Here’s a quote from Gibbs’ and Bolger’s Emerging Churches:
"When the church is equated with a meeting that meets in a building at a certain time, it implicitly leads to a split between church life and the rest of life, thereby creating a sacred/secular divide. Christians can be led into thinking that the church meeting is the primary spiritual activity of their lives, thus creating a secular sphere."
I agree with this. But the response of some has been to reject meetings as somehow inherently anti-kingdom. The thinking seems to be, "Since the church isn’t just meetings, down with meetings!" But this is short-sighted and misplaced.
The problem isn’t the meeting, it’s the ideology behind the meeting. It’s the reason behind the practice that’s wrong, not the practice itself. I’ve been in great church meetings; I’ve been in dreadful church meetings. You don’t throw out meetings because you had a bad one, or because some people meet for the wrong reasons. What you do is discover anew what meetings are for, and you redeem them. You don’t throw out the practice just because some people abuse it. Plus, if we didn’t have some kind of meetings, the church would just be a bunch of individuals who never got together to do anything. That would just be silly. Getting together with other believers is just part of being a Christian.
That’s why Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount, "When you pray, don’t be like the hypocrites" instead of "Since the hypocrites pray for the wrong reasons, don’t pray." Jesus gave instructions on how to give, pray, and fast for the right reasons, thereby redeeming those practices for good. He might say the same thing about church meetings:
"When you attend meetings, don’t think that it’s the end-all, be-all of discipleship. Don’t think of it as ‘paying your dues’. Instead, put meetings in their proper place, as opportunities to celebrate the goodness of God, rehearse the story of redemption, and encourage one another in following me."
Let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater. Let’s redeem church meetings by doing them for the right reasons.