I just returned from a trip to Quebec where I was able to attend a Sunday meeting at a “brethren” assembly. I didn’t know if it would be similar to or completely different from the meetings I am familiar with in Southern Ontario, so I was curious to see what it would be like. What I found pleasantly surprised me and further opened my eyes to the potential pliability of the assembly meeting.
An unexpected start
When we arrived there at 10 am, I immediately located the familiar bread and wine, resting on the table at the front. Ah yes, I said to myself, the centrality of the Lord’s Supper, surely we are going to break bread and share the cup. But then the first unexpected change was thrust upon me.
Instead of having the breaking of bread, the preacher was called up the front to give his sermon. The normal way I was used to doing things was reversed! I did not know what to think about it so I decided to proceed with caution.
The sermon was a good one. It pressed us to follow on after the Lord Jesus Christ in light of all His beauty and power displayed in nature. When the preacher was finished, I wondered what would happen next? A chairman arose and began taking “praise” requests.
I was familiar with “prayer” requests but not so much with “praise” requests. At this point, certain families spontaneously and voluntarily shared their praiseful hearts with the congregation and to the Lord.
Music and song
After a time of thanksgiving and reflection, the congregation proceeded to express its praise through music and song. The pianist played, or the guitarist, while we sang together a traditional hymn of our faith or a newly crafted song of our generation, alternating between the two.
Intermittently, between some of the songs, while the pianist quietly played, the chairman would pray an extended prayer of praise, giving thanks and expressing adoration for the Lord and His work. All of this was very well done, with a focus on the Lord and what He has done.
The whole time I was thinking to myself: Is the Lord pleased with this? Can we do it this way? Is this permitted, perhaps even led by the Holy Spirit? Since Jesus Christ was being exalted, which the Scriptures say the Holy Spirit will lead us to do (John 16:14), I concluded that He was in it.
The bread and the cup
The culmination of the meeting happened while sharing the bread and wine. Before we partook in the elements, a brief explanation was given of their meaning and an invitation was given for only those who were believers to partake. I thought this was tastefully done.
If there were unbelievers present, which 1 Corinthians 14:25 indicates there may be, they certainly observed our love and praise of the Lord Jesus Christ. Perhaps they too will fall down on their face, worshiping, and report that God is truly among us.
Looking back while looking forward
As we proceed into the future, with one eye looking back at our invaluable past and one fully open to our present situation, what path will we take? Will we continue to meet in the same way as we have always met, concluding that what has worked for 200 years has always worked, is working now, and will always work even to 3017, if the Lord has not come?
I am not saying we should do what this assembly in Quebec was doing. I am only asking: “is there fluidity in the way we meet based on the changing modes of culture, ideas, music and technology? Perhaps your assembly is making changes to be more relevant and impactful to the culture, to become all things to all people in order to save some (1 Cor. 9:19-23).
Perhaps they are trying to reach the next generation so that when we die there are others to take the torch from our hands and press on. Since we allow the church to meet in different ways based on different cultures, be they French or English, or Jamaican or Chinese, should we not also allow the same changes to be made from generation to generation?
Format is flexible
I believe the form of the church is flexible. It has to be; otherwise, how will it reach all the nations? Surely the Lord has not called us to reproduce the same church format, the same dress code, and the same musical sounds as they had in the first century, keeping the same format for the last 2000 years.
Surely He has called us to serve Him in our own generation (Acts 13:36) and sometimes that means we need to change a few things, and that’s okay. The church is flexible and fluid in form, adapting to the culture it finds itself in.
As we press on in our post-modern culture, let us be inflexible in our faithfulness to the truth but flexible with regard to our form.