The church in Corinth was quite a mess. They were fighting over which minister was the best preacher. Their observation of the Lord’s Supper turned into a drunken feast for the wealthy only. Gross sexual immorality was accepted within the congregation. Their doctrine was all messed up (they openly denied the resurrection). And, they were fighting over worship.
The Apostle Paul spent three chapters dealing with their misunderstandings about the spiritual gifts (and we continue to misunderstand the gifts of the Spirit even with Paul’s instructions). He points the church to the more excellent way, the way of love. And then he closes with these words about their corporate worship.
When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church. (1 Corinthians 14.26)
Avoiding the question about the continuation of the gifts, let us focus on the elements of worship that most Baptists welcome into their moments of group worship: hymns and words of instruction. These are the backbones of our worship services: congregational singing (along with choirs and solos) and preaching the Word of God.
But please don’t miss the first few words. “When you come together, everyone has…” Somehow, our corporate worship ought to reflect the “everyone has” element. There are no spectators allowed. Everyone must bring something to the worship table. A hymn, a word of knowledge, a revelation, or a testimony.
Where does this take place in our Baptist worship? Our corporate gatherings are too large for this to take place. Paul is describing a house church, a small gathering of believers where the “everyone has” concept of worship can be a reality. One of the driving forces behind the cell church movement is to develop a place where the “everyone has” element of corporate worship can be alive and well, where everyone can bring a hymn, a word, or a testimony and where everyone can participate in the worship service. In theory, the Sunday School ought to be a place where something like this can happen, but I believe the structure of Sunday School and the purpose of Sunday School actually prevents this from happening. We need new wine skins for new wine.
May the Lord create within our church a system where the “everyone has” element of worship can be experienced.