As some of you know, my wife and I are in a phase where we are searching for a new church home. This has forced me to re-evaluate and ask some particular questions. According to the scriptures, what is Church supposed to look like?
So, what is church supposed to look like? Here is what the Apostle Paul says that church is supposed to 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. If anyone speaks in a tongue, two—or at the most three—should speak, one at a time, and someone must interpret. If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church and speak to himself and to God. Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said. And if a revelation comes to someone who is sitting down, the first speaker should stop. For you can all prophesy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged. The spirits of prophets are subject to the control of prophets. For God is not a God of disorder but of peace—as in all the congregations of the Lord’s people. Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church. Or did the word of God originate with you? Or are you the only people it has reached? If anyone thinks they are a prophet or otherwise gifted by the Spirit, let them acknowledge that what I am writing to you is the Lord’s command. But if anyone ignores this, they will themselves be ignored. Therefore, my brothers and sisters, be eager to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues. But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way.”–1 Corinthians 14:26-40
Paul says that the things he has written are the Lord’s command. He also gives a warning saying, “If anyone ignores this, they will themselves be ignored.”
I know a lot of churches that will practice parts of this in differing variations, but I can’t think of one that implements everything stated above. Do congregations today encourage their members to come with a song, or a word of instruction, a message in tongues w/ interpretation? Are we too big to do that now? Many abandon the idea of supernatural tongues/interpretation and treat it as something ancient and dismissed by the Spirit, but hold tightly to not allowing women to speak. They shut down the tongues of the Spirit and women so that only they can be heard.. How many church services today obey the instruction that two or three prophets should speak? Today, all of this is done for you by paid staff and professional clergy. As far as speaking goes, only one person does that. Two or three in one service is neither permitted, allowed, accommodated, or even open for discussion. Even if they did, the instruction which says, “If a revelation comes to someone who is sitting down, the first speaker should stop” would be nullified because the slate of speakers would be pre-planned. They couldn’t dare allow for someone to speak who had a revelation suddenly come to them. “Sudden” inspiration from those who are in the seats doesn’t fit into today’s stage presentation.
Please forgive me if I sound like I’m trying to slam any preacher or congregation. I’m just frustrated because I’m now wondering what biblical model are we following? How close or how far have we wandered from this pattern? Is this still a valid biblical model for doing church? Or are we in a fluid situation where we need to stop being completely dependent on an owner’s manual and listen to the Spirit? My point is not to be contentious, but to ask valid questions. I certainly don’t have the answer.
Do we really want to return to this biblical pattern? Do we want to stop being Post-New Testament Churches? Do we want to stop being Post-Biblical Churches? If yes, then what do we do about Paul saying, Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church. This was not just a matter of disruption across the aisles. This was not just a matter of women preachers either. According to Paul this issue is about a law, a command from the Lord, not just some custom. Don’t let anyone cloud the picture of what Paul is actually saying. Take notice that Paul didn’t say, “people shouldn’t be disruptive or ask questions in church”. Paul wasn’t talking about disruptive men, teens, or children. Paul clearly calls out “women” two times (He also calls out women in 1 Timothy saying, A woman must quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness. But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet.) Were women the only offenders? Did all men and boys know everything and never have questions? According to Paul this was about obeying a law that specifically addressed women. What exact law is Paul invoking? Would “wives obey your husbands” mean that all women need to shut up in church? What’s going on here? Was Paul being sexist? (Don’t be offended by this question. Paul didn’t call for the abolishment of slavery either. In fact, the scriptures actually gave rules of accommodation for the practice of men owning each other.) Some theologians explain that this passage was a word of correction from God for just that church for just that culture. False. Paul said “churches” in the above passage. If the instructions for worship were solely for that church, then it was a mistake to pass the letter around and publish it for all to read and receive as New Testament truth. These theologians explain that tongues have ceased, spontaneous prophecy is gone, and Paul didn’t really mean what we think he said about women. Really? If that is true, then why include it in the Canon of scripture as a legitimate pattern for conduct in the New Testament Church?
Are we now post-New Testament? Were the Canon organizers sexist? Were they all led by the Spirit? Does God specifically want women to shut up in church?
Does the Holy Spirit want us to completely return to this real biblical model, or has the Spirit changed His mind? I sometimes sense the Spirit’s presence in churches today, but they do not obey these scriptures to the full. I sometimes think He may have changed His mind…maybe, or maybe not. Either that, or this shouldn’t have been part of the Canon. Or maybe we are supposed to return to this pattern. I certainly don’t see anyone wholeheartedly following this New Testament pattern, and I doubt I ever will. If we are honest, we must admit that our churches are post-New Testament which is really post-biblical. Is the way we do church now comparable to the way Paul envisioned the church? If Paul was wrong, then why observe it? Why use bits and pieces of it if it is wrong? If Paul wasn’t wrong, then why are we ignoring it? Paul said it was the Lord’s command and we will be penalized if we ignore it. Do we say that this new testament passage is no longer applicable to the present day church, or do we return to it? If we say this is no longer applicable, then what else in the new testament is no longer applicable? These are questions that I am asking. According to the Bible, what is Church supposed to look like today? The Bible specifically offers us 1 Cor. 14. Do we ignore it, talk our way around what it really says, or obey it and “let the women be silent”? I currently have no answer.
P.S. Don’t point me to the “All things common church” in Acts either. Scripture shows that was not a long-term, sustainable model. Read Communism in Acts. Also, I’m going to write some more about this subject…I need to pray and think about how I want to more clearly explain my thoughts. This post is a bit rough.