Lord’s Day 03/07 worshipping who?

Raising hands to praise God.

A visiting minister was substituting for the famed pastor Henry Ward Beecher. A large audience had assembled to hear the popular pastor. At the appointed hour, the visiting minister entered the pulpit. Learning that Beecher was not to preach, several began to move toward the doors. The visiting minister stood and called out, “All who have come here today to worship Henry Ward Beecher may now withdraw from the church! All who have come to worship God, keep your seats!” No one then left.
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Tan, P. L. (1996). Encyclopedia of 7700 illustrations : A treasury of illustrations, anecdotes, facts and quotations for pastors, teachers and Christian workers. Garland TX: Bible Communications.

Remember who you are gathered together to worship.

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The above article was posted on March 6, 2010 by Mark Lamprecht.
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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

1 brianvoiceofthesheep March 6, 2010 at 10:46 am

Very good!!!

2 Mark Lamprecht March 6, 2010 at 10:49 am

It’s so simple yet convicting. I think of who or what could be inserted for Beecher.

3 Wes Widner March 6, 2010 at 7:29 pm

When we turn “worship the Lord” into an hour long spectator event on Sunday, why are we surprised when people decide to attend or not based on who is going to be entertaining them?

4 Mark Lamprecht March 6, 2010 at 8:27 pm

Wes, while there is some truth to what you say, I posted this to exhort people NOT to come to worship with such an attitude.

The larger point is that anything, whether it’s a preacher, a particular group, a particular lesson, etc. can replace God in our worship. People will create idols and worship practically anything from a bronze serpent to a golden calf.

5 Wes Widner March 6, 2010 at 9:24 pm

I believe the very system we have concocted, that is one man (or small group of men) monopolizing the meeting of the brethren so that mutual edification is all but impossible is inherently against the biblical model we find in passages such as 1 Corinthians 12 where it seems that meetings ought to be open and participatory, that is all members of the Body of Christ ought to feel free to employ their God-given gifts in the edification and building up of the Body of Christ.

I find it highly hypocritical when preachers operate with the attitude portrayed above without acknowledging understanding the fact that what they are doing is just as damaging and detrimental as the supposed “leader worship” they are trying to accuse those who were leaving of. I would actually argue further that simply not going to a concert on Sunday is not nessiciarialy idolizing anyone nor should it be confused with what necessarily constitutes “worship”.

Worship means far more than one hour of passively listening to a one man monologue on Sunday morning.

6 Mark Lamprecht March 6, 2010 at 10:14 pm

Myself and many others find mutual edification every Sunday. If all you ever did to worship in a regular, organized church setting is passively listen to one man then I’m sorry for you.

How do you know that people aren’t using their God given gifts at any organized church setting?

How would you substantiate the claim that ~98% (my number) of pastors in America are damaging and detrimental to their churches for standing and preaching a sermon?

7 Douglas K Adu-Boahen March 6, 2010 at 10:24 pm

Wes,

I have to wonder whether you assume worship only takes place on a Sunday morning between four walls – and I also guess that unless everyone is doing something within a congregation, you assume mutual edification doesn’t take place. I put it to you that worship can take place outside of the four walls of the church edifice.

Elders and deacons are called to the leadership of the church and to the ministry of preaching. Paul himself condemned the idea of everyone doing something in a corporate worship service:

1 Cor 14:26 TNIV What then shall we say, brothers and sisters? When you come together, each of you have a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. Everything must be done that the church may be built up.

Mutual edification takes place as we minister one to another – and I put it to you that that isn’t directly the point of a Sunday worship service.

8 Wes Widner March 6, 2010 at 10:52 pm

I wouldn’t place a number on the number of detrimental pastors nor would I claim that some pastors weren’t gifted and able to be used in spite of the flawed system they find themselves in. However I would point to three lines of evidence to substantiate my claim that the system we have come up with of clergy ruling over the laity is harmful.

In the first place, a hierarchical system where non-preachers are viewed as less spiritual, where the gift of preaching is exalted above all other gifts is plainly against many passages found in scripture including Jesus’s own admonition that his own disciples not follow the pattern of the world in setting up hierarchical “power over” systems.

Secondly I would point to the perpetual spiritual immaturity that is fostered and festering in most churches (particularly Southern Baptist and Methodist churches as those are the ones I have the most experience in). When people are told that rigorous study of the word of God is limited to an elite few “chosen” men the end result is a logical abdication of serious study on the part of the “average” churchgoer. This is one of the reasons I believe areas such as apologetics have historically had such a hard time making inroads into the local church because most pastors feel threatened by the prospect of their congregation actually being educated and able (empowered?) to ask serious questions. Sadly it doesn’t have to be like this and I’ll explain in my third line of reasoning below.

Finally, I believe that the system we’ve manufactured (sure, as early as 300AD, but early errors are still errors) and have come to accept as an unquestionable fact is harmful to the Body of Christ is because it leads directly to pastors either being burned out or becoming dictators (I believe in some cases merely for self-preservation). Nowhere in Scripture are we presented with a description of a man who is supposed to shoulder the load that we expect the average “professional” pastor to carry. Nowhere in Scripture are we told that one man in a local group of believers is in charge of visiting the sick, ministering to all the members, responsible for the bulk of spiritual instruction, etc.

Sadly, it doesn’t have to be this way as what we find, instead, portrayed in Scripture is a community where each member of the Body of Christ helps shoulder the responsibility of mutually edifying one another.

Now I’m not claiming that such communities don’t exist within institutional church settings. On the contrary, I believe that the church is a living organism and as Dr. Ian Malcolm said in Jurassic Park, “life finds a way.” such that there are many pockets of small intimately connected believers that are found in many churches. However what I’m claiming is that those pockets of organic communities that exist within the confines of an institutional church often happen in spite of the system we’ve come to accept and not because of it.

When the main period of “worship” in most churches is seen as being the Sunday morning service (often referred to as “the big show”) the question is not whether members are allowed to employ their gifts at another time but whether they are encouraged to employ their gifts in the meeting on Sunday morning. Since most believers are not encouraged to participate openly I submit that the resulting system where only a few members of the body of Christ are allowed to speak or otherwise monopolize the meeting implicitly implies that the members who are not allowed to participate (think about what would happen if someone were to have a “word of prophecy” and decide to share it in the average Southern Baptist Church) are somehow inferior.

Until we come to terms with the lack of open participation and mutual edification found in most of our churches I do not think we will see anything other than more of the same when it comes to the church’s impact on the world around us.

One must also wonder why we are so reluctant to change as well considering that we regularly hear tales from missionaries and brethren in churches overseas which lack the streamlined hierarchical leadership structure we see here (think Korea, China, South America, etc.) exploding with new believers and a spiritual maturity that ought to make us hang our heads in shame.

So, the clergy/laity split is detrimental in at least 2 ways: 1.) it harms the spiritual growth of the “average” Christian and 2.) it leads to clergy burnout. And the opposite to the clergy/laity split I’ll call the open participatory format is supported by 1.) Scripture as well as 2.) our own experience of demonstrable spiritual vitality in places that do not cling to a clergy/laity distinction/split.

Sorry for the length of the post, and thanks for letting me flesh this out (its the first time I’ve ever undertaken to write it down so I also apologize for any rough or unclear spots).

9 Wes Widner March 7, 2010 at 9:35 am

Paul certainly did insist on orginized participation so that confusion did not break out and so that visitors would be edified as well. However he also strongly encouraged an open and particapatory format. The verse you cited actually bears that out in the phrase “each of you” instead of “a select few of you who have taken it upon themselves to monopolize the meeting”.

I also readily agree that elders and leadership are also found in Scripture, however their method of leadership is not, as Jesus mentioned, in accord with the “power-over” or dictatorial form of leadership found in the world. Rather, leaders in the body of Christ lead both by example as well as persuasion (ask yourself why no one in Scripture called on others to obey them simply because of the office they held). I know you’ll most likely point to Heb 13:17 which calls on us to “obey” our leaders. However the obeying there is not in a hierarchal sense (or else it would violate Jesus’s command earlier of “it shall not be so among you”) but in a mutual sense of “allow yourself to be persuaded by” (http://bit.ly/awJoN). The bottom line is that leadership in the church is not the same as leadership in thew world. My boss or employer has yet to die for my sins or wash my feet.

You are also right in that mutual edification “takes place as we minister to one another” however if that is not the point of a Sunday morning worship service, what is? Since the most reoccurring theme surrounding the meetings of the early church is that they “broke bread together” (in accordance with Christ’s command), and since there is no mention of a one man monopolistic monologue being given while “the rest of the congregation” sits idly listening to them, what makes us think that the current common format we’ve adopted for the meeting of the brethren on Sunday morning is either beneficial (I would argue it fails even on a practical level) or biblically supported?

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