Everyone today loves to fight about the right way to “do church.” Every last variant of a church service seems up for grabs to debate. We argue about, songs, instrumentation, liturgy, communion, traditions, on-stage symbolism, message presentation, lighting, Bible translation, appropriate practice of spiritual gifts, acceptable clothing and the list goes on. Everyone thinks they know the right way to do service and so everyone tries to manipulate it to work on their terms or they’ll find a new church to attend, because this is a consumeristic society after all.
What’s funny in all of this is that the people who fight the loudest about what should or shouldn’t happen in a church service often don’t practice what the Bible said should or shouldn’t happen in a church service. In fact, unless you’re a part of a supernaturally-oriented church, you’re missing some of the biggest points that Paul talked about in reference to church services.
It’s shocking how easily we gravitate to our own preference of church and set aside what the Bible has to say in 1 Corinthians 14. And not only is it shocking, but it’s insulting that the only verse people quote from this chapter is that “all things should be done decently and in order” (1 Cor 14:40). How dare we rip this verse out of context to write all the crazy supernatural stuff out of our churches, when Paul was partially saying, “We practice so much crazy supernatural stuff when we’re together, that let’s just make sure we’re doing it all within reason.”
In the end, whatever “decent and in order” is, it includes tongues, interpretation of tongues, prophecy, praying for visitors, communal service direction, and letting people spontaneously take the mic. That is why order must be practiced, because everything in the early church had the space to go haywire. We are not doing things “decent and in order” because we are too civilized and proper in the church to be otherwise, but because things can get out of control really quick.
The Bible does not give us many glimpses of an early church service so we should take special note when it does. But if we’re honest, I think a big part of the reason that we ignore what the Bible has to say about church is because we wouldn’t go to the kind of church that Paul describes.