I have previously posted along the lines of what I am writing about today. So, forgive me if I bore some of you. But I think it’s ok to share frequently about a topic that is dear to one’s heart. And so I take up the privilege of doing so.
One of my favourite passages in all of Scripture is found here:
What is the outcome then, brethren? When you assemble, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification. (1 Corinthians 14:26 NASB)
Specifically, I love that little phrase, ‘each one has’.
Can you imagine it?
What if the church, the ekklesia of God, actually lived out the reality what this verse says? What if our gatherings actually consisted of the reality that each one has?
Well, I believe a few things would begin to happen:
1) Simply, we would be living out Biblical truth and the heart of God.
2) The saints, God’s people, would begin to more regularly grow up into maturity.
3) We would truly be walking out what it means to be the body.
4) We would receive greater blessing, encouragement and strength from the whole body of Christ.
5) There would be a lot more variety, which would inevitably lead to us being less stale. (Note: I am not up for variety just for variety’s sake, nor to make us somehow ‘hip’. I’m up for doing this because Scripture makes clear it is important and that we should do it for edifying the body.)
And there are probably a host of other things we could list.
Now, there is the other side of the coin as well if we look to walk out 1 Corinthians 14:26. We will have to utilise the wisdom of God a little more in our Sunday gatherings and even outside our Sunday gatherings.
What I mean is this – If the leadership of a local congregation does not allow for the possibility of each one to have, meaning everything is left down to one or two people, then there is a lot more control over the situation. You don’t have to worry if Suzy is going to share another ‘ethereal’ prophecy that no one understands. You don’t have to worry if Bobby will keep asking to share that important teaching that he believes God is stirring in him, but it actually is only something God is doing personally in Bobby rather than what God wants to do in the midst of the whole body.
But, if we let go of control, though we will have to consider dealing with those ‘dirty diapers’, I believe beyond a shadow of a doubt that we will begin to see the heart of God enacted in our church communities more and more if we look to live out the truth of 1 Corinthians 14:26.
Good shepherds (elder-pastors) will watch over the flock making sure that unhealthy things are guarded against, or if something does happen, to then give a gentle correction to help refocus on what is true.
But true and Biblical shepherds desire to see the flock grow up and head towards maturity. And allowing for each one to be able to give and serve (not just in passing out a bulletin) through their spiritual giftings is important.
Now, of course, by no means do I believe this verse teaches that each one should share at every gathering. Rather, the potential of such is available to all those indwelt by God the Spirit Himself. Think about it: if 50 or 100 followers of Christ join together to meet with God and one another, I could only assume that there are more than two people in the midst of the congregation that have something to bring. It is inevitable, and even if not every single person is truly pursuing God, for there are those who are walking with Him.
Now, for the mega-church, this becomes somewhat difficult. But that is the problem. John on the 17th row can easily be forgotten in the midst of have 2,000 people joining together. And with such a large amount of people, you don’t have time to consider whether another 5 or 10 people might have something with which they could edify the congregation. Instead, you usually have the few qualified experts who can do it better than everyone else anyways. So why open the door for Suzy and Bobby?
Well, for starters: 1) You are missing an important teaching of Scripture and 2) you leave out an opportunity for God’s people to grow and step out in faith with the gifts He has given.
I know that such churches will say, ‘But we have small groups for that.’ And, you know what? I think 1 Corinthians 14:26 needs to be practiced in small groups as well. That is important.
But, read the context of 1 Corinthians 14. Paul is talking about the larger gathering of the church, not small groups. So, in our sense, he is talking about our Sunday gatherings. Paul expects the ‘each one has’ to be practiced in our Sunday morning gatherings (or whenever we meet). He does not want it simply relegated to small groups. But how many churches really walk this out?
For the mega-church that cannot walk out 1 Corinthians 14:26, then my suggestion is to expand outwards and stop building upwards. Take your 2,000 people and plant 10 new churches. Not only will you get more opportunity to enact these words of Paul, you will get more opportunity to train up new leaders and reach people like they did in Acts. This isn’t a novel idea. It is what they did in Acts.
For the ‘seeker-sensitive’ church that relegates such (especially tongues) to small groups for the sake of not disturbing seekers that attend a Sunday gathering, I would challenge such a perspective. The goal should not be to squelch what Paul says is important to practice. Rather it is to teach it and practice it in a healthy manner. So, when a prophecy or tongue is shared, give a healthy explanation of what has just happened. Hey, it will probably be helpful to those who are already part of the church community as well.
In the end, if something has been practiced in a Biblical manner and the shepherds have done well to guard against anything unhealthy, as well as giving an explanation to help clarify, then we really don’t need to worry about who got offended. It’s ok if one or two or a handful of people don’t return. The goal is not more people, per se. The goal is to truly reach people with Christ and see the church mature. At least that is the goal in Scripture.
And, not only that, but let me just go ahead and say that ‘each one has’ involves women as well. Each one has is not relegated to the male figure. For those who think the word brethren underlines that only men should be involved in such, then you need to go back and study what the word adelphoi means in the original Greek. Also, check out 1 Corinthians 11:5 – ‘but every women who prays or prophesies.’
And these women might just be used with a teaching or [prophetic] revelation. Yes, truly so! Read the verse again.
Of course this list is not exhaustive. I believe it to be a summary of things, especially knowing that Paul lists a few other things in 1 Corinthians 12:4-11, as well as other places like Romans 12.
In all, my passion – no, God’s passion – is to see a healthy and mature church. He doesn’t want everything left down to the experts, if we can indeed somehow call ourselves experts. He gifts and calls people to serve in so many varying capacities. And we must give each one the room to serve and express their unique giftings and callings in Christ.
What a transformation that would take place if we truly walked out 1 Corinthians 14:26!