Sound Teaching

This is the teaching site of the West Side church of Christ in Fort Worth, TX. Unless otherwise indicated, all materials were written and prepared by Stan Cox

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The Purpose of Our Assemblies

Would it be considered controversial to state that the purpose of our worship assemblies is not to evangelize? Perhaps it would be less so if I explained what I mean by the statement.

First, I am not saying that evangelism can’t take place in the assembly. In fact, first principle preaching in the worship assembly is one way that the children of Christians reach the point of being convicted, and thus converted. Also, it is conceivable that the conversion of an occasional visitor may be the salutary consequence of such lessons. More probably, first principle lessons will serve to “stir up your pure minds by way of reminder” (cf. 2 Peter 3:1), equipping the saints to share with others what they have learned, and had reinforced by the preacher’s words.

In the first century, Paul revealed that visitors (unbelievers) might be present in a worship assembly. He wrote to the Corinthians, encouraging them to be circumspect with regard to speaking in tongues. “Therefore if the whole church comes together in one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in those who are uninformed or unbelievers, will they not say that you are out of your mind? But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or an uninformed person comes in, he is convinced by all, he is convicted by all” (1 Corinthians 14:23-24). Preaching (prophecy) is preferable to tongue speaking in the presence of the unbeliever, as it is preaching that will convince and convict him.

However, even in the making of the statement, there is an indication that the presence of the unbeliever is not a constant thing. It is by design that most who are in a worship assembly, most of the time, are the Christians who make up that congregation! Gospel Meetings and other special evangelical efforts are the exception.

We should not be upset if we have few or no visitors from the community visiting our corporate worship. It should not be our intent or design to make our assemblies, through compromise, more palatable to the “unchurched” (a term used to refer to the lost). While it is a wonderful thing to invite them to our worship, it is a mistake to think this is the way God intends for us to bring about growth, and the salvation of souls!

We assemble for the purpose of worshipping God! (cf. Acts 2:42; 20:7; 1 Corinthians 11:17-22; 16:1-2). On occasion we practice discipline while gathered together (cf. 1 Corinthians 5:4-5). The primary benefit we receive in our assemblies is edification (cf. Hebrews 10:24-25; 1 Corinthians 14:1-5; Colossians 3:16).

In fact, Paul told the Ephesians that the offices in the church, “apostles… prophets… evangelists… pastors and teachers” was for “the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:11-13). It is in this passage that we begin to understand the second major purpose of our worship assemblies. In addition to worshipping God (the first priority), our assemblies equip us to minister. They help us to become mature, complete, and able to do the work of evangelism out there! We should carefully consider the great commission that Jesus gave to His disciples in Matthew 28:19-20, Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

I am not saying that you are doing anything wrong or misguided in inviting your friends to our worship assembly. But, understand this, if they are not Christians, their attendance to worship has limited benefit to them. It is much better, more effective, and needful for you to study with them. They, being convicted by the word of God will then become disciples of Jesus Christ, and able to worship God acceptably in “spirit and truth” (John 4:24). In effect, God did not tell you to invite them to come, he said to GO. You are not doing the work of evangelism until and unless you do! Brethren, think about it!