The Gathered Church

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

Hebrews 10:24-25

We gathered together as a church on Sunday. There were about 20 of us who were there in the building experiencing worship live. The rest of us were at home experiencing the live streaming of the service. I was telling a pastor friend the other day that trying to plan a service like this (with all the CDC safety protocols, all the live streaming tech in place, and all the details of a regular service still there) is like trying to pull off a church service under water, scuba gear and all. It’s a lot of hard work.

But then I started to think about the global church, specifically the persecuted church. This is how they have had to gather for decades. They are used to gathering with no more than 20 to 50 folks in the same room. They can’t afford to gather in bigger groups because of the real threat of getting caught, imprisoned, and/or killed.

When we gather like this, we may be afraid that a virus could get us sick. When they gather, they are afraid someone will find out and put them to death. When we gather like this, we have the freedom to broadcast our service across the internet for all to see. When they gather like this, they can’t even hint at the existence of their gathering. Most of them have to pretend to be faithful Muslims or committed Communists.

We think that it would be easier for us just to stay home. And it would be. But imagine how much easier it would be for the persecuted church to give up meeting together, how much easier it would be for them just to stay home. And I was reminded on Sunday, in that small gathering of 20 worshipers, why the Church chooses to gather despite the dangers that come with gathering.

The experience of worshipping in person, preaching in person, hearing the word of God in person is incomparably different than doing each of those things through technology from the comfort of our homes. There is power when believers gather that can only be experienced in person. The Presence of God is tangible in a way that cannot be replicated at home in front of a screen.

Sometimes we legitimately can’t gather and shouldn’t gather. And for these times, technology is a gift from God. But when we can gather, even when there is risk, we should gather. Last Sunday Jesus’s words became very real to me: “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them“(Matthew 18:20). And no doubt, He was.

Routing the enemy

Gideon and the hundred men with him reached the edge of the camp at the beginning of the middle watch, just after they had changed the guard. They blew their trumpets and broke the jars that were in their hands. The three companies blew the trumpets and smashed the jars. Grasping the torches in their left hands and holding in their right hands the trumpets they were to blow, they shouted, “A sword for the Lord and for Gideon!” While each man held his position around the camp, all the Midianites ran, crying out as they fled.

When the three hundred trumpets sounded, the Lord caused the men throughout the camp to turn on each other with their swords. 

Judges 7:19-22

Gideon’s army had been reduced by God to 300 men. Yet, take notice that each man had a trumpet. This trumpet was likely a ram’s horn. And normally, I would imagine, there would be one person in charge of blowing the trumpet for a large group of men. This was the signal to charge into battle.

So, without seeing the army, the Midianites heard 300 trumpets. Normally, this would have meant 300 large groups of men would be charging toward them in battle. But no one in Israel moved, so the Midianites assumed that many of their own men who were frantically running around were the Israelites. The Lord supernaturally added to their confusion and Gideon’s army won the day.

This passage really spoke to me about the power of each soldier having a trumpet. In normal circumstances the trumpeter would have been a specialized position representing hundreds, if not thousands, of men. In Christian terms, it’s like having one or two pastors per church.

But what if every person in the church was a pastor? Isn’t that how the Church was designed to be anyway? Isn’t every person in the Church called to be a minister of the gospel?

We, as the Church, are called to be a mighty force regardless of our size. In other words, we are called to be an army where everyone has a trumpet. And rather than charging into battle, we are often called to hold our ground and watch the Lord work.

The apostle Paul had this same vision of the Church:

And he himself gave some as apostles, some as prophets, some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, that is, to build up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God—a mature person, attaining to the measure of Christ’s full stature.

Ephesians 4:11-13 (New English Translation)

Jesus gifted the Church the offices of apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor and teacher. These roles in the Body of Christ are meant not only to build it up, but to equip the people to do the work of ministry. So, the work of ministry is accomplished by the entire church, every single person, with the people in the above roles functioning as equippers. Everyone gets a trumpet! And everyone must use it!

Instead of the church having a few pastors and 300 members, we are called to have 300 ministers with a few equippers. A church of 300 people doing the work of ministry can rout an army of darkness numbering in the tens of thousands. Gideon teaches us that!

Do the problems of our cities seem to big? Do the issues of our culture seem like a massive, undefeated army?

We need to fight like Gideon’s army! Gone are the days where one minister in a church of 300 is enough. We need 300 followers of Jesus each using their a trumpet to sound the call to battle. We need 300 people doing the work of ministry so that we can watch the Lord move in power to defeat the enemy.