sisters? When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. Everything must be done so that the church may be built up.”

    Paul: “34 Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says. 35 If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.”

    Paul: “39 Therefore, my brothers and sisters, be eager to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues. 40 But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way.”

    Paul is the speaker in all 3 of these sections. Do 34 & 35 line up with 26 & 39, 40?

    What could be the explanation. Hence, theories are born.

    When we take passages like this to our Church family, discuss and live it out. The way we are living it in our Church family: I am a woman and I speak in our Church gatherings, which are primarily in our home. I do believe I am in submission to my husband – and I do believe he is very considerate of me.

  30. 6-19-2013

    Hi Randi,

    Not saying you are doing anything displeasing to the Lord.

    I just wanted to encourage you (and anyone reading this) to rise above the constant stream of baloney thrown against what Paul said.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts Randi.


  31. 6-19-2013

    Thanks to u too πŸ™‚

  32. 6-19-2013

    That was supposed to be:

    What could be the explanation (question mark)….

    and the first sentence of the last paragraph was supposed to read:

    I guess we are supposed to take passages like this to our Church, discuss it and live it out.

  33. 6-20-2013

    Carlos and Randi,

    I’ve appreciated the tone of your topics in spite of your disagreements.

    From my perspective, either in 1 Corinthians 14:1 or in 1 Corinthians 14:34-35, there is some context that Paul did not include.


  34. 6-21-2013

    Can’t wait to talk about this with Jesus after this part of the story is ALL over. And Paul too. Will Paul be shocked with what happened because of a few of his words?

  35. 6-21-2013


    Whenever I have discussion like this, it helps to remember that Paul was writing to a church in 1 Corinthians. They were doing many, many things that he disagreed with, and he wanted to correct them and help them. But, he still considered them a church. Above all, these issues relate to “mutual edification,” as Paul says, “Do all things for edification.” So, we start by recognizing that we are church – even if we disagree or discuss – and we continue with a desire to only help one another grow in Jesus Christ – not grow in our own interpretation but to grown in maturity in Jesus.


  36. 6-21-2013

    That is great encouragement, Alan, thank you! πŸ™‚

    Especially this:

    “They were doing many many things that he disagreed with”….


    “But, he still considered them a church”

    Lightbulb moment, thank you.

    and this one:

    “and we continue with a desire to only help one another grow in Jesus Christ – not grow in our own interpretation but to grown in maturity in Jesus.”

    that one hurt a bit, ouch. Why do I so easily forget that correct knowledge does not equal maturity in Christ?


  1. What does that word mean? : Clever Dialectic - [...] Knox has put up a couple of good posts about what church is. In one he talks about the…