Chapter Six. Everyone???
Note: To read earlier chapters, go here and scroll down.
What was the picture of church in Jesus’ head? The second part of the answer to that question came when I discovered a verse that I had never seen before. I had been a Christian for 25 years, I had gone to seminary, I had heard thousands of sermons and talks but I had never heard anyone refer to this verse. Yet, this verse clearly described what happened when the early church met. (These were the churches started by those who had learned from Jesus.) Why had I never seen this before? Why had no one taught on this? I think it was that paradigm thing again. I (we) had been reading the Bible through a particular lens and, as a result, some things were simply invisible. They were there but I (we) couldn’t see them. Here’s the verse…
“When you come together, brothers, everyone has a word of instruction, a hymn, a revelation, a tongue, an interpretation. Let all these things be done for the edification of the church.” 1 Cor. 14:26.
I found that he word for “come together” in the Greek was used six times in 1 Corinthians. And, every time it referred to the church gathering. So, this was a picture of the churches started by the guys that had hung out with Jesus. This must have been what was in His mind for church!
Sunerchesthe. sun = together. erchomai = to come. “To come together, to assemble. 1 Cor 11:17, 18, 20, 33, 34; 14:23, 26
The word in this verse that hit me like a ton of bricks was “everyone”. When the churches in the New Testament met, everyone contributed something. Really? This pattern was so different from what I had learned and what I was implementing. I began to see that what I had been doing might best be called “spectator church” whereas the New Testament practice would be called “participatory church”.
Week after week, we trained people by our practice to be good spectators! Oh, we talked about the “priesthood of all believers” but in our most important meeting, what we called “church”, we practiced something entirely different. Only a very few (the preacher, the worship leader, etc.) were able to function as priests.
I tried to imagine someone practicing 1 Cor 14:26 in one of our four carefully orchestrated services. What would happen if someone stood up in the middle of the service and said “Excuse me, Pastor, I have a passage of Scripture to share (or a song to sing, or a testimony to share, etc.)” I couldn’t even picture it. We didn’t have time for that and, no doubt, that person would have been asked to sit down or even asked to leave.
Apparently, Jesus had a high value for “spiritual families” where everyone had a voice. Where everyone contributed something in order to see the whole group, the church, become stronger. Somehow this was a key element in making them “vibrant”, pulsing with life. I really didn’t know how to do church this way but I felt instinctively that this was important and it was something I needed to pursue.
Question to discuss with the Lord and your other friends: Can you imagine regular family gatherings where only one or two people spoke. Where everyone else was a spectator every time the family came together?
Photo below: Me preaching at a typical Sunday “church service”. Sometime in the 1970s. (Before my time on staff of a megachurch.) Spectator church!