Not long after I started this blog, I wrote two posts that were probably my most substantial blog posts to that point. The posts concerned two questions that all believers should ask themselves when they gather together: “Who is qualified to speak during the meeting?” and “Who is responsible for speaking during the meeting?” Although I wrote these two posts over two years ago, I still agree with what I wrote. If the church – meaning all believers – recognizes that anyone indwelt by the Spirit, motivated by love, and with a desire to built up the church is qualified and responsible to speak during the meeting of the church, and if church leadership and structure allows this type of mutual participation in the meeting of the church, then I believe the church will mature far beyond what we currently see. I hope you enjoy these two posts – now combined for your reading pleasure.
Who is qualified to speak during the meeting?
“For you can all prophesy one by one, that all may learn and all may be encouraged.” (1 Corinthians 14:31)
Does Paul really mean “all”? Does he really mean that every believer in the meeting has the potential for speaking edifying words during the assembly of the church? Does he really expect that a new believer could speak words that would “teach” a pastor?
The answer to all of these questions must be “Yes!”
Consider the ones to whom Paul is writing. For the most part, they do not have a personal copy of the Scriptures. And yet, Paul expects all of them to be able to speak during the meeting. “Knowing” Scripture must not be a prerequisite for speaking during the assembly.
So, what qualifies someone to speak during the meeting? In the context of 1 Corinthians 12-14, Paul offers three different qualifications:
1) The person must be indwelt by the Spirit of God, and therefore gifted by the Spirit.
2) The person must speak from a motivation of love.
3) The person must speak in order to edify the body of Christ.
These are the only qualifications. Education is not a qualification. Experience is not a qualification. Speaking ability is not a qualification.
Who is allowed to speak in our assemblies? Perhaps there are times when those “qualified” should be silent in order to allow others to speak “that all may learn and all may be encouraged.”
Who is responsible for speaking during the meeting?
Yesterday [previous post above], I asked the question, “Who is qualified to speak during the meeting?” Today, I want to take this farther: Whose responsibility is it to speak during the meeting? Within most groups of believers, this responsibility falls upon one man (or at most a few men). What does Scripture say?
1 Corinthians 12-14 teaches that every believer is gifted by the Holy Spirit, and during the assembly of the church, these gifts are to be exercised in order to build up (edify) the body of Christ (not the individual). So, all believers are qualified to speak during the meeting.
Furthermore, Ephesians 4:1-10 confirms this. Gifts are given to each believer by Christ (through the Spirit). Gifted individuals are given to the church (Eph. 4:11-12) to equip the body for works of service in order to edify the body towards maturity, which is measured by the stature of Christ himself.
Ephesians 4:16 is an interesting verse. Removing the modifying phrases, the main clause is “the body… causes the growth of the body” (to soma … ten auxesin tou somatos poieitai…). Adding the modifying phrases, this body growth only happens when the body is in Christ, the head, and when each member of the body is doing his own part, which is “measured” by Christ.
Combining these two passages (1 Corinthians 12-14 and Ephesians 4), every member is instructed to take responsibility for the growth of the body.
Are pastors responsible for being filled with the Spirit and speaking during the meeting in order to edify the body? Yes! But, so is every other member. If one man (or a few men) dominates the meeting time, then he is not allowing the body to function as God desires it to function-he is usurping the responsibility given to every member of the body. If a group of people allows one man (or a few men) to dominate the meeting, then they are not fulfilling their God-given responsibility to edify the body.