Friday, July 24, 2015

"Programs" in the Church

Someone in one of my church lists complained about "programs" in the church.

Here was my response:
I don't know....

I see the daily distribution to the widows in Acts 6, handed off to a specially-appointed "committee" of "Servants" ("Deacons"), as perhaps being "a program".

Likewise, the year-long fund-raising effort which Paul was asked to undertake (Gal 2:10; 1 Cor 16:1ff; 2 Cor 8) might also be seen as "a program".

When Jesus sent out the 70, perhaps that was "a program"?

But I certainly understand, and agree with, you about the neglect of individual responsibility within the church; we think we've fulfilled our job if we go to church three times a week, as you say. Bah!

I believe a primary function of the eldership is to train each member how to find their own personal strengths and to use them; as Paul wrote, elders (and others) were given by God "to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ" (Eph 4:11-12). (I think a major function of the church should be to push kids to study hard (and pay for their education in some cases) and to become medical researchers to cure blindness and other diseases, and to become lawyers to help free those wrongly imprisoned, to become Godly politicians to set at liberty those who are oppressed by governmental overbearance, and to become preachers/writers/film-makers who focus on proclaiming the year of the Lord's favor - compare Luke 4:16-21).

But even that is, in essence, "a program".

Thought Experiment concerning Praise Teams

Imagine you're in a little country church building, that has an auditorium with four pew sections, two up front and two in back. Imagine the elders asked the people to sit in the sections according to their natural singing range - Soprano, Alto, Tenor, or Bass.

Then, in order to offer to God the best singing the congregation could muster, each section has a male song-leader, one for each of the four parts; a Bass leader for the Basses, and so on.

And then they sing some awesome song like "Our God, He is Alive ("There is a God"). And it sounds really good, because each part has a leader that draws out their best, and it ties in really well with the other parts.

Would that be unscriptural?

What if each of the leaders was given a microphone?

Would that be unscriptural?

What if the Soprano and Alto sections were composed only of women, and their respective leaders were women?

Would that be unscriptural?

What if instead of the four parts sitting in segregated sections, everybody just sat with their families or friends or wherever they wanted to, and instead of having the four song leaders at each section, they were all moved to the front of the seating area where they could be seen by all?

Would that be unscriptural?

What if instead of four leaders, they double the number to eight, for the extra-hard songs that have more than four-part harmony, or to compensate for some other issue?

Would that be unscriptural?

Just some thoughts....

I Don't Like Praise Teams

On one of my church lists recently, someone wrote:
I do not like praise teams. I do not think they are scriptural.
 My response was as follows:
I totally understand you not liking praise teams; I don't much care for them either, but for practical reasons, such as their volume overpowering the congregational singing. It's also just plain uncomfortable to see a group leading singing if you've never been exposed to it, especially if that group contains women, and you're strongly convinced they shouldn't be "leading" in a mixed assembly.

Totally understandable why someone wouldn't like them.

But as to being unscriptural? If you were a first century christian, and suddenly heard a 21st century church singing four-part harmony instead of the traditional "scriptural" chanting with which you grew up, you'd probably think that was unscriptural.

You might even think that having a song-leader standing before the congregation, waving his arms to the beat, was unscriptural.

Sometimes what we deem as "unscriptural" is really nothing more than "unfamiliar". Not always; but sometimes.

Just something to consider.

Sing with the Spirit, Sing with the Understanding

Often at church, the congregation is encouraged to "sing with the spirit and with the understanding".

I believe most of those who use this phrase fail to understand the context of that phrase. Below is my own paraphrase of 1 Cor 14:13-19 which might make the meaning more clear. I encourage you to get your favorite version of the Bible and read this passage for yourself and see if my paraphrase hits the mark or not.
Therefore, one who speaks with the spirit, that is, in a tongue, should pray that he may interpret.

In other words, if I pray in the spirit, I will also pray with the understanding. If I only pray in the spirit without praying with the understanding, then my spirit does just fine, but my mind is left empty. That's why we need an interpreter.

Not only praying, but singing; if I sing with the spirit, where no one, not even myself, understands what I'm singing, I need to pray to interpret so that I can also sing with the understanding. Otherwise, if you give thanks just with the non-understandable spirit, how can another person understand your giving of thanks? If he says "Amen" to your thanksgiving, he doesn't even know to what he's agreeing. And you may be giving thanks just fine as far as God is concerned, but the other person gets nothing out of it.

I'm thankful that I speak in tongues more than all of you. Still, in the assembly, I'd rather speak 5 words that are understandable to everyone than 10,000 that do no good to anyone except perhaps myself and God.