Many people recognize that Paul encouraged participatory meetings for the church. As I’ve talked about this with people, this question always comes up: “What if someone says something hertical or does something unbiblical?” Historically, the Christian community has dealt with this possible problem by only allowing “trained” individuals to speak or “perform” during the meeting, relegating all others to the role of spectators instead of participants. Note the following response from Robert and Julia Banks in The Church Comes Home (p. 44):
In spite of the fact that abuses crept in, Paul never retracted his assertions on how the church should operate. He never moved away from his view of the church as an extended family or clanlike gathering, never suggested that the local church should limit itself to issues of personal spirituality and its common life, never retreated from his belief in mutual ministry and shared authority. It would have been easy for him to move in a more institutional direction and to insist that responsibility for order be vested in an official leadership. Yet even in Corinth, where the most extreme distortions of his teaching arose, Paul unceasingly continued to stress his fundamental principles. He looked beyond the Corinthians’ failings to their fullest potential for being the church and for being God’s presence in the world. Despite all his realism about the actual situation, for Paul the reality and power of Christ among the community was far greater.
Don’t miss that last sentence. The “reality and power of Christ among the community” is far greater than any possible abuse. Of course, this assumes that those among the community are willing to respond to Christ’s reality and power among them. Every member of the community must be willing to take responsibility for one another – warts and all – and to encourage one another in their growth toward Christ-likeness. Unfortunately, that responsibility is usually relegated to “professionals” who are trained to handle those situations. How much better it would be if those who speak heresy or abuse their freedoms in Christ were lovingly corrected by brothers and sisters in “the reality and power of Christ.”