The Church as an Institution of Worship

Source: The Complete Library of Christian Worship, Robert E. Webber, General Editor

In the following seven entries we find that Christian worship is not an activity of isolated individuals but a function of the corporate life of the church. The place and shape of worship in the New Testament can best be understood against the background of the life of the church as a whole. The church, which offers worship to almighty God and to his Christ, is and has always been a human organization. While from a spiritual standpoint the church bears the unique stamp of its Lord, it may...

Characteristics of the Church

The church is the assembly of the "saints," or holy ones, a people called out of the world by God. The early church was an urban movement. It held a world view which differed from that of the prevailing culture, yet it came to include people of all social classes in its radical fellowship.

Organization and Discipline of the Worshiping Community

The organization of the church was relatively fluid throughout the New Testament period. Various offices are mentioned, but their duties and interrelationships are not always clearly defined. General patterns emerge, however, permitting some description of the leadership and discipline of the church as an institution.

Public Activities of the Worshiping Community

Although the church had no legitimate status in the Roman world, it was able to evangelize and expand by means of public proclamation or preaching, especially through the medium of the synagogue.

Internal Life of the Worshiping Community

A glimpse of the church's life in the earliest stages is provided in Acts 2:42, which states that the Christians "devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. " These categories in general continue to characterize the church's activities throughout the New Testament period.

External and Internal Problems of the Worshiping Community

Like any human organization, the church of the New Testament confronted problems and challenges, some from external pressures and some from within.

The House Church and Its Worship

At the local level, the New Testament church was a house church; Christians met for worship in small groups in the homes of those members who might be wealthier or have larger houses. In a larger city, the church might meet in a number of house churches. In the New Testament, the word church may refer to the universal church, the church in a particular city, or the individual house church, which was part of the larger congregation.

The Christian Gatherings In City Churches and House Churches

Early Christian gatherings for worship included assemblies for the Lord's Supper, for the sharing of spiritual gifts, and for the baptism of new believers. The discussion of these assemblies in the New Testament, especially the writings of Paul, is clarified when we understand that some of these descriptions apply to the gathering of the citywide church, while others refer to the setting of the local house church.