My Thoughts. . .

Monday, 03/23/2020

The foyer fills up prior to the beginning of the assembly service. Numerous discussions are in progress. People are smiling, talking, and enjoying the fellowship. Someone notices the time and makes the first move with others following into the auditorium. The opening prayer signals that worship has officially begun. An hour later the closing prayer signals the official end of the “in spirit and in truth” worship. The foyer again fills up. People begin talking, short bursts of laughter are heard, smiles beam from many faces, and foyer fellowship cements and continues to seal friendships and appreciation for one another. Slowly the foyer empties with some continuing that fellowship at one of the local restaurants.

Foyer fellowship places people in face to face contact with each other. Eye contact is made and held. Auditorium time is spent viewing the back of someone’s head. We come to know one another through his backside haircut or her hair style. Foyer fellowship allows each to know the other through discussions about the concerns and joys of life. Auditorium time is culturally silent once the opening prayer begins and continues until the “Amen” of the closing prayer is heard. Some mistakenly believe they have fulfilled their “5 acts of worship” obligation to correctly worship “in spirit and in truth.” The “closing” prayer frees them to reenter actual life outside the auditorium.

Foyer fellowship is more personal, relaxed, and informal. Auditorium time is formal and regimented to conform to the understanding by some of Paul’s statement of “decently and in order” (1 Corinthians 14:40). Appearance is important and cultural traditions are foundational. In the first century, the Passover meal was accomplished around the table where they were seated and eating. It was the worship Jesus and the apostles knew and observed from scripture. Conversations were started, questions expected, information given, food and fellowship enjoyed, and the lesson of humility and service introduced by Jesus. The exodus from that table setting to today’s habitual seating and serving is accepted by most to be an authorized scriptural process. If substitutions were authorized, there would be no problem. However, that shift led to other changes until the original institution of the communion developed into something else. During the second century a special priesthood was developed to legitimize scriptural worship. It diminished the biblical fact that all Christians are priest (Revelation 1:5-6; 5:10). About the same time disciples moved from sitting at a table to commune, to going to an altar to be fed by a special priest or clergyman. The laity class came to receive the bread, but the wine was consumed by the priest in special clothing. Although Jesus is God, for him to walk into a modern assembly today might surprise him? What we identify as auditorium fellowship would probably be a foreign concept to first century saints.

Someone opines, “Oh, no.” They continue with, “The first century church did everything like we do it today!” Hmm, so they copied us? When was the last time you and your spouse were questioned by the preacher about your contribution? When did you ever walk up to the preacher and lay your contribution at his feet? When was the last time you saw a husband and wife die “in church” for lying? Do you have a burial committee which keeps shovels handy, just in case other liars give (Acts 5:1-11)? Is it scriptural for a tat burial committee to forsake the assembly twice to bury a couple of liars (Hebrews 10:25)? When do they partake or approach the preacher to give? Do we have come-and-go services that last three hours or more (Acts 5:7)? When you meet, do you break bread after midnight (Acts 20:7, 11)? Do you end an auditorium prayer with “and that signs and wonders may be done by the name of thy holy child Jesus” rather than saying, “in the name of Jesus”? (Acts 4:30)? Where did a first century congregation end any prayer with our five words? Why didn’t the church at Troas have a midweek services for Paul and company to attend? They were there seven days (Acts 20:6). Did they forsake the Wednesday night meeting? Don’t we dismiss first century practices that don’t fit our culture or tradition? Do we make those changes because scripture dictates it? If scripture does not identify those changes, which century’s practices are we complying with? Do we receive a blessing more from foyer fellowship than the auditorium kind? Actually, the Bible never identifies “foyer” nor “auditorium” fellowship. It is silent about “opening prayer” or “closing prayer” to begin worship or end it. New Testament scripture does not identify what we do or do not do in the “auditorium” as “worship in spirit and in truth.” Our standard of identifying biblical things originates more from what we have become comfortable with rather than inspiration.

These are only my rambling thoughts. They may harmonize with scripture or they may not. Probably not worth your time nor mine. You be the judge. Don’t take my word for anything. However, if you are a Bible student, take the familiar language which we use to describe worship and see if our terminology is from the first century, or from a much later one. We assume much and believe it as truth. Our successes have resulted in the same need for correction as first century assemblies received. From one sinner to another, the old challenge of “book, chapter, and verse” is still needed.