Churches can have several preachers, without disorder

It is typical in modern churches for there to be one pastor who does all the preaching. However, that is not how it was done in the first century AD. Instead, there were typically several men from the congregation who would preach God’s word in the same church service:

Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others pass judgment. 30 But if a revelation is made to another who is seated, the first one must keep silent. 31 For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all may be exhorted; (I Corinthians 14:29-31).

Paul, here, is describing a way for all the church members to be spiritually and mentally involved in a church service. About two or three of them should speak God’s word, the rest should carefully pass judgment to make sure to make sure that nothing was said that contradicts the word of God. The congregation should not sit idly by and accept whatever is said without critical examination. Each and every preacher is fallible, and they should be respectfully admonished when they make mistakes.

Paul seems to also describe a scenario here where a speaker can be respectfully and orderly interrupted. He says that if a revelation is made to another who is seated, the first one must keep silent. He counsels the congregation to use patience and understanding, so that all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all may be exhorted.

Most churches do not do church this way. The reason is because it is very difficult to do what Paul is describing above without it descending into disorder. If we allowed our meetings to be “open” than, in many cases, the must uncontrolled and immature people would be the first to speak and try to monopolize the church service. It takes the careful involvement of the entire church, and wise oversight of the elders, to make sure that this does not happen.

So how can we implement this kind of involvement into the church today? The answer is: VERY CAREFULLY! I believe that most churches would indeed benefit if they depended less on a single pastor to do all the preaching; however, you must be very careful in how you go about changing a church. You must not abuse scriptures like the ones above to railroad your own opinions through against everyone else. All things must be done gently, with humility, order, and love. If You feel that God has placed a sermon on your heart to preach to the church, I suggest that you go to your pastor and/or elders and talk to them about it. Do not expect them to accept your responsibility to preach on “faith,” you must show them why it is important for you to preach the message that God has laid on your heart. Tell them what you intend to say so they can know that you will not preach heresy and abuse the pulpit.

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Tongues must be interpreted, period

For the last several weeks we have been working our way through chapter 14 of I Corinthians where the Apostle Paul repeats again and again his warning against misusing the gift of tongues in church services. He apparently thought that this was a very serious problem in the Corinthian church, because he spends virtually a whole chapter on this one issue. In verses 27 and 28 he states the commandment bluntly so that it is not misinterpreted:

If anyone speaks in a tongue, it should be by two or at the most three, and each in turn, and one must interpret; 28 but if there is no interpreter, he must keep silent in the church; and let him speak to himself and to God (I Corinthians 14:27-28).

Paul is very adamant that uninterpreted tongues have no place in church, because that would produce chaos. Paul, here, is not necessarily barring all outbursts of emotion in church, but he warns us that emotion must always be linked to doctrine. That is, whenever we are in a celebratory mood in church, we must be very clear as to what we are celebrating. We must speak to each other in clear language that we can understand, so that we know that we are all worshiping the same God. We must be sure that the person next to us is worshiping Jesus, not Buddha. Emotion that is not based on true doctrine is idolatry.

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The advantage of being married to a priest

I am fortunate to be married to a very wonderful woman. She is beautiful, intelligent, gentle, loving, and most importantly, godly. She is also a priest. Actually, all Christians are priests, regardless of their gender, or their formal position in the church. The Apostle Peter wrote this:

you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. (I Peter 2:5)

And again:

 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light (I Peter 2:9).

The reason why God chose my wife as a priest, was so that she could minister before God. Whenver she prays or does good works she is able to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. Because of Christ’s death on the cross she is able to have direct access to God. She is God’s special possession, tasked with the job of declaring the praises of him who caller her out of the darkness into his wonderful light.

In addition to praising God and sacrificing to God, she also has the ability to make intercession for others. That is, she can pray to God for forgiveness and strength for her friends. By “friends” of course, I especially mean her best friend–me! Because she is God’s priest God hears her prayers when she asks Him to forgive me for my failings and help me become stronger. I have discovered that this is a huge advantaged to my spiritual life. Of course my wife is not the only priest that I know. Every true believer I know is a priest, and they are capable of supplicating God on my behalf. But none of the others know me as well as my wife does, and is aware of my spiritual needs the way that she is. My wife is intimate with me. I am able to tell her things about myself that would be awkward, perhaps even inappropriate and sinful for me to tell anyone else. I have learned to trust her even with my deepest secrets because she is both gentle and godly, able and willing to rebuke me when I am wrong, but forgive me for my weaknesses. Thus it is relatively easy for me to keep the command of the James:

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective (James 5:16 NIV).

Sadly, there are some Christians who do not know the joy of having someone else pray for their sins. We are often tempted not to tell anyone else when we have done wrong, but simply confess our sins to God privately. Yes, we are each priests, and thus have direct access to God’s throne, but God commands us to not be “lone rangers” when it comes to confessing our sins, we should also enlist the help of others to pray for us too. I have personally seen that God sometimes gives me better blessings when I ask my wife to pray for me than when I am simply praying for myself.

For a Christian, deciding who to marry is an important decision. You are not only deciding who to spend the rest of your life with, but you are also picking your personal priest. Make sure that she is worth it. Do not, if you can help it, go through life with someone that cannot be trusted to pray for you. If you do, you are missing out on one of the greatest benefits of Christian marriage.

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Church Services Must Be Orderely And Edifying

In contemporary churches there is usually one man, the pastor, who has the job of preaching the main message, and there are others who contribute through smaller duties such as song leading, or Scripture reading. But in most first century churches there appear to be more flexibility. There was not just one man who was the designated preacher. Others shared in this task. The downside of that arrangement, was that sometimes the church services could degenerate into disorder. But Paul emphasizes in his letter to the Corinthians that order must be maintained at all times so that all are edified. This is how describes to the Corinthians what their church services should look like.

What then shall we say, brothers and sisters? When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. Everything must be done so that the church may be built up. (I Corinthians 14:26 NIV).

We see in this example above that Paul expected there to be quite a bit of direct participation on the part of the church members. Some of them could apparently select a hymn on the spot, others may be cleared to give a word of instruction or a revelation. In some cases perhaps one person might even have been directly inspired to speak in a supernatural tongue, in which case God would also give someone else the ability to provide the interpretation. Participation was apparently encouraged, and yet it must have been controlled to, so that this liberty was not abused. Everything must be done in an orderly, united fashion, so that the church may be built up.

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The Right Way To Be A Seeker Sensitive Church

Today there is much talk among evangelical churches about becoming “seeker-sensitive.” That means that they want to be the kinds of churches where people “seeking” Christ feel welcome. Being a “seeker sensitive” church is a good thing as long as you are targeting genuine seekers. But there are many people who claim to be seekers who are not really seeking Christ. They may be seeking respect, seeking friends, seeking entertainment, seeking personal affirmation, or seeking to have their guilt assuaged, but they are not seeking true forgiveness in the blood of Christ. This is because true forgiveness requires true repentance, and many want to be told that they are “OK” without first admitting their own wickedness and turning away from it. A genuine seeker is willing to admit their guilt and follow Christ once they learn that true forgiveness is offered through His blood.

So how does one attract these sincere seekers? It is not primarily through music, or worship style, or even through being polite and welcoming (although that is important). Sincere seekers are attracted primarily through the message itself as the Apostle Paul says:

But if an unbeliever or an inquirer comes in while everyone is prophesying, they are convicted of sin and are brought under judgment by all, 25 as the secrets of their hearts are laid bare. So they will fall down and worship God, exclaiming, “God is really among you!” (I Corinthians 14:24-25 NIV)

What Paul is saying here is that churches that attract genuine converts are churches where all the members are prophesying. By “prophesying” he does not necessarily mean sharing visions about the future, he simply means that they are declaring the promises and commandments of God in clear language. In other words, they are constantly talking about the Bible and about Jesus and about what He has done for us. These are people who practically apply godly wisdom and good doctrine to their daily lives.  They are always talking about forgiveness and grace because it is important to them. When sincere seekers hear this kind of talk they are convicted of sin and it feels as if the secrets of their  hearts are laid bare. This feeling is no doubt very uncomfortable at first, but when they learn of forgiveness in the blood of Christ, they may very literally fall down and worship God exclaiming, “God is really among you.”

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Converts Are Made Through Preaching In Plain Language

In my last post I explained why the gift of tongues used in church was not an effective tool to bring new believers to Christ. Instead, the Apostle Paul says that it is the gift of prophecy instead that should be used to convict unbelievers of sin and the need for repentance. “Prophecy,” as used here, simply means the clear speaking of God’s commandments in words that can be easily understood. A prophet does not necessarily need to have a personal vision from God; a prophet can be someone who preaches God’s commandments out of the Bible.

Here is how the gift of prophecy in a church brings unbelievers to Christ:

But if an unbeliever or an inquirer comes in while everyone is prophesying, they are convicted of sin and are brought under judgment by all, 25 as the secrets of their hearts are laid bare. So they will fall down and worship God, exclaiming, “God is really among you!” (I Corinthians 14:24-25 NIV)

It is important for an unbeliever or an inquirer who comes in to church to hear the gospel message clearly. In a healthy church everyone is prophesying, that means that everyone knows true doctrine and are speaking it clearly in an orderly fashion. They are not arguing with each other or speaking out of turn, but they are openly worshiping and praising God for His blessings. When a sincere seeker hears them talk about Jesus and the cross, he is convicted of sin and brought under judgment of all, and the secrets of his heart are laid bare. He sees that he is a sinner, and that God really does forgive sins through the blood of Christ. Once the Holy Spirit has convicted their hearts through the clear preaching of the truth, they may very literally fall down and worship God, exclaiming, “God is really among you!”

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Speaking In Tongues Hinders Unbelievers From Coming To Christ

 So if the whole church comes together and everyone speaks in tongues, and inquirers or unbelievers come in, will they not say that you are out of your mind? (I Corinthians 14:23 NASB)

In this verse the Apostle Paul warns of the practical effects of the use/ overuse of tongues in church. Paul has previously argued that tongues should only be used sparingly in church, and then only if they are clearly interpreted into common language. But if there are lots of people in church speaking in gibberish with no interpretation, then there is chaos and God is not being glorified. If unbelievers come in to observe what is going on they will be scared off by the crazy scene. Even if they decide to stay and join in raucous, it will not be for the right reasons. The church needs to bring in new converts who are looking for truth, not those who are just looking for an emotional outlet. The Gospel message can only save souls if it is clearly preached in words that are easily understood.

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