"Choosing a Church" or "Gathered Together in Christ's Name?"
[A letter I (editor) received from J.B. Sparks. A man of God and Elder at Elk Creek Gospel Chapel, in
Read this letter and glorify God for the discernment He gives to His children
The word "church" is only mentioned in two places in the Gospels, in Matt. 16 where it speaks of the universal church, "I will build my church and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it, and the other one in Matt. 18, where it speaks of the local church concerning church discipline. In verse 20, it then says, "For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them."
Christ is speaking about both of these uses of the church, local and universal, in the future tense, ("I WILL build my church"). But, notice in chapter 18:20, "where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them." What is this saying? Notice it says "where two or three ARE GATHERED TOGETHER in my name. "It sounds as if someone else is doing the gathering. It did not say, "Where two or three gather," but, "Where two or three ARE GATHERED TOGETHER". You see, the Lord is the one doing the gathering. A true Christian should not say, "I believe I will gather with this church or that church," as if it were his decision. No, we don't do the gathering.
The Lord desires to gather us, unto the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is a power outside of ourselves that draws us unto the "gathering together" unto the Name. We hear the calling to "gather unto His Name" and we respond to it, just like we heard the calling of salvation and we responded to it.
Listen to God's calling concerning fellowship with His Son. "God [is] faithful, BY WHOM YE WERE CALLED UNTO THE FELLOWSHIP Of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord." 1 Cor 1:9.
Where is the "fellowship of his son". Yes, we can have individual fellowship with His Son. But, there is also a "calling out" of a group of Christians for this fellowship also. That is what the word "church" or "ekklesia" means, a "calling out" or to "assemble" unto the Lord. So, where do we find this calling "unto the fellowship of His Son?" By responding to the calling of being "gathered together" unto His Name.
Thus, we are not the ones to "gather" or looking to gather, but being lead to where He wants to gather us, being "gathered together" unto the name of His Son. So, Jesus said, "Where two or three ARE GATHERED TOGETHER in my Name, there will I be in the midst of them."
Secondly, consider the praise, "gathered together in my Name". Notice it says "in MY Name". In the Name of Jesus. Yes, but every church will tell you that they gather in "Jesus Name". So, what does it mean that God desires to gather us together unto His Son's Name?
It means that it is only in and by His Name. That is the reason we are gathered there. There is more to "Jesus Name", than just using His name. In the Bible, when someone asked, "by what name do you do this", it meant by what authority do you do this?
If a man came to your house and said, "I am John Doe, I want to see your checkbook," you would say to buzz off. But, if he said, "I am John Doe from the IRS." Then you welcome him it. Why? Because of the authority of that name, IRS. The name John Doe, has no authority, but the name "Internal Revenue Service" does. Same with the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ. When we say we are meeting in Jesus Name, that goes far beyond what most realize. It means we are meeting under His authority. And the only way we do that is by His Word. So, do all churches meet in Jesus Name? No, because they are not willing to follow or obey His Word in how they meet, function, or practice. So, they are not meeting in Jesus Name. Yes, they use His name, but do not meet in His name or even "unto" His Name. Truth of the matter, they meet unto several other names, you know, denominational man made names. God has not gathered His saints in any of those names, although there may be some saints in them. They may choose to go there, but God is not "gathering" them or drawing them there. That is why many true Christians have so many questions when sitting in the pew of a denominational church. I certainly did. The whole time I was there. But God never led me there. For one reason or another, I chose to go there. No, God is only leading saved people unto the Name of His Son, Jesus Christ. If the denominations were truly being gathered unto His Name, then they would be meeting in the authority of His Name and be open to obey His Word.
Also consider when we "are gathered together" unto His Name, we are being gathered there because "He is doing the gathering". He is doing the "drawing". I don't go to the assembly of saints where I go because I like the people there, or because I like the building, or because it is convenient and close to where I live, or because I like the programs, or anything else. I go there because I am being "drawn" there by a power outside of myself. It is the calling of God, and I respond to that calling, "called unto the fellowship of His Son". "God [is] faithful, BY WHOM YE WERE CALLED UNTO THE FELLOWSHIP Of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord." 1Cor 1:9. I am not called to the building, nor to the people, nor to the programs, but I am called unto His Son. When I got saved, I answered the call unto His Son for salvation, and when I follow His Word for assembling with other Christians, I answer His calling "unto the fellowship of His Son"
The building, the distance to the building, the programs, the people, have absolutely nothing to do with it. I hear God's calling, and I submit to that calling, the calling unto the fellowship of His Son.
That is all we have to offer at the meeting here, the fellowship of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. That is all we have, His NAME. Our meeting place is simple. No steeple, no pews, no stain glass windows. Very plain. We have no programs to offer. No entertainment. No amusement. Just the NAME. That is all we have to offer, because that is all we are being gathered together unto by God. The NAME. Not our name, because we don't have one. But, His Name. The Name of the Lord Jesus Christ. When you hear someone say they are visiting around trying to find the right church, then I wonder, "what are you being drawn to?" What are you looking for? A nice church building? Nice, friendly people? Programs? A powerful preacher who can really preach? Something that is close and convenient to drive to? When I hear them say they are searching for God's will, then I wonder. What are you looking for? God's will is simple. Submit to His drawing or being called "unto the Name" and unto the "fellowship of His Son." That's it. Ask anyone who attends a denominational church why they choose to go there and they will say they "choose" to go there because of.....and list several reasons why, but you won't hear that they are going there because God has drawn them there because of the Name of Jesus Christ and unto the "fellowship of His Son."
I hear some say to us, "well, you don't have any programs to offer the young people, so we can't come there." (And that is good, because I realize that God is not drawing them and they wouldn't be coming for the right reason anyway). Well, concerning our lack of programs that we have to offer, last Wednesday night, some of our young boys, ages 16-20 often pray out loud in prayer meetings which is open for any of the brethren to pray. Often one of them will pray and asks the Lord's blessings on the bread or the cup during the breaking of bread. Do we ask them to pray? No. The Lord does, and they respond. We see spiritual growth in them, even though we don't have programs or classes of their own age to offer them. The word "assembly" means that we have been "assembled" together "in His Name. When we break it all up and send everyone off to their own classes, how is that an "assembly?" The word "ekklesia" means "assembly". Yes, they learn much from watching the older saints serve and worship the Lord, and then the Lord leads them to do the same.
People today look for a church like they are going shopping. Trying to find what satisfies them. Well, what are they looking for? Something that appeals to them. Some look for entertainment. Some amusement. Some look for potential friends and good social activities. Some will be impressed by the appearance of the building, by the music, by the programs offered. This is why so many go out shopping for a church.
But, praise God, He is still "gathering together" saints unto the Name of the Lord Jesus.
John 12:9 Much people of the Jews therefore knew that he was there: and they came NOT FOR JESUS' SAKE ONLY, but that they might see Lazarus also, whom he had raised from the dead."
Notice this crowd didn't come just to see Jesus, but to see Lazarus. They wanted to see a miracle. Same thing today. People want to hear a powerful preacher or see something going on. They want to see some excitement.
John 6:26 "Jesus answered them and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled."
Why were they seeking the Lord? Many followed because of the miracles, but here was a crowd that followed because of what they could get out of it.
John 6:65 And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father. 66 From that [time] many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him. 67 Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away? 68 Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life . 69 And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God.
Notice, it says, " that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father." (I know this refers to individual salvation. But, I believe it also applies to being called unto the fellowship of His Son and being "gathered together" in my Name". Notice, "many of his disciples (followers, outward professors) went back, and walked no more with him." Why? They didn't think He had anything to offer them that they wanted. Notice, when He asked Peter, "Will ye also go away?" Peter said, " Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life ."
When God looks down on Hico, He sees all kinds of people going to different churches under their own power being drawn by amusement, entertainment, programs, preachers, people, buildings, tradition, and so on. But, he sees one little gathering that has one drawing power. The Lord Jesus Christ. Everything about this little group is unto His Name and by His Name. By His divine authority. By the Word of God. Following His plan. Following His Pattern. Amen.
PS. "Choosing a Church" or "Being Gathered unto the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ?" Though many are choosing the church of their choice, I see now that it should not be by Choice, nor by Convenience, but, by Conviction. Not because of the Congregation, nor a Creed, nor the Clergy, nor the Choir, But, because of Christ. A power outside of myself Calls me and Convicts me to be "gathered together" with Christians who are "Called unto the fellowship of His Son." What is this power, this drawing, or this calling? The convicting power of the Holy Spirit through the Holy Scriptures. Yes, even though there is nothing wrong with Christian entertainment, amusements, and social gatherings, they should most certainly should be done outside of the local church, because in the Scriptures, everything about the local New Testament assembly is spiritual and centers around the Lord Jesus Christ.