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31 July 2010

Is the Church Singing the Wrong Words? Part Five

I think this may be my favorite "misheard lyric." It is one of the most important ones. For a quick mid-series summary, I'm going over several areas in which Scripture says one thing but the Church seems to have heard something else. It's not a series designed to be negative, but one that will hopefully spark an "I've never thought about that" reaction in believers.

Misheard Lyric #5:
When you come together, the worship leader has a hymn, the teacher has a lesson, the pastor has a revelation, the pentecostal guy has a tongue, or an interpretation.

Original Lyric (1 Corinthians 14:26, ESV):
When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation...

I used the ESV rather than my typically-used NLT, because the NLT doesn't render the Greek correctly in this passage. It says "one will sing, another will teach..." etc., and there is a HUGE difference of meaning there. The NLT fits our modified understanding of how things are done; the ESV and most other translations are faithful to the original language for "each one" -- "hekastos" (or "ἕκαστος," if you're interested), meaning "each or every: - any, both, each (one), every (man, one, woman)" according to Strong's Greek Dictionary.

I'm not writing to offer a case for or against speaking in tongues. Let's save that for a future post. Regardless, it's obvious that the "average" Christian has becom a chair-sitter. We're now people who look at the backs of other people’s heads. People who pick apart songs that don't have enough “meat,” are too loud, too traditional, or too "Rock 'n' Roll." People who love to offer armchair critiques of what the pastor talked about and spend the rest of the week being oblivious to what was said on Sunday. People looking for their own spiritual "needs" to be met, often without realizing just what those needs are.

This is more than normal for American churches today. It's not just accepted, but it's essentially mandated! Even if we don’t pick things apart, don't we meet with the believers on a typical Sunday expecting someone to minister to us? That’s all we’ve really known for a very long time – about 1700 years. And where is Jesus in all this?

The full text of 1 Corinthians 14:26 (ESV) says this: "What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up." To go Greek on you again, "building up" in this verse means "architecture, that is, (concretely) a structure; figuratively confirmation: - building, edify (-ication, -ing)." That locks in with what the apostle Peter wrote in 1 Peter 2:5 (back to NLT): "And you are living stones that God is building into his spiritual temple. What’s more, you are his holy priests. Through the mediation of Jesus Christ, you offer spiritual sacrifices that please God."

You are living stones. You are God’s holy priests. That’s why Paul Is able to say, “each one” of you brings a hymn, a lesson, etc. While not everyone is a gifted singer, teacher, or expositor, every believer who has spent time in the presence of the Lord arrives bearing a gift that must be given to the other believers. We should meet together expecting the speaker to be using his gift – preaching or teaching the Word, but that doesn't mean we leave ours behind. Your gifts are meant to be used for the building up of the Church. They were not given for you to sit on them.

What song did God put on your mind this week? What Scripture did He use to comfort you? What weakness in you did He point out? What word did he give you to share with that couple going through divorce proceedings? Did you share any of these things when you arrived for Sunday's meeting last week? If you didn’t, why not? That is your family, isn't it?

What are the ramifications of misunderstanding this? What are the ramifications of expecting a few super-Christians to do all the "work"? I submit that our adherence to a tradition -- the expectation of a handful of key people filling only a few specific roles has taught us that not only are the gifts of teaching and preaching the most visible ones in the body, but they are the most important, and possibly even the only essential gifts that should be exercised in meetings of believers for the edification and strengthening of the Church.

Be a weirdo this week. Go meet with the believers, filled with the Spirit, ready to freely share the gifts that God has given you. Remember, gifts like faith and encouragement are absolutely essential! You may have them while your neighbor doesn't!

Let all things be done for building up.


Jan Owen said...

Great post Dean! I was just sitting here last night thinking how I'd love to do a monthly "Refuge" time of worship in my living room. No teaching, just worship, communion, prayer and reading of scripture. Simple. Refreshing. Different people "guiding" month to month. Different people playing and leading worship. All joining in. Simply a place of "filling" and "being", a place to breathe in the presence of God and the warmth of community and a place to exhale our worries and the praises of God. No agenda except being with God and others. no expectations except show up and worship. Simple, simple, simple.

I agree. It has warped the church to think that only certain people have something to say.

Dean Lusk said...

It's not just that certain people are the ones who have something to say, but the thing that's most alarming to me is that believers are really not allowed to say anything.

Lack of exercise of various parts of the body leads to atrophy.

Dean Lusk said...

And I'm definitely in for whenever you plan the monthy "Refuge." (If I'm invited, that is...) :-)

Preston N said...

Again, I go back to my relationship versus religion issue. The religious want power and control, they want to be identified or a place of status, they want to be recognized. Whereas Christ wants our relationship, He wants us to have questions, He wants to give us answers, He wants all to communicate and have community. Realize the pendulum can also swing both ways in the extreme - total control on the one hand and no control on the other. Balance is the key.

Dean Lusk said...

"Realize the pendulum can also swing both ways in the extreme..."

That's exactly right.

I believe this is either the biggest fear or simply the loudest cry that some people have when it comes to the idea of not following an "order of service/worship."

germit said...

G'day Dean...wandered over from IMONK and will add this to my list of places to visit. Solid post, and I feel your pain. The brutal fact is, church has become something that does not 'play well' with 1Cor14...and that is how it's going to be for ...well, I don't know for how long. SO: I'd recommend working on outlets where you ARE allowed (this blog comes to mind), discussions, informal meetings, small groups, etc. and continue to build up the body (as I"m sure you are doing). Maybe it will be better for the next generation, or the one after that . This is going to take awhile.

Dean Lusk said...

Germit, very thankful to have you drop in! Appreciate the add to your places to visit, too.

I have a tough time thinking in the "this is going to take a little while" realm, but you're exactly right. I'm not as gracious or as elegant as many, so when I bring up a paradigm-challenging view from the Word, it's rarely well-received by others.

I do pray that change from "tradition for the sake of tradition" is something the next generation will see and correct, but it's got to be modeled and taught in our generation tirelessly.

Excellent thoughts!

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