Extending the Reformation
Please take a moment and read 1 Corinthians 14:26 in context. Then see if you agree with the following statement:
The church meetings revealed in the NT were interactive, informal and small. Simplicity was the rule of the house-church meetings. Somewhere along the line (about the time of Roman Emperor Constantine’s Edict of Milan) we moved out of homes and into awe-inspiring, majestic “sanctuaries” (which formally belonged to pagan religions). We exchanged interaction and mutual encouragement for monologue. Intimacy was lost as the masses gathered in huge lecture halls called cathedrals. Informality gave way to liturgy, pomp and ceremony. Church meetings became a spectator sport with the congregation watching a performance by the spiritually elite. In such an atmosphere, fulfilling 1 Co 14:26 became increasingly difficult. About all that could still be fulfilled was Eph 5:19b and Col 3:16b, so “worship” became the primary focus of these performance shows.
You can read more here. Now, if you will, please read these verses:
And since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let each exercise them accordingly: if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith; if service, in his serving; or he who teaches, in his teaching; or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness (Rom. 12:6-8).
Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. And there are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons. But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good (1 Cor. 12:4-7; cf. vv.8-14).
So also you, since you are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek to abound for the edification of the church (1 Cor. 14:12).
What is the outcome then, brethren? When you assemble, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification (1 Cor. 14:26; cf. vv.27-32).
Bear one another’s burdens, and thus fulfill the law of Christ (Gal. 6:2).
. . . but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him, who is the Head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by that which every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love (Eph. 4:15-16).
Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God (Col. 3:16; cf. Eph. 5:19).
Let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more, as you see the day drawing near (Heb. 10:24-25; cf. 1 Thess. 5:11,14).
As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. Whoever speaks, let him speak, as it were, the utterances of God; whoever serves, let him do so as by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ . . . (1 Pet. 4:10-11).
The movement toward reformed theology is a healthy sign, but why stop with soteriology? Paul and Peter viewed the meeting of the church as highly participatory. It seems that in healthy church meetings everyone came with something and everyone had the opportunity to share it. The leaders were there to help the believers to do the work of the ministry, not to do the ministry themselves. Why, then, do so many Reformed Baptist churches maintain a traditional clergy-laity distinction?
You will also look in vain in the New Testament for the highly programmatic approach to ministry that we have today, even in Reformed Baptist circles. In my opinion, youth groups, VBS, children’s church, Sunday School, and Awana are all “Band-Aids” (as I recall James Rutz once putting it). God’s plan for Christian education is, to put it simply, Dad. His plan worked nicely since Moses (Deut. 6). But because Dad isn’t equipped (or even expected) to teach the Word at home, we provide programs to “solve the problem.” The real problem, of course, is that these very programs allow (and even encourage) Dads to abdicate their God-given responsibilities and hand over the spiritual education of their children to the “professionals.” Of course, in many instances our Band-Aids work well because they are of the highest quality. But they are still Band-Aids.
To extend the modern reformation into the area of ecclesiology and church practices is only logical. That’s what our Anabaptist forefathers did. And that’s what’s needed today.
November 3, 2005
David Alan Black is the editor of www.daveblackonline.com.