Monday, February 16, 2009

Wade In, the Water's Fine

To those of you who may be wondering how what I've been sharing on 1 Corinthians 14 can be implemented in today's church, I'd like to give some clear action points, but first I'd like to tackle and tear apart a couple of things that are NOT putting this scripture into practice.

Developing pigeon hole jobs or tasks to spread across the broadest possible swath of a congregation is not putting this passage into practice. That everyone should be active in the body in some way is a biblical concept, but where in the scriptures does it say that the preacher is the one who speaks, conceives and acts and everyone else helps him or her? Acts of service cast as helping the preacher (or for more sophisticated congregations, helping the ministry) is not only unscriptural, it's pathetic. Most of the attempts I'm familiar with by churches to involve people in ministry actually fall into that variety of thing: top down, make 'em feel a buy in, keep 'em busy so they don't cause trouble manipulations. Please, how many of us don't see right through that? Is that what the body of Christ is supposed to be about? Why not just pat the good folks on the head, melodiously intone, "good dog," and tell them to just be happy handing everyone who walks in a flier about the Great Church Yard Sale. ;-)

Plugging people into pigeon hole jobs by means of giftedness testing is not putting this passage into practice. I can't even find a whiff in the scriptures to support the practice. It's worldly, developed from worldly wisdom from a worldly perspective. It treats the church as just another organization of people, subject to psychosocial management, rather than the body of Christ that it is. Spiritual giftedness has nothing to do with what you like or dislike, what tasks you're good or bad at, or anything about your track record. It's giftedness from the Spirit, not you! If Christians have no inkling of their spiritual giftedness, it's because they haven't asked God to clarify it, or are insisting upon being something God isn't making them. It does help to be baptized in the Holy Spirit, but if one does what one senses to do in his or her closest moments with Christ, that one will discover what gift he or she is to the body with ease.

Now to those action points I promised...
When we come together, i.e. meet as a church, everyone should be able to participate, vocally as well as cooperatively. Some may have special areas of service; ushering, sound room, nursery, instrumental music, etc., but everyone has the potential and should have the possibility of participating vocally.

If our meetings are too large to make that realistic, maybe our meetings are too large. In those cases, we have to ask ourselves whether it is better to divide and be scriptural in practice, or to cherish egotism and convenience and be large? If our meetings are too structured to make this possible, we've bowed down at the altar of order rather than the feet of Jesus. The people are not served well by asking nothing of them, allowing little for them to experience or offer, or by encouraging superstition by giving them a convenient opportunity to salve the religion sore and then move on with their real life. This is the body of Christ, not a supermarket, and we need to start acting like we believe that.

When we come together, anyone, maybe even at anytime, could be inspired by the Holy Spirit to open up his or her mouth and share. That offering may take the form of a spiritual song (psalm) in a known or unknown language, it may be something prophetic that instructs, or uncovers, it may be an utterance in a language unknown to the speaker (and anyone else for that matter), or it may be an interpretation of something brought forward in an unknown language. The key point is that in our gatherings, we should anticipate that any and every one, not just the preacher, could be used of God to vocally bring forth a message from God for the benefit of all.

People, preachers, worry about disorder, and I understand that, but how is silence more spiritual than chaos? Quenching the Spirit, despising prophecy, and limiting anointment (sorry, my Calvinist friends ;-0) are not appropriate responses to the messiness of the Spirit's outpouring on the body. Preachers need hearts more like Moses'!!! To lead meetings in a biblical fashion will require some extra effort from us preachers: we'll need to test everything, we'll need to correct some things, we'll need simply to overlook others and adjust. It can't all be planned and probably wouldn't look good on television; regardless, the attitude of our meetings should be accommodating and inviting to the Spirit's inspiration of the body, period!

Church meetings are for the body, not the preacher. They should be conducted so the body gets to experience and express the Holy Spirit, not so they can watch the preacher do so. This may be a radical concept to you, but read the manual, it's absolutely scriptural. So from one who experiences the Spirit's anointing and speaks, let me say to all of you, especially those who may have never yet experienced the Spirit's inspiration, wade into the river of God's anointing, the water's fine.

Addendum: Check out Dr. D's post on John Wimber.