Like the swinging of a pendulum, it is my observation that those gifts which have been overemphasized in the institutional church have been under emphasized in simple church. Because these gifts have been expressed in the institutional church as the participation of the few with a room full of passive participants, I believe it is difficult for us to imagine them any other way. So when we create gatherings that emphasize participation, we have sidelined these gifts not because of biblical guidance, but perhaps more a lack of imagination.
The two types of gifted people I’ve seen that struggle most in simple church are those passionate about teaching and those who love to lead music. For me it’s very personal. My close friend left simple church to become a pastor, I think in part so he could use his gift of teaching again. My wife worships through music in a powerful way, and like many I’ve talked to miss the experience of a gathering of many souls lifted in song.
In discussions recently in our church, we’ve also seen some interesting anecdotal evidence. Those who grew up “in the church” do not miss the sermons in institutional church, as it became a stale monologue that cultivated spiritual passivity. Those who did not grow up “in the church” miss sermons greatly, as they long to understand the great stories of the Bible, the context of books of the bible, and teachings that challenge them spiritually.
Hear are the questions I have formulated, and I would love to hear your input
- How do we see the gift of teaching exercised in the NT? How about music, what role does it play in gatherings?
- How does your church provide opportunities for these to be expressed?
- Using biblical guidelines and simple church philosophy, what are creative ideas on how we can allow our gifted teachers and musicians to bless the greater church body in Denver?
For those who want to dig deeper, here is some of the research I’ve done in scripture so far
Scripture does not place teaching as the primary purpose of our gatherings, but it certainly is part of church life. From scripture, what is the role of teaching in church gatherings?
- Ephesians 4 tells us what all the gifts were intended for: ” 11It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, 12to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”
- In Acts 13, Barnabas, Saul and others were called prophets and teachers. What if any difference is there? “ 1In the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul. 2While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” 3So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.”
- 2 Timothy 4: ” 1In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: 2Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. 3For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 4They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. 5But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.”
- We can also see how seriously the apostles took this gift of teaching. 2 Peter 2 is a seething condemnation from the heart of a protective spiritual daddy: “1But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves. 2Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. 3In their greed these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping.”
Worshiping God through singing is a central thread through all of scripture. In fact, there is an entire book of songs, Psalms, which contains some of the most heartbreaking laments and soaring cries of joy in all of scripture. What are some examples of song at the center of our community experiences.
- 1 Chronicles 13 contains record of a cacophony of worship. It seems in simple churches, unless you play acoustic guitar you are out of opportunities to make music with God’s people: ” 7 They moved the ark of God from Abinadab’s house on a new cart, with Uzzah and Ahio guiding it. 8 David and all the Israelites were celebrating with all their might before God, with songs and with harps, lyres, tambourines, cymbals and trumpets.”
- Psalm 47 contains one of countless calls to worship for God’s people: ” 6 Sing praises to God, sing praises;
sing praises to our King, sing praises.”
- In a chapter that calls us to live as children of the light, Paul encourages us in Ephesians 5: “15Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, 16making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 17Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. 18Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. 19Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, 20always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
- Colossians 3 continues in a similar vein: ” 15Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. 17And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”