A Functioning Body Part 3

In my last post I referenced the role of leaders and the responsibility they carry. Here I want to look at what can and should happen when leaders draw out the gifts in others and create an environment that makes space to accommodate their use when the body gathers. Warning, our responsibility is not to take up space in a seat on a Sunday or Wednesday! I have a friend who was converted during the Jesus Movement and he naturally started reading the bible. He then went to a church service with a friend and at one point got his friend’s attention, pointed at the platform, and said, “I don’t know what this is but this isn’t that.” He was referring to the difference between what he read in scripture and what he saw on the platform.

            To be clear, I am not suggesting that we all need to wear first century garb and the men grow long beards. I am saying that there is generally a significant difference between what we read in scripture and what we encounter in the vast majority of our services. We do what we have been taught and what has been modeled for us and from there we get what we have. The problem, from my perspective, is that though we have many things, we don’t have what we should have, the body released and empowered. Here is a quote from a book I recently reread that describes what happens when people are empowered to walk in their gifts and calling.

Calvary Chapel grew so quickly because all the little workers were out working because they were empowered. And that’s what God used Lonnie for. Chuck Smith Jr. said in the first year Calvary Chapel went from a little over two hundred people to two thousand people. At what became the Vineyard in Yorba Linda, when the Holy Spirit fell on Mother’s Day, our church went from three hundred to twenty-seven hundred in nine months. It was crazy! That didn’t happen because of great sermons. That happened because the body of Christ was empowered, activated, and commissioned to go out and do the work of the ministry. I’m a product of that. I’m part of the legacy of what Lonnie’s life produced. I’m a businessman and a family man, but I also have a burning desire to do all that I can for God, to make known what I’ve experienced in God, everywhere that I go. I want to go to the ends of the world and preach the gospel.

Frisbee, Lonnie; Sachs, Roger. Not By Might Nor By Power: Set Free (p. 273). Kindle Edition.

You may tell me that this was a unique season in the body of Christ. Perhaps it was. Yet it is what my heart longs to see. I also think it was what was happening in the New Testament. To be clear, I am not advocating experiences over truth. I think true godly experiences often establish or reinforce truth. What isn’t included in the quote is the emphasis that Calvary Chapel and the early Vineyard had on preaching through the scriptures. The truth of the word was paired with the reality of encountering His presence. Jesus addressed it this way.

29 Jesus answered and said to them, “You are mistaken, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God. Matthew 22:29 (NKJV)

The Greek word translated as ‘mistaken’ means to wander or be led astray, to be deceived. Here Jesus was responding to the Sadducees who denied the resurrection and afterlife. His point was that they missed the point because they were neither grounded in the scriptures nor familiar with the power of His presence. Their beliefs had led them astray from the truth in both their theology and experience.    

            I have long believed that at the end of the age we will see a church focused not on power or the word but a church focused on power and the word. A body that is deeply grounded in His word and walks in and demonstrates His power and presence. That is the cry of my heart.  

            Now we need to address how we get there. I have previously referred to 1 Corinthians 12-14. Chapter 12 outlines various gifts of the Spirit available to us as His children. Chapter 13 highlights love as the motivation we should have for the use of spiritual gifts. A side note here. Paul was writing to the church at Corinth and addressed their misuse of spiritual gifts. His solution to the misuse of them wasn’t to ask them to take a break. Just the opposite, he instead encouraged them to further pursue the gifts (14:1) while explaining how they were to function when the body gathered. That is the focus of chapter 14. Paul focused primarily on the use of tongues and prophecy because they were the primary issue. I am not going to going over every aspect of what Paul wrote but I will focus in on a few verses that capture the core of what we need to know and understand in order to see the body empowered.

26 How is it then, brethren? Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification. 27 If anyone speaks in a tongue, let there be two or at the most three, each in turn, and let one interpret. 28 But if there is no interpreter, let him keep silent in church, and let him speak to himself and to God. 29 Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others judge. 30 But if anything is revealed to another who sits by, let the first keep silent. 31 For you can all prophesy one by one, that all may learn and all may be encouraged. 32 And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets. 33 For God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints. 1 Corinthians 14:26–33 (NKJV)

            In this passage the responsibility of leadership is not to do everything. It is to provide oversight to the ministry of the body to one another. Paul’s expectation was that when the body met each person would bring something; a song, teaching, revelation or interpretation to strengthen the others. Leadership was to facilitate not dominate this process. Inherent in the passage is an expectation that people knew one another and the spiritual gifts they carried. These gifts were to be shared with others. We needn’t fear that scripture was violated if four individuals had a message in tongues or a prophetic word. Paul’s point was there needed to be a mutual submission to one another’s gifts and a discerning of when to speak and when to be silent. His expression, ‘let the first keep silent’ addressed the need for a respect for others and a submission to leadership.    

            While this is likely quite different from what most of us experience when the church gathers, I believe it was more normative for the early church and should be for us as well. Will getting there require change and adjustments in how we function and relate to one another? Certainly. Is it worth attempting to experience more of His presence and see the church empowered and touching the culture around us? Yes!

            Join me in sharing these ideas and praying for their realization as we pursue His heart!

            To be continued.

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I have been walking with Jesus since 1985. I am currently retired from my career in the helping professions but still focused on ministering to others. I completed a Doctorate of Philosophy in Apologetics in September 2020.

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