A) When you come together, make sure that only polished preachers and skilled musicians lead the service. There must be excellence in all aspects for the strengthening of the church. B) When you come together, allow only those with a seminary degree to speak, lead a service, or celebrate communion. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church. C) When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church. (For help see 1 Cor. 14:26-27)
Most students of the Bible will recognize that “C” is the correct answer. But how many of us put it into practice? Most modern American churches practice “A” or “B” or both. In other words, their weekly meetings are led by polished professionals who do the teaching, praying, encouraging, etc. Week after week, meeting after meeting, the same handful of people minister to the same audience in the same way. This is in direct opposition to the Biblical instruction that the Holy Spirit will give one person a song, another a word, still another a prophecy or prayer, and that by everyone participating the church will be strengthened.
Many people talk about how the church in America has become weak but it seems that few people are searching the Scriptures to find out what it is that strengthens a church. The Apostle Paul lays it out in 1 Corinthians 12-14, where he describes the church as the Body of Christ and how each member must do its part out of love for each other and the Lord.
It seems pretty straightforward – when we get together the emphasis should be upon the Holy Spirit empowering various people to impart spiritual gifts such as teaching, encouraging, giving words of knowledge and wisdom, prophesying, healing, speaking in tongues, etc. And it should all be done with love, for if we don't have love it will just be a whole lot of worthless noise.
"It's amazing, really, that people talk about how the church in America has become weak but it seems that few people are searching the Scriptures to find out what it is that strengthens a church."
So then, if Scripture is so clear about what our meetings should be like, why don't we do it that way? Fear. Fear that someone will say something heretical or wrong. Fear that we might have to correct someone publicly. Fear that disorder might enter into the meeting. Fear that if we allow others to teach, pray, and lead the service then we might not be needed as much. Fear that someone else might teach, pray, or lead better than we do. Fear that if we change things people might not come. Fear that we might even lose our paycheck or position.
So fear and our desire for control plays a big part of it, if we think about it. But often we don't even think about it. We just continue holding services and meetings the way we always have simply because we have always done it that way and that was the way they taught us to do it in Bible college or seminary. We don't even think about shaping our services to fit the Biblical pattern or to fulfill Biblical aims like loving one another, encouraging one another, praying for one another, bearing one another's burdens, sharing spiritual gifts, etc. We simply focus on the teaching one another, with the senior pastor/priest being the teacher and the students being everyone else.
With there being so much good teaching online and in the media these days, isn't it about time that we shift the emphasis of our services and meetings to doing all the other one-anothers that we are commanded to do in the New Testament? Isn't it time to structure things in a way that the whole Body can function and people can share their spiritual gifts? Isn't it time that we begin emphasizing loving one another and allowing time for people to develop real and redeeming relationships during our meeting times?
We must get away from a leader-centric meeting and move to a Spirit-led meeting where everyone is encouraged to participate. Yes, it might mean that we need many more smaller congregations and fewer huge congregations. Mega-churches might need to break up their main Sunday meetings into smaller congregations where everyone can participate. Some of us might have to swallow our pride and take a back seat sometimes. But it will all be worth it. For when the whole Body begins to function as it was designed to, the church of Christ as a whole will be much stronger for it.
Let's Pray Together: Lord, show me Your place in Your plan for our local church meetings. Give me the courage to make whatever changes You are calling me to make. Give me the wisdom and the right words to speak to the leaders of my local church. Give me the boldness to speak forth Your words and impart spiritual gifts whenever the time is right in our church meetings and in our community....(continue praying as you feel led)
Additional Resources: Rethinking Church -- In this video Francis Chan talks about doing church differently, in a way that makes the church stronger and empowers people to minister.
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