Folks today, generally speaking, do not adequately understand the primary aspects of the weekly gathering of Christians. The evidence of this is the almost universal adoption of The Willow Creek Model by Evangelicals. The service resembles a concert and people are encouraged to express themselves by singing and movement. This is a departure from the biblical practice. By employing entertainment methods to generate growth they fail to fulfill the discipleship mandate (Mt.28.19-20). They have admitted this themselves-https://www.christianexaminer.com/article/willow.creek.model.its.leaders.say.fails.at.discipleship/44056.htm
Its been 12 years since this was published but have most of the Evangelical Churches pulled back from the model? No. Pastor’s may feel if they reinstituted a tradition service people would not come. The best way to proceed is to first grasp the purpose of the weekly gathering which is to read the scriptures, teach and exhort as commanded by Paul to Timothy: Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. (1Tim. 4.13)
The Genesis of the Weekly Service
God rested (or enjoyed His creation) after 6 days of creating the universe. The need for rest and reflection seem inherent in humans, His creation in His image and likeness. God instituted this weekly rest for the Israelites when the Egyptians oppressed them with slave labor everyday of the week.
The tribe of Levi were scattered in Israel by the inheritance of cities in each of the other tribal portions. Thus they were strategically placed to help the people, weekly on the Sabbath, to understand the instructions given by God. Moses alludes to this in the blessing he gave to the tribes just before his death: They shall teach Jacob Your rules, and Israel Your Law. (Dt. 33.10)
The Temple and The Synagogue
The weekly service in the Synagogue was separate from the Temple worship and both operated independently. The Jewish Temple signified redemptive themes since animals were sacrificed for the sins and guilt of those who brought them. These redemptive acts reflected Heaven’s realities. Sacrifices and Temple observance have ceased since they were fulfilled by Christ and, in judgement, He has taken them away (see Heb. 8.13 as well as Dan. 9.26).
The early gathering in churches resembled the synagogue gathering with additions. The death of Christ is observed as redemptive in the Lord’s Supper, while Believers Baptism confesses Christ publicly. Neither in Synagogues or Churches did anyone perform music for the first centuries of this era. When music did creep in, it was a chant at first. Later huge organs dominated church buildings-all foreign to the principles of the church’s original mandate of scripture reading, exhortation and teaching (along with the breaking of bread in the Lord’s Supper, Koinonia, and prayers).
Therefore, churches do not need to gather in a pandemic. For now, everyone can study at home. When things return to normal, pastors should teach their flock in settings more akin to a school than a concert.