the weblog of Alan Knox

House Church Workshop – Session 2

Posted by on Feb 9, 2008 in edification, gathering, worship | 5 comments

This weekend, my son Jeremy and I are attending a House Church Workshop put on by New Testament Restoration Fellowship. Our friend, Lew from “The Pursuit” was able to attend the conference this morning. We also talked for a few minutes with Dusty from “Grace in the Triad” and Les from “Joining God in His Work“.

The notes below are from the second session called “Participatory Church Meetings” which was led by Steve Atkerson. These thoughts are primarily Steve’s, and not my own. I’ll be glad to interact with any of the information below in the comments.


Session 2 – Participatory Church Meetings
(Steve Atkerson)

Key passage is 1 Corinthians 14:26
What was this church meeting like? Diverse, spontaneous (not scripted), significant participation. The typical modern church removes the phrase “each one” and replaces them with the phrase “only one”. This is not to be critical, but to demonstrate the contrast between what normally happens when the church meets and what is described in Scripture. Even if 1 Cor 14:26 is a criticism of what is happening in Corinth, his solution in the verses that follow do not do away with this standard. Instead, Paul’s instructions that follow vs. 26 reinforces this verse.

Acts 13:14-15
When Paul went to the synagogue in Pisidian Antioch, he spoke during the meeting in spite of the fact that he was a complete stranger to them?

Acts 14:1ff.
A great multitude spoke during their synagogue meeting.

Acts 17:1-2
It was customary for Paul to go to the synagogue and reason with them during their meeting.

See also Acts 17:10-11, 17; Acts 18:4; Acts 19:8

The custom for these early Christian believers was to meet together in a way that was more participatory. Many people were allowed to speak and discuss issues in the synagogue – even strangers.

Activities in the early church:

– Singing
1 Corinthians 14:26; Colossians 3:16; Ephesians 5:19
Each person chose songs to sing when the church met. One person did not choose all the songs. Gifted musicians are a great blessing to the church, but they should facilitate the singing; they should not dominate the meeting. Singing was part of the early church meeting (1 Cor 14:26), but it did not dominate the early church meeting.

– Teaching
1 Cor 14:26; Matt 28:19-20; Acts 2:42; Rom 12:7; 1 Cor 12:28; Eph 4:11; 1 Tim 1:3, 2:11-15; James 3:1
Again, teaching was part of the early church meeting, but it did not dominate the meeting. Any of the believers had an opportunity to teach each time the church met. It does not appear that the church meeting is the time for heavy, in depth teaching. Instead, it looks like it was better to have several people teach a little than to have one person to teach a lot.

– Preaching
Acts 20:7 (not “preached” but “discuss or dialog”)
To preach in Scripture is to be a herald of the gospel. In the NT, preaching did not occur during a church meeting. Instead, preaching is associated with evangelism.

– Various charismatic gifts
1 Cor 14:26 (“revelations, tongues, and interpretations”)

– Other activities
Acts 2:42 – prayer
1 Tim 4:13 – public reading of Scripture
Acts 14:26-27 – reports from missionaries

What is the prerequisite for anything that is said or done in a church meeting? It must be edifying. To be edifying means that it must build up the church – to encourage them, to help mature them. Just because it is a participatory meeting does not mean that anyone can say anything that they want to say. Leaders are there to work “behind the scenes” with those who speak or act in ways that are not edifying.

Leaders tend to make the church into whatever their gifts are. Because of this, leaders must be careful to make sure that they allow all people to use their gifts, not just use gifts that are like the leaders’ gifts.

Hebrews 10:24-25
This famous passage about “church meetings” assumes that there is a lot of “one another’ing” going on. You can have a significant impact on a church meeting by considering how to stir one another up before hand. This type of church meeting requires a lot of work for each person before the actual church meeting.

A Worship Service
Romans 12:1-2; John 4:21-24
The NT never refers to a church meeting as a worship service. To call a church meeting a “worship service” is to imply that the purpose of the meeting is to worship God. You can be edified in a “worship service”, but the traditional “worship service” is not the way that the NT says the church should edify itself. Everything that we do in life should be worship to God.

1 Cor 14:27-28
Speaking in tongues does not have to happen when the church meets. If speaking in tongues does happen, then interpretation must happen. Only two or three people should speak in tongues – and only one at a time. Tongues must be interpreted so that it will edify the church. You can have a legitimate gift from God that God does not want you to exercise when the church meets.

1 Cor 14:29-33; 1 Thess 5:19-22
Two or three prophets should speak and the prophecies must be tried (judged or tested). Only one prophet could speak at a time so that the people can be edified. Prophets must be silent when another prophet stands to speak a prophecy. Again, there may be times when God reveals something to a prophet, but God does not want the prophet to exercise his gift when the church meets.

The Role of Women
1 Cor 14:33b-35
You have to do something with this passage. This seems to say that women should not speak when the church meets. But, more than expressing that women should be silent, this is a command for the men to ask questions, either their own questions or questions that their wives raise. This creates a dynamic silence that forces the men to act; it compels the men into leadership. Women will normally talk first, but God wants the men to take the leadership.

Two Questions
1 Cor 14:36
Did the word of God come forth from you? (No) Did the word of God come only to you? (No) These questions function to get the readers to obey what God is telling them through Paul.

The Lord’s Command
1 Cor 14:37
Verse 37 continues by saying that the ones who are prophets or who are spiritual will recognize that what Paul says here is actually God’s commands. If you do not follow God’s command, then the burden is on you to explain why.

The Penalty
1 Cor 14:28
While the meaning of this verse is unclear, it indicates that there is some penalty for ignoring what Paul is teaching.

Three Imperatives
1 Cor 14:39-40
1) Desire earnestly to prophesy
2) Do not forbid speaking in tongues
3) Let all things be done properly and in an orderly manner

A meeting of a smaller group of believers is more conducive to Paul’s teachings in 1 Cor 14:26-40. When you have more people, it starts hurting what happens when the church meets together.

What conclusions can be drawn from 1 Corinthians 14 about the way God desires church meetings to be conducted?
– Participatory – different people exercising their gifts
– Fitting and orderly – one at a time
– Edifying
– Following the Lord’s Command

House Church Workshop
Session 1 – Apostolic Traditions
Session 2 – Participatory Church Meetings
Session 3 – Elder-Led Congregational Consensus
Session 4 – The Lord’s Supper
Summary Remarks


Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 2-9-2008

    Why do you think it is that we’ve gone from a “everybody participates” church meeting to more of a “spectator sport” type church meeting? Do you think that there is one main reason, or is it a combination of things?

  2. 2-9-2008

    You have to do something with this passage. This seems to say that women should not speak when the church meets.

    Yes and no. To say you “have to do something with the passage” does not mean that you can easily figure out what to do with it! 🙂

    While I concede that the “face value” seems to be saying that women should be silent when the church meets, that in itself raises several questions that prevent me from running to Steve’s interpretation on this:

    1. What does “when the church meets” mean? Is there, as someone else suggested at another NTRF conference, a particular “meeting time” that is different from, say, the meal time together? Or should this be applied consistently to the entire time, every time that the church is gathered?

    2. Why does Paul make it clear in Galatians that there is “no male or female” in Christ, then appear to give instructions that limit the role of one particular gender? Is there also a hierarchy of “slave and free” and “Jew and Greek” in the body of Christ? Why this particular distinction of “male and female”? And if there IS a hierarchy in male and female (or, at best, a distinction), then what does the Galatians passage mean?

    3. A further expansion on number 1 above, what is the scope of the instruction Paul gives? For example, is it only married women (i.e., “wives” is a possible translation of the Greek word used for “women” here) since he says they should ask their own husbands? Is it in every aspect of the meeting time (including everything in vs. 26)? Is it possible that Paul is only talking about the questioning/weighing of prophecies here? Is it possible that Paul is only talking about a wife whose husband is actually speaking??

    4. Is it possible that there is any cultural aspect to these instructions? Was Paul correcting a problem in Corinth? Or was he giving instructions to all churches for all time? Or somewhere in between those two extremes? If so, what are those cultural issues that are brought to bear on this topic?

    All of those questions cause me to approach this passage very, very carefully and not jump to conclusions.

    I have even read (although have not verified this myself, so I may be wrong) that the order of instructions here is different in some manuscripts, with some sticking the instructions about women at the end of what we have as our chapter 14. If this is true, does that not raise the possibility that Paul did not even author these words, but that they were added by a scribe somewhere along the line?

    While I respect Steve Atkerson and NTRF on many levels, this is one area that continues to trouble me.

    So when he says I must “do something” with the passage, I agree! I must acknowledge that there are way too many questions and that it is very difficult to juxtapose the idea of an entire gender being silenced with other scriptural concepts regarding priesthood of believers, equality in Christ, etc. etc. etc. And therefore, I cannot take a firm stand on this issue and say that all women must be silent.

  3. 2-9-2008


    You’ve asked an excellent question, and one that is not easily answered. I think I will try to answer it in a blog post next week.


    One of the things that I appreciated about Steve and Tim and the other people who spoke or asked questions during the conference is the humility with which they presented their beliefs, especially in this area. They were dogmatic on very few things – primarily on the gospel, which they called the historic, classic, orthodox beliefs of Christianity. From what I understood from this conference, their desire at this time is to get people to think about these issues and to take them seriously. I think this is a positive step, even if I may disagree with some of their conclusions.


  4. 2-9-2008


    You are correct, and I should have been more careful to state some of the reasons I respect Steve Atkerson.

    That is precisely one of the reasons. He’s very humble and very gracious.

    Having said that, I’m still not sure I agree with the premise that we “have to do something” with a particular passage, if interpreting that passage is fraught with difficulties, questions, and barriers to clear interpretation.

    Unless refusing to draw conclusions from the passage is under the umbrella of “doing something” with it. 😉

    Having said that, I would be interested to know what you think of my litany of questions on that passage, or if you have done any research into it yourself.

  5. 2-10-2008

    Steve Sensenig,

    I’ve studied this passage (1 Cor 14:34-35) a few times. I wrote a brief summary in a blog post called “Summary of 1 Corinthians 14 – Part 3“.

    In short, there is a context in which the “tongues speaker” and the “prophet” should “be silent”, that is, in the context of speaking in tongues or speaking prophecy. These were not commands for absolute silence. Likewise, I think there is a context for women to “be silent”. Thus, it is not a command for absolute silence either. I think that context is judging prophecy.