If the church’s first essential function is providing an opportunity for all the members (even the church leadership) to “walk in the light” and “confess their sins one to another,” as we saw last week, what is the second one?
It is the goal of the church that every member, even the ones we deem “weaker,” has the opportunity to contribute to the ministry of the church. The members of the biblical church are not simply passive observers of the ministry of “the staff” (the professionals), as is the case in the majority of our churches, but active participants, even those deemed “the least of these my brothers.”
“But now God has arranged the parts, every one of them, in the body according to his plan. Now if all of it were one part, there wouldn’t be a body, would there? So there are many parts, but one body.
“The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I don’t need you,’ or the head to the feet, ‘I don’t need you.’ On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are in fact indispensable…
“God has put the body together and has given special honor to the parts that lack it, so that there might be no disharmony in the body, but that its parts should have the same concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it. If one part is praised, every part rejoices with it.
“Now you are the Messiah’s body and individual parts of it.” (1 Corinthians 12:18-22, 24-27).
In many of our churches, when “the least of these” doesn’t come to church, no one even notices. He certainly isn’t “indispensable,” as Paul claims he is.
Oh, but he is. I can remember, years ago as I was just learning this idea, a young father in the church, who was certainly not in the leadership in any way, said to me, “I always make it a point not to miss the men’s meetings (held every Saturday morning where the men met to discuss the affairs and direction of the church). I know you depend on my input.”
Looking back, I can see that this comment reflected his unconscious ministry to the church by his faithful attendance at the men’s meetings. It was also incredibly encouraging to me, personally, that he felt that way. I could see that we were all growing together in our understanding of what church is all about.
That is the ministry of the church; walking in the light together and then doing what is in our hearts to do—what we want to do and literally can’t keep from doing! That’s all well and good, but how can this be true when we are actually “having church,” all together on a Sunday morning at our regular church service?
In 1 Corinthians 14:26 Paul begins a summary of what he has taught in the previous chapters about all members of the body being crucially important by answering just that question: “What, then, does this mean, brothers? When you gather, everyone has a psalm, teaching, revelation, other language, or interpretation. Everything must be done for upbuilding.
According to this passage, when we meet together “everyone” can make a contribution. Paul’s concern here is that their participation is done “decently and in order.” Their participation is understood, both supernatural manifestations (about which he goes on to give detailed instructions on how to handle) and even teaching biblical truth (with no instructions—probably not as frequent an occurrence, but still available to “everyone”).
In subsequent postings, we will investigate how “controversial teaching” would be handled in a biblical church meeting like this with, basically, an open pulpit. I also want to explore how this might change church meetings, along with church leadership. We will also look at the distinctions between influence and authority, office and gift, elder and spiritual father, and job and ministry.
That will all be for future postings. For now, I want to establish that the SECOND essential function of a biblical church is that EVERY MEMBER of the church has an important ministry to share with the body, and, when the church meets, he will have an opportunity to do so.