David Lipscomb on the Purpose of Assembly

Mac Ice, a friend and former student (M.Div., Hazelip School of Theology, Lipscomb University), recently posted an article by David Lipscomb entitled “Congregational Worship” (Gospel Advocate 8.23 [5 June 1866] 360-361). It is an interesting piece in the light of contemporary use of assemblies for seekers or evangelism.

Here is but a snipet of what Lipscomb wrote (see the rest at Mac’s blog):

 The true and proper object of the weekly meeting, is as the family of God to meet HIM in his special and chosen appointments, where HE has promised to meet us.  Through these appointments prayer, praise, thanksgiving, observance of the memorials of the broken body and shed blood of our Savior and elder brother, and devout and prayerful study of HIS word, together with the observance of the fellowship and the kindly word of encouragement and brotherly love to our brethren and sisters.  These objects, then, are solely communion with God our Father, and with our brethren and sisters.  Now will these ends be advanced by the presence of strangers?

Assembly is not fundamentally about seekers or evangelism but rather about encounter. We meet God through assembly. This does not mean that the assembly should be exclusive. Indeed, it should be shaped by the mission of God (missional), but its primary function is sacramental encounter–to love God and love each other and to be loved by God. In loving, we will missionally encounter the “strangers” who are present as well. We do not gather for “strangers,” but they are loved when we love God first in our assemblies.


Mac’s blog, called Escriptorium, records and interprets Stone-Campbell history, particularly the history of Nashville and Churches of Christ. He solicits any help that anyone can offer in filling out the history of Churchs of Christ in Nashville. He would welcome your input and data. He has a facebook page to faciliate that purpose.

4 Responses to “David Lipscomb on the Purpose of Assembly”

  1.   Stan Says:

    Lipscomb puts encounter with God first, with encouragement to others second but also as an aspect of assembly purpose. I agree. I’ve seen some who put encouragement as the purpose of the assembly, since worship is all of life.

  2.   Ken Sublett Says:

    I don’t blame you one bit :=)

    I don’t know how you can have missed the church in the wilderness ordained by the Spirit OF (preposition) Christ. That never changed: it is a one-piece “pattern” and since Christ outlawed speaking your own words (Isaiah58) the terminal danger is that if you say that Christ (the Spirit) says something He did not say then you are guilty of blasphemy.

    Acts 15:21 For Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every sabbath day.

    Jesus said that doctors of the Law take away the key to knowledge: I would think a bit of humility would help.

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