IMPORTANCE OF GATHERING
When the local church gathers, she gathers as Christ’s church—a holy assembly—to worship God publicly. This is a massive privilege and responsibility. The church gathers to make manifest and thus reveal the worth of Christ, which is to say that we gather to make much of Christ in our community.
How important is it that we gather as a church? Only as important as modeling God-centered communion—socially and structurally. Only as important as it is to God that His people assemble for His praise (Psalm 22:25; 34:3; 35:18; 40:10; 68:26; 107:32; 111:1; 149:1). Who else is longing to resume gathering together on a weekly basis to make much of Christ? No one! Many groups may be longing to gather together, so what distinguishes our longing?
Let us also remember that Christ did not ordain Christian conferences or seminaries or parachurch organizations or livestreams as His means of communicating Christianity to the world. He ordained the church—she alone is His bride. And she alone—the gathering church—is the only tangible church the world knows. May our longing to gather say something significant about Christ to the world around us.
PRECIOUS TO CHRIST
Christ loves the church and that is enough that we should love her too. Should we not love what Christ loves? Should we not hold dear what Christ holds dear?
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.
– Ephesians 5:25
Christ did not love and give Himself up for any other. He has only one bride. The church is not a parenthesis in redemptive history. She is a glorious and beloved wife, planned and purposed from before the foundations of the world. She is precious to Christ. Christ chose her in love (Ephesians 1:4), gave Himself for her in love (Ephesians 5:25), and in love He paid for her with His own blood (Acts 20:28). He has committed to build her up throughout the ages and protect her (Matthew 16:18). He has promised that nothing will separate her from Him (Romans 8:35-39) and that He will be with her always, even unto the end of the age (Matthew 28:20).
The church is uniquely loved and precious to her Husband. And if any man can begin to understand the beauty of loving his wife, he has only tasted the starting point picture of how Christ loves the church. No man can measure how much Christ loves his bride.
This will shape and form why we gather, when we gather, and what we do when we gather. It will fortify and impact what we take from our gathering. What we think about the church shapes what we do as a church. The church constitutes the “called-out” (ekklēsia) ones in the world to be gathered together in love to make much of Christ. May our practice as a church not contradict our priorities as a church. May our longing to gather reflect our first love. We should have a holy longing for the church to gather—supremely for Christ’s sake.