By Timothy Sparks
Some are trying to operate as though they were scattered due to COVID-19 and telling people they can worship in small groups and remain part of the congregation from which they were scattered, however long that might be until they can come together again as the same congregation. Notice there is no biblical example or pattern for such teaching. We actually find a completely different pattern in Scripture:
Now Saul was consenting to his death. At that time a great persecution arose against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles.
4 Therefore those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word. 5 Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria and preached Christ to them.
But when they believed Philip as he preached the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, both men and women were baptized.
Congregations were formed in places like Judea and Samaria, as is apparent in our next passage:
Then the churches throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace and were edified. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, they were multiplied.
It is clear that those who were scattered from Jerusalem were no longer members of the church at Jerusalem. They became members of other congregations. They assembled to worship together as a congregation, not as a small group that was somehow still part of the church at Jerusalem.
Notice another passage, where we see the same pattern of (1) being scattered, (2) the gospel being preached and (3) a congregation being formed, which was not part of the church in Jerusalem:
19 Now those who were scattered after the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to no one but the Jews only. 20 But some of them were men from Cyprus and Cyrene, who, when they had come to Antioch, spoke to the Hellenists, preaching the Lord Jesus. 21 And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number believed and turned to the Lord.
22 Then news of these things came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent out Barnabas to go as far as Antioch. 23 When he came and had seen the grace of God, he was glad, and encouraged them all that with purpose of heart they should continue with the Lord. 24 For he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord.
25 Then Barnabas departed for Tarsus to seek Saul. 26 And when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. So it was that for a whole year they assembled with the church and taught a great many people. And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.