Now, let's take a look at our church experience. Notice any similarities? Is it so similar, that one could conclude that, in practice, church appears to be something we observe?
Over the years, I've found that most of us do what we've been taught to do - especially when it comes to church. We've been taught that church is a weekly event centered around listening to a pastor. Outside of singing a few songs, there's very little participation.
Now contrast this experience with how the Bible describes the gathering of the church:
How is it then, brethren? when ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying. (1 Corinthians 14:26)
Is that verse way different then what you're used to? Let me put it this way: If you're a mature saint of God, when was the last time you taught, spoke in tongues or interpreted? Shared a word of wisdom with the church lately?
Look at Paul's words again. How many people should participate? A few or every one? Does Paul describe a spectator church or a participatory church?
Since the church is the body of Christ, let's consider our own bodies for a moment. We have eyes, ears, hands, legs, feet, etc., Do we enjoy having all of our members? Do we like using all of our members? I'll bet we do.
Is it possible that Jesus Christ – as head of his body, the church – likes to have and wants to use all of his members too? I think so. Not only does he want to use each of us, he has gifted each of us to edify (instruct, benefit, uplift) each other. The whole church is to minister to itself.
We've been taught for generations to sit and listen to a singular person preach week after week. But according to the scriptures, all of us should be participating in each other's growth, encouraging and edifying one another.
Unfortunately, the church has become more like a program to watch. Many great teachers have been sidelined by denominational rules. Hundreds of prophets have never been encouraged to speak out what they hear from God. Exhorters have been silenced because they "didn't go to Bible school," and the Holy Ghost has been barred from entrance so there won't be any tongues and therefore no interpretation of tongues.
May I be so bold as to say that part of the reason why America is in the condition it's in spiritually is because of an atrophied church that's become a collection of spectators listening to sermons, rather than the vibrant, interactive body of Christ? Teachers should teach; Evangelists should preach; Exhorters should exhort; Words of wisdom should flow from the wise, workers of miracles should work, tongues should be spoken and interpreters should interpret!
Does that sound like a foreign language? It shouldn't; it's in the Bible. Have a look for yourself in the book of Acts, Rom. 12, I Cor. 12-14, and Eph. 4.
“But Pat, participation like that would never work in our church of over 300 people!”
You're probably right. So, what we need to to is repent and return to scriptures. Did you know that churches meeting in houses is spoken of no less than four times in the New Testament? Believers meeting in small groups was the primary way the church came together, and everyone took part under the oversight of multiple elders.
“Fellowship” has a two-part meaning: Partnership and Participation. Every one of us should be actively involved - not passively listening week and week. But we keep doing it because that's what we've been taught...by people who were taught the same thing. Many leaders today were taught that church is something to run rather than a family to be a part of.
The church Jesus came to build is more exciting than a movie, and more instrumental to society than a concert! It's supposed to be the interactive and dynamic body of Christ the gates of hell won't prevail against! More than ever before, we should act like it.
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