Vol.XVII No.IX Pg.7
November 1980

?You Know What?

Robert F. Turner

Bro. Turner:

How does one determine what can be done in the assembly? Is an invitation song part of the assembly? NE


The invitation song may be a part of that done by brethren assembled. It is a means of communication by which brethren express their interest in the spiritual welfare of others and urge them to obey the Lord. In the absence of specific instructions concerning how we are to invite I can see no valid objection to this method. But is it part of "the assembly"?

I became aware of this special (unwarranted) use of the phrase in discussions with brethren who did not believe in having Bible classes. They said we "divided the assembly." First I thought they meant we were factious, causing spiritual division; then it seemed they meant we caused disturbance, not doing things "decently and in order." Finally it dawned on me that they considered "the assembly" some sort of entity, having almost a ritualistic status, which was lost if its totality was not preserved. When pressed for a definition of its totality (what must be done — who and how many must be present?) some shift to the expression, "called assembly." That draws it even closer into the category of official convocations by which certain acts are validated. Now that concept seems to have been used for arguments on the Lord's Supper. Brethren, where do we go from here?

Paul "gathered the church together" (Acts 14:27) to tell them of a preaching tour. The "gathering" had a practical rather than a sacramental significance. The whole church in Jerusalem was involved in a letter-writing project (Acts 15:6, 22. 25); but preacher reports and letter writing do not become essential elements in "the assembly" today.

The validity of "worship" is determined by the attitude and conduct of the individual toward God. When I worship God in song I do not use a piano or other mechanical instruments because there is no authority for such use in worship — not "in assembly." I believe God wants me to jointly participate with other saints in various activities, and has appointed a day for the observance of a memorial supper. Being assembled with others creates a public situation, which in turn affects conduct (1 Cor. 11:18-f. 14:34), but we should not confuse the worship with the act of assembling, nor allow "the assembly" to have unwarranted significance. The act of assembling is important (Heb. 10:25) because of what is done (the singing, the remembering, or even the hearing of the preacher's report), but the gathering, per se, is not holy.

Failing to see this has caused some to make "the assembly" the only gathering of importance — and ask for "authority" for Wednesday night. Some count five things done in worship and say there is no "assembly" without all five; while others say one or two of the five are truly "worship" only when done in "the assembly." A few have insisted upon a specific order for the "five." Brethren, it is time we took a fresh, objective look at our concept of "the assembly."