the weblog of Alan Knox

He who promised is faithful…

Posted by on May 14, 2007 in blog links, gathering | 8 comments

The title of this post comes from the book of Hebrews:

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. (Hebrews 10:23 ESV)

I thought of this verse when I read Ted’s post (from “Jesus community“) called “established in uncertainty“. Ted talks about the dynamic life we have in Christ by the Spirit. He says:

This is a reality in which many number of things are going on at the same time. God is working on the individual parts in getting along with each other in love, in holiness of life. And there is a work of learning how to grow, live and serve together, in mission to the world.

All of this involves becoming established in uncertainty. We don’t know what lies ahead in a day, or a week, a month or a year- and beyond. But we are willing to trust that in it all God’s will can be done in our lives, as we seek and choose that will over our own and for the true good of the world, including ourselves.

We like predictability and easy “cookie cutter” ways. But God’s ways are different. We inevitably will meet new struggles, opportunities, issues, etc., in those around us we know, as well as in our own lives.

This post came at an important time in my life. I have talked with many people who are concerned with the freedom and “unscriptedness” of the type of church meeting that we find in 1 Corinthians 14 (see “What do we do with 1 Corinthians 14” and that series).

We when we meet with other believers, and no one is scheduled to “preach” and no one is scheduled to “lead worship” and no one is schedule to read Scripture and no one is scheduled to pray… can we trust God?

Now, granted, Hebrews 10:23 is not about the church meeting. But, if we can trust God for our salvation, can we also trust Him to keep order when everyone is free to speak according to Paul’s parameters in 1 Corinthians 14?

Please note that I am not talking about a failure to plan – Paul includes the possibility of planning in 1 Corinthians 14:26. But, what if we allowed believers to plan and prepare as God directs. Also, I’m not talking about a lack of accountability. But, what if we allowed each believer to hold his or her brothers and sisters accountable? Can we trust God for this?

I know, we like to come into a church meeting, find a place to sit, open the bulletin, and know exactly what is going to happen. We feel uneasy and off-balance when we do not know who has prepared to speak and who has prepared a song. But, can we trust God with this also?

We know what we like and what we want. But, do we dare ask what God wants? Do we dare ask how he desires for the church to meet? Could it be that the only image we have in Scripture of a meeting of the church (1 Corinthians 14) is there because that is how God wants us to meet? Can we trust God in this? Is He faithful even in this?


8 Comments

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  1. 5-15-2007

    What we try to teach our own church planters is to “plan, but let the Lord freely lead.” In other words when the believers gather, have a plan up your sleeve, but don’t be controlled by the plan, be controlled by the Spirit and his leading in the meeting.

    This past Friday night I visited one of the newer house churches being planted. The trainee did everything by the book (as we trained him to do), but the Lord took over the meeting without the trainee trying to manipulate things, and a 2 hour meeting extended all the way to nearly midnight in a very meaningful time for all!

  2. 5-15-2007

    Guy,

    Thank you for sharing how you teach people to trust in the Lord in the context of the church meeting. I’ve found that when I plan something, I can usually pull it off. When I leave it up to God, He always does much more.

    -Alan

  3. 5-17-2007

    I like the balance in what Guy says here: “plan, but let the Lord freely lead.”

    Alan,

    Perhaps this is not the best place for this comment, but I have been thinking about your assertion that since 1 Cor. 14 is our most complete description of what happens in church meetings that it is meant to be our guideline for how we conduct church meetings (have I put words into your mouth here?).

    The topic being discussed in 1 Cor. 12-14, as I understand it, is not so much the church meeting in general, as it is specifically the practice of spiritual gifts in the context of the church meeting. When the specific gifts mentioned are used in church meetings, I think 1 Cor. 12-14 is our most complete and relevant guideline. But, I am a bit hesitant to base our “format” for all church meetings on 1 Cor. 14. Just a thought I thought I’d throw out. I am open to evidence to the contrary on this, though.

  4. 5-17-2007

    David,

    As I’ve said before, I also think there should be a balance between planning and Spirit-led spontenaity. You and I would probably disagree over who is responsible for planning. I think all believers should accept this responsibility.

    As to your question about church meetings and exercising spiritual gifts, I’m not sure that I understand what you are asking. Are you suggesting that there may be a meeting of the church where believers should not exercise their spiritual gifts?

    -Alan

  5. 5-17-2007

    Alan,

    What I am suggesting is there may be other aspects to what happens in church meetings besides the aspect of the spontaneous practice of spiritual gifts. 1 Cor. 14 deals specifically with the aspect of spontaneous exercise of spiritual gifts, but perhaps, not necessarily other aspects.

    On the question of who does the planning, I don’t have a hard, set opinion. However, perhaps a middle ground answer to this might be that, in the interest of good administration, the entire group of believers sometimes delegates the responsibility of planning to those who seem especially gifted in this area.

  6. 5-17-2007

    David,

    Actually, I see 1 Corinthians 14:26-40 as regulating both planned and spontaneous exercise of spiritual gifts during the church meeting. It seems that Paul as both in mind in this passage.

    Similarly, I’m not sure if each believer can relegate his responsibilities to others. I know this is a common practice, but do we see it in Scripture? Yes, there are believers who are specifically gifted to teach, but that doesn’t excuse all from teaching. I would say this would be true for all gifts. There may be some that are specifically and regularly gifted in this way, but it doesn’t preclude God from working through others, nor does it remove their responsibility.

    -Alan

  7. 4-23-2012

    Lately my husband and I have been focusing on giving Jesus the opportunity to work out what he plans. For example, he tells us his plan for our initial part, we obey and then get to see his hidden plans unfold. Lately, our initial part of planning is to simply invite over for a meal those in our lives that are at some level of disconnection from God ;new people, old friends and disengaged family members. We can do that part of the plan. We can’t do his or their part. We can’t control how much they share, what they have ears for, or anything that will seem to spontaneously occur. We have enjoyed being pleasantly surprised at watching people with fears and conflicts experience peace, encouragement, want to bring their friends over too, and barriers come down in discoveries of commoness. We watched how Jesus stirred up conversations from one person that we’re amazing keys for understanding to another. There is no way any of us could plan or orchestrate how people respond to one another and thus are taught in their own organic social language.
    We were given a simple plan to offer gracious hospitality without resentment, share our food and home and cater to who ever comes accordingly. I grew up waitressing and running restraints and later doing home daycare, then managing orphan teen homes and coaching sales teams. If our part of the plan is to serve and simply listen we also get to be amazed at what He multiplies. My plans are as unable as five loaves of bread and two fish, but his plan is able.
    (We do get a few guests that try to bite our hands off, but like a restaurant you have to serve respectfully everyone who comes in.)
    Reminds me of the two that asked Jesus on the beach, “where are you staying.” in other words, “What’s your plan for today?” Jesus just said, “Follow and see”.

  8. 4-24-2012

    I’ve become convinced over the years that Jesus can run a meeting better than we can. He desires to minister to and edify His people even more than we do. He knows the true needs of His people better than we do. He knows the treasures that lie within each person and can bring them out and orchestrate them together better than we can. In a meeting where the headship of Jesus is sought, all the saints should prepare in the Spirit and in the Word ahead of time so that they have something to share of Christ for edification. Preparation ahead of time is essential, and planning is often beneficial as well, with prayer. Everything should be held lightly, though, and nothing forced, so that the Lord can have His way. If the body will assemble in this way, and learn together what it means to meet under His Headship, we will find that He is truly faithful. Nothing can compare.