Let me just state it clearly: attending a church service is not the same as being a church family. The church, according to the New Testament, means being involved with one another in an open, vulnerable, and interactive relationship.
If God had intended the Sunday service to have top priority, he would have commanded the practice in the Bible, but he did not. Instead there are many passages that address what the church should be and what people need in the church.
According to the New Testament, people in a church need to:
• Love one another (John 13:34).
• Be devoted to one another and give preference to one another (Rom. 12:10).
• Be of the same mind with one another (Rom. 15:5).
• Accept one another (Rom. 15:7).
• Wait for one another before eating (1 Cor. 11:33).
• Care for one another (1 Cor. 12:25).
• Greet one another with a holy kiss (2 Cor. 13:12).
• Bear one another’s burdens (Gal. 6:2).
• Tolerate one another (Eph. 4:2).
• Be kind to one another and forgive each other (Eph. 4:32).
• Speak to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs (Eph. 5:19).
• Submit to one another (Eph. 5:21).
• Regard one another as more important than oneself (Phil. 2:3).
• Share God’s message and admonish one another (Col. 3:16).
• Comfort one another (1 Thess. 4:18).
• Encourage and build up one another (1 Thess. 5:11).
• Live in peace with one another (1 Thess. 5:13).
• Confess sins to one another and pray for one another (James 5:16).
• Be hospitable to one another (1 Peter 4:9).
• Serve one another (1 Peter 4:10).
• Fellowship with one another (1 John 1:7).
• And yes, gather together (Heb. 10:25), but not in the form of a worship service but rather in such a way that we can challenge one another to love and good deeds (v. 24). In other words, to live out together all the other mandates given above.
By the way, “one another” does not mean a pastor interacting with a congregation; it means everybody interacting with everybody else. The artificial setting of the worship service makes this nearly impossible. For us to minister to one another as described in these verses, we must be in a family-like setting where we can interact.
I hope that I have been clear in this. I am not against weekly worship or the church. I am not saying in any way that it is wrong to gather together weekly for worship. I do question, however, the high value we place on the Sunday morning service, often at the expense of practicing the New Testament one-anothers, which are indeed the true expression of the church.
An interesting phenomenon has developed. In most churches in America, the people are encouraged to join small groups, which are presented as optional. These groups are like small spiritual families where all the “one anothers” of the New Testament are practiced. This is indeed the church. But participating in such groups is usually considered optional, whereas most Christians feel they must attend the Sunday morning worship service. They think it is the biblical mandate.
The truth is that the New Testament clearly makes mandatory participating in the spiritual family, the small group. The larger gathering is, frankly, an optional alternative. This is the very opposite of contemporary practice.