Church In One Place

S., T., and me spend a lot of time every week talking about our church, studying the Bible model for the church, and making plans to try to bring those two pictures a little closer together. For example, they’re both preaching next Sunday, so yesterday we spent about half our time working on their messages and the rest of our Easter service. Then we looked at the church problems in Corinthians and tried to see how we’ve got the same problems. It’s amazing seeing your own experience in the Bible (amazing, or humiliating). 

I was studying I Corinthians the other day, and it really seems to be the Bible’s most specific commands about the church’s meetings. We don’t really get a very clear picture from the New Testament about how a church service is supposed to work. I mean, there’s not really specific instructions – an inspired order of service. We find a lot of the ingredients – there ought to be reading, exhortation, doctrine, praise, prayer, etc. But how much, what order, what kind, how long, and who does it are left kind of unclear. 

But I got to chapter 14, and suddenly Paul (though it’s not really a topic change) says, “if therefore the whole church be come together into one place.” He’s talking about speaking in tongues, and in vs. 23-25, Paul talks about two potential outcomes from our church services. In v. 23, the unbelievers come into the church and say, “these people are insane.” (which was actually motivation for Paul to change some things, not get defensive). In vs. 24-25, Paul describes about one of the most incredible results of a church service. Maybe the ultimate purpose of the church service is to edify the believer or teach the Word – but even Paul thinks this result worth working for. He says if they give up the speaking in tongues and take up prophesying, if an unbeliever comes in… 

“…he is convince of all, he is judged of all: And thus are the secrets of his heart made manifest; and so falling down on his face he will worship God, and report that God is in you of a truth.” 

That doesn’t happen in our services very often, but I’d be pretty pumped if it did. Anyway, the next verse gives us a principle that really helps us decide how the service should run – how we sing, how we teach, how we testify, how every person takes part in the church service. Paul says – “But how ’bout it, brethren?” (that’s my translation from the Chinese) Everyone’s got a song, a sermon, a testimony, but… 

“Let all things be done unto edifying.” Paul’s rule is – whatever you’re doing when the whole church is together, it should be done so that it builds people up. And in the context of the previous two verses, it’s not just talking about the edifying of Christians. It should also clearly point the lost to the Holy Spirit within you. To the salvation of Christ. Anyway, that’s probably not news to anyone else, but it meant a lot to me as we’re trying to plan our services every week.

One Comment on “Church In One Place”

  1. Chris March 19, 2008 at 9:18 pm #

    Praise God for churches that build people up! If I understand Paul correctly, this doesn’t mean it’s simply a non-stop encouragement session, but rather a series of words and actions that foster growth in Christ. This understanding will help us form a well-rounded view of how our services should be structured. The scripture is always the source of good ministry methodology. Nice work.

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