It is increasingly obvious that our community can so easily lose sight of its relationship with Christ as “head of the body” and, lacking commitment to Christ, drift into a self-orientated attention to many other temporal things. So the second of these articles emphasises the importance of the three “Primary Activities” in our ecclesial life. These three essential weekly activities—the memorial meeting, the gospel address and the Bible Class—play such a great part in making up the character of our life in the Truth. In responding to our head (Christ) and being mutually supportive for the health and vitality of the “body” we must make a commitment to these three “pillars” and make them a ‘fixture’ in our lives with all else revolving around them.
The greatest privilege any human being could ever receive is to have been called by the Almighty Creator of heaven and earth to become a part in His great eternal purpose. That is just what our calling in the Truth means in reality. We have responded by answering that call, believing His Word and being baptised into Christ. The challenging question, then, is how do we continue to show our gratitude to God?
What Does the Truth Really Mean to Us?
The answer is likely to be found in how we personally value that calling and the new relationship into which we have been brought. What does the Truth really mean to us and how far do we allow the Word of God to make its impact upon every part of our lives? Do we consider the Ecclesia to be the house of God (Heb 3:6) and the particular ecclesia of which we are a member to be a real part of that house? And the meetings of our ecclesia: do we consider them as being relevant to the overall purpose of our calling?
These are questions which we all need to answer honestly. Our answers will have quite a bearing on how involved we are allowing ourselves to become in the activities of our Master’s service.
We are members of the One Ecclesia of the Lord Jesus Christ, regardless of where our own ecclesia may be found. The important thing is that we each honour Christ as our Head, and respond to his directions just as the various members of our physical body respond to the messages from our brain. This analogy which Paul uses is an impressive one, and it establishes a responsibility. So what does service to Christ really mean to us? Surely it provides us with the opportunity to show our love and appreciation for what he has done for us. We have the privilege of being able to work with him as faithful and wise stewards in the spirit of Luke 12: 41–43 as so many others have done over the centuries. And then there are the other members of his Body—our brethren and sisters. They need to be brought into our consideration too, as those with whom we share fellowship and labour together in the Master’s service. We have a responsibility towards them too.
The Importance of the Three ‘Primary’ Meetings
In serving Christ we are at the same time honouring God. We do this by placing God and the things of the Truth first in all our considerations. While this certainly covers all aspects of our lives, the main activities of our ecclesias present us with very good opportunities. The gathering together with our brethren and sisters at the primary meetings of the week come into this category and are of very great importance for our spiritual wellbeing. These meetings are the means of helping us to keep our focus on the precious things of our high and holy calling, and remind us that we have in the Truth very wonderful blessings. To have the Word of God as our spiritual food, and the opportunity in our meetings and classes to share it with our brethren and sisters and thereby to sharpen one another’s minds is itself a great thing. What a wonderful service we can render to each other in seeking to strengthen our mutual resolve to be faithful servants of our Lord eg Hymn 427 verse 4: “Help us to work in unity and share another’s load, and stimulate each other’s mind…”. So it can be to our great advantage to make every effort to be at the meetings as often as possible.
For some it will be easier than for others to be at the various meetings. Those with young families and those who are working do at times feel the pressures of life upon them, as did those who have been through those phases of life in earlier times. If it is thought that by leaving off attending one or two of these meetings things will improve, the matter needs to be considered very seriously—and very honestly.
Firstly, think of the consequence of not being at those meetings: the spiritual and fraternal losses. And secondly, is it really that there is not enough time, or is it that enthusiasm is waning?
When it is difficult to fit everything into our schedule, we may well have to re-examine our priorities. Are there things in my life which are taking my time and energies which are of little benefit? And how much of my life am I giving for the things of God, and what is just for me?
The Truth is about being prepared to make a sacrifice, something which human beings don’t usually favour. We need to remember that our Lord Jesus Christ made the ultimate sacrifice that the way of redemption could be made possible for us. He did not hold back in his service to others, and despite the weariness and other hindrances he must surely have suffered, he continued to see the work of his Father as more important. There are also examples of others who gave much of their attention to the things of God. Take for example the aged Simeon and Anna, referred to in Luke 2:25–38. They spent their whole time at the temple, convinced of the benefit in being there. This was the place where they wanted to be. They saw that the times in which they lived were very significant. Surely a lesson for us as we await the Lord’s second coming!
Many years ago we met some elderly sisters, the remnants of a previously existing ecclesia which had dwindled until there were no brethren and it ceased to function. But these few sisters did not let go of the Truth; they kept the faith alive in their own lives. It was quite a challenging scene.
The Breaking of Bread
The Memorial Meeting is without doubt the single most important weekly gathering of the ecclesia, and is worthy of being our most significant outing of the week. For every brother and sister whose health and circumstances permit, this should be top priority of the weekly appointments. This becomes apparent when we consider the foundation of the Memorial Meeting and the contribution our Lord made so that such a remembrance could be instituted (Luke 22:15 “With desire… ”). The Memorial Meeting is supreme in impressing the lesson of sacrifice which our Lord endured in order that the way could be made possible for our redemption from sin and death. And he has commanded that we regularly observe it and never let its principles slip from our memories. To say on some occasions that we won’t attend today because we are not in the right frame of mind, or that we do not feel worthy, can be the indicator of two things: an unwillingness to prepare, and a denial of the great benefits which this meeting is designed to achieve.
While the Memorial Meeting has to do chiefly with remembrance, it also provides a means for soothing troubled and weary hearts. We gather before the Lord’s table and join with our brethren and sisters in prayer and praise, and to receive uplifting words of exhortation. Together we reflect upon the emblems, and then partake of them. It is most encouraging in all of this that we are sharing this time in fellowship with others of our Lord’s people. This uniting together with others of like precious faith can provide a very real help and comfort in our walk in the Truth (Acts 20:7–12).
Many of our brethren and sisters who have lived in isolation would have given a lot to have had this joy. Some of them continued on faithfully on their own, and could only have the opportunity for sharing fellowship with a brother or sister on rare occasions. Within the established ecclesias there are also brethren and sisters who are very regular at the Memorial Meeting, regardless of their difficulties in getting there because of their poor health, age, or other conditions. They are in attendance because of the value they place on the Meeting, of what they know it can do for them, and for the opportunity they may have to contribute something for the comfort and wellbeing of their brethren and sisters! And this is no mean example. Every one of us, whatever our age or situation, can have something positive to offer our fellow brethren and sisters (John 15:12).
The Gospel Address
The public proclamation of the Gospel presents a good opportunity for us all to show our continuing appreciation for the message of the Truth which someone, somewhere, at sometime in the past brought to us. Most of us can take an active part in the effort either by inviting someone along, sitting with a visitor or having a few words with them, or even to have an encouraging conversation with some of our own young people.
There are benefits for our own children and young people to be there to hear the basic teaching of the Gospel that it may reinforce what they are being taught at home and in the Sunday School.
If we are willing to be involved there are great benefits to us personally, in that our minds are kept sharp on these basic teachings of the Gospel. We are then in better shape to defend its teaching, or to extend it to others as opportunities arise (1 Pet 3:15). And it can stimulate our minds to allow for more profitable conversation in our homes, As the servants of Christ we share the duty and privilege of bearing his Gospel, and we need to support our ecclesias in their preaching efforts.
The Bible Class
The regular mid-week Bible Class affords us the opportunity to refresh our contact with our brethren and sisters around the Word of God. It can provide a period for calming minds frustrated by the negative and distressing events of our secular activities of the week. Daily life can be very difficult for some, and business affairs at times produce awkward and trying experiences. The wisdom of God’s Word can provide a soothing balm, and in being shared with others of the Faith is more likely to make its impact when a brother or sister may be feeling down.
The gathering of the ecclesia for a set study of the Word of God is another wonderful privilege which we should never under-estimate. Here, through the words of the brother leading the study, our minds can be transported into the presence of one of the prophets or Apostles or even the Lord himself. This Class can provide the stimulus for its members to be fired up by the zeal and courage of those Bible characters being considered. The Class has benefits beyond providing academic knowledge in that it can also provide spiritual guidance and help for application in the daily lives of the brethren and sisters. The lessons and principles which come out of the Class studies have a relevance to the daily lives of the saints, and can also assist in personal home study and meditations (2 Tim 3:15–17).
Our presence at the ecclesial Bible Class is an encouragement to those directly involved in the studies, and there is a mutual benefit to all of the number who attend. Our ecclesias need our support in this, and we deny ourselves valuable help if we stay away.
It may seem a small thing at first to miss one or two of these primary meetings of the ecclesia. But the habit can develop where other things too easily gain precedence over our attendance at the meetings (Luke 9:59–62). Let us never forget that our Lord requires our wholehearted commitment (Mark 12:30), and his ecclesias depend on this commitment to continue his work effectively. We each have a responsibility to our Lord and Master, and to our fellow brethren and sisters to be dependable and faithful in manifesting a sincere witness for the Truth God has given us. Freely we have received. Let us see to it that we freely give with our fullest possible support in His service.