by Wayne S. Walker
It is clear that God wants His people to assemble, because they are told “not forsaking the assembling of yourselves together” (Hebrews 10:25). The purpose for the assembling as a church is specified in other passages — worship (John 4:24) and edification (I Corinthians 14:26). Thus, for the church to assemble for eating a common meal, recreation, or entertainment is not authorized. However, while the church must have a place to assemble, the “where” to assemble is not specified. It is generic. Whether a church borrows, or rents, or purchases, or builds a place to assemble, if it is coming together for worship and edification, it is simply doing what God said. For a church to own a building is not an addition to God’s word; it is merely an expedient in carrying out what God authorizes. God did not have to say anything about a building. The church must have a place to meet, so it is included in the command to assemble and any reasonable place to meet is merely an expedient.
This brings us to the question of midweek services. As we have seen, by example and necessary inference, God has authorized the local church to meet on the first day of every week. However, does this mean that the church is authorized to meet ONLY on the first day of the week? It would IF it met the text of universality, but it does not. In other words, is every example in scripture of a church’s assembling only on the first day of the week? The answer is no. In Acts 2:46 we are told of the church in Jerusalem that it was “continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house.” I understand this to make a distinction between what they did as a church, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and what they did as individuals, breaking bread from house to house.
Thus, the church in Jerusalem, at least for a time, continued “daily” with one accord in the temple, the place where it appears that they assembled for worship and learning the apostles’ doctrine (cf. Acts 2:42). The question might be raised: does this “example” mean that the local church must meet daily? Again, if it met the test of universality, it might, but it does not. There is no indication that it was a universal practice of churches in the first century to meet daily. In Acts 14:27, we read of Paul and Barnabas in their return to Antioch from their first preaching trip that “when they had come and gathered the church together, they reported all that God had done with them.” This implies that the church was not assembled on the day when they came back. If the church in Antioch were assembling daily, there would be no need to “gather the church together” because it would already be assembling every day.
What this does mean is that if a congregation decided to meet every day, it would be generally authorized, and in fact there are times such as during gospel meetings when a church will do this. Now, if it is generally authorized for a church to meet every day in the week, it is just as generally authorized for a church to pick one day out of the week (in addition to the specified first day of the week) to assemble. One function of the church is “the edifying of the body of Christ” or “the edifying of itself in love” (Ephesians 4:12, 16). The when and how of this edifying are not specified. As we have seen, the book of Acts shows that the edifying done in the early church was not limited to the first day of the week.
Therefore, God did not have to say anything specific about midweek (or Sunday evening) services. When a church meets for a midweek service, it is not violating any principle of scripture but is simply doing precisely what the New Testament authorizes it to do as it seeks to accomplish “the edifying of the body of Christ.”
Finally, is it necessary for the members of the local church to attend such midweek services? Of course, we recognize that there are times when situations beyond a person’s control, such as sickness, or the fulfilment of other God-given responsibilities, such as providing for one’s family, might make it necessary for one to miss an occasional service. But we are asking about when a person is able and chooses not to attend. Is that wrong? Someone might answer no because such services are not commanded. It is true that they are not commanded, and I have known of faithful churches which, for various reasons, chose not to conduct midweek services. That is their right. However, when a local church does agree to conduct midweek services for the edification of members, there is a responsibility for those who are members of that congregation to support its work to the very best of their ability.
The local church is not just a club or civic organization, though even these groups often have rules that if you miss so many meetings you cannot be a member. The local church is a spiritual relationship. The fact that “we are members of one another” (Ephesians 4:25) places various obligations upon us. After Saul had “tried to join the disciples” in Jerusalem and been accepted, “he was with them at Jerusalem, coming in and going out” (Acts 9:25-28). If I am a member of a local church, it means that in my relationship to the other members I am to be “with them.” How can I do this when I habitually absent myself from those times when they choose to meet together? Thus, we conclude that it is generally authorized by the scriptures for churches to conduct midweek assemblies, and that if at all possible the members of that congregation need to be present.