the weblog of Alan Knox

Who is qualified and responsible to speak?

Posted by on Aug 8, 2008 in edification, elders, gathering, spirit/holy spirit, spiritual gifts | 12 comments

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. ;)

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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.”

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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.


12 Comments

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  1. 8-8-2008

    Hey brother, glad you still agree with yourself :-)

    Seriously, I do have one question. You wrote, “The person must be indwelt by the Spirit of God, and therefore gifted by the Spirit.”

    Does this statement, in the context of the passage you quote, mean that in your view every believer has the gift of prophecy?

  2. 8-8-2008

    I think I agree that everyone should play some kind of part in our services, but I’m confused with the format. I don’t think it would be possible for many people to speak in the same way a sermon is given in the way that we know it (that’s referring more to the time it takes than the rhetorical skill), and I’m pretty sure that you’re talking about something a bit larger scale than what we would consider “testimony time”. So, how would you suggest that we actually reformat out services to let more people speak?

  3. 8-8-2008

    Skwirl – Why are the services in the format they are now anyway? It’s not because of any Biblical mandate, but rather the result of outside influences. Might I suggest picking up “Pagan Christianity” by Frank Viola to get a (brief) historical view of how our modern worship service came into being. I don’t agree with everything in the book, but they do make some good points.

    To more accurately respond to your question though, not everyone will speak at every gathering of the church. As for the amount of time, I know people who can have more impact in a few sentences than some preachers can have in two hours.

  4. 8-8-2008

    Joe (J.R.),

    I don’t always agree with myself after two yeas. ;)

    The statement that you quoted does not mean that “every believers has the gift of prophecy”. Instead, that statement simply means that since all believers are indwelt with the Spirit, all believers also are gifted by the Spirit, and thus have everything necessary to edify the church.

    However, I would agree with Paul in 1 Cor. 14:31 that all have the ability to prophesy, if the Spirit so chooses to speak through them in that way during that paticular meeting.

    Skwirl,

    In this post, I’m not arguing for a certain kind of format. Instead, I think that there are many formats that would fall within the scriptural guidelines of 1 Cor. 14:26-40, as long as many believers are given the opportunity to exercise their gifts in a manner that builds up the church. Also, I would not say that speaking “in the way a sermon is given” is necessarily best for the church.

    Clay (ProphetCat),

    I agree. Not everyone will speak at every church meeting. However, everyone should have opportunity to allow the Spirit to use them as he chooses. I know that you were not denying this, just pointing this out.

    -Alan

  5. 8-8-2008

    Thanks Alan for clearing that up. I appreciate it.

    PS
    Sometimes I don’t agree with myself after 2 days let alone 2 years LOL

  6. 8-8-2008

    Alan,

    For what it is worth; from my observation over a long time, I cannot conclude other than that no one person actually has the gift of prophecy given to them permanently (though, many think they have), but, the gift is given to the gathered congregation, as the Spirit chooses, and often through the most unlikely member.

    Scripturally correct statements have come from the mouths of such people who some leaders regarded as inconsequential. Sometimes it has been a “one off”.

    By far the majority of people I have known, who claim to have the gift,often being very self-confident, have fallen into serious sin, usually beginning with the sin of pride.

  7. 8-9-2008

    Joe (J.R.),

    I’m glad my explanation cleared things up. I’m enjoying your series on elders.

    Aussie John,

    Scripture doesn’t seem to tell us if gifts are permanent or not. However, it seems that the Spirit may tend to work through some people in certain ways more regularly than in other ways. I think this is why we see some recognized as “teachers” or “prophets”, while there is still the possibility of the Spirit choosing to teach or prophesy through anyone.

    I’ve also known people who use their “gifts” as a means to control people instead of serving them. Usually, instead of spiritual gifts, they are using training, talents, and education.

    -Alan

  8. 8-9-2008

    Usher: You see Deak, I told you that squelching people isn’t what should be done – it stifles the spirit.

    Deacon: We tried it a few times, but there are only a few who participate and tend to be overpowering. I don’t think that’s prophecy. It often gets out of hand

    Usher: What’s your fear Deak, why don’t you just call them on it? Or would that take too much time and you’ll miss the start of the football game ;)

  9. 8-9-2008

    Deacon and Usher,

    You buzzards are right. I’ve found that some people never have anything to say – and I’ve talked to many of these people to find out why. Other people always seem to have something to say. I’ve also talked to them to make sure they are speaking for the right reasons.

    Having a church meeting where many people are allowed to speak is not easy – not as easy as a meeting where only one person speaks. This kind of meeting requires people to relate to one another and be willing to deal with problems that arise.

    -Alan

  10. 8-9-2008

    Alan,

    By the way; enjoyed your comment to J.R. re not always agreeing with yourself after two years. Imagine the confusion after fifty years!

    I certainly agree with what you say in response to my comment, and hope I am not sidetracking the conversation.

    My persuasion is that there is much confusion about whether a person is using a genuine spiritual gift, or a developed, or inherent, ability.

    As I said before, I can only speak from experience, so I agree with your comment that there are “some who use their “gifts” as a means to control people instead of serving them. Usually, instead of spiritual gifts, they are using training, talents, and education.”

    I believe that this developed, or inherent, ability is the power behind most (and I am generalizing) exercise of what is mistakenly assumed, both by the one using the “gift” and the observer, or receiver, to be spiritual gifting.

    My suggestion is that because of the unbiblical, controlling strictures placed on God’s people as the priesthood of all believers, as a “holy”, and “royal priesthood”, the Holy Spirit has been quenched.

    We have an ingrown habit of throwing the baby out with the bathwater!

    I also know of lives ruined, and families torn apart because of “prophesies”, that were the ramblings of fertile imaginations in people who know the words of the Scriptures, but not the Spirit of the Scriptures.

    Acts 17:11 must be the rule when any “gifts” are exercised. Is what is exercised, and what is said,in complete accord with the Scriptures?

  11. 6-16-2011

    I’ve attended about five churches in my life time. One when I was drug to it by my grandmother. The other four came after I was saved only a few short years ago. The first one was the one that I was saved in. I stayed with it out of duty. It was a small church with more elderly people than youth. I stayed out of duty mostly. But my pastor also ministered to another church not more than two miles further down the road.

    I wanted to sing for the Lord, but there was no choir at the church I was at. So I followed him to the other church when he told me that it had a choir and needed a voice like mine. I attended both churches for a year, but it was just to difficult for me to do both. I stopped going to the smaller church and started singing with the choir all the time. I was there for 5 years.

    While there, it never seemed odd to me that people would suddenly speak out about having something on their hearts that God had placed there. I did it myself many times. It just seemed right. When the Lord moves you, you can’t say no and not feel bad about it later on.

    Eventually, that church began to lose it’s members. The pastor passed away and when he did, people just didn’t like the new replacement. He is a stuffed shirt sort of fellow and doesn’t really like it when people get the feeling to speak up with what’s on their hearts.

    I left that church last year for that reason and for personal reasons. I next went to a church that was close to my new home. It was okay, and they all were very nice. But still, the feeling of not being allowed to speak up was not very strong. And I noticed that matters dealing with money were more often talked about instead of God’s word. Oh… they used God’s word to further their requests for money on several projects, but any other time it was like “Here’s the sermon. Okay.. I’m done…go home now.” Needless to say, after being asked for money again, I got up and walked out.

    I finally found a place that is much like the church I sang it the first time. The pastor is laid back and if the spirit moves someone to say something he gives them all the time they need. Last weekend, a young lady said God placed upon her heart a song and she stood and sang it. It matched a song I’d pick out for the church members to sing at the end of services. I didn’t know she was going to sing it, but it matched perfectly, like a bookend to my bookend. God wanted people to hear the message. In this case, “Guide Me, for I am helpless without you!”

    These are the sort of things we need in churches. We need the spirit of God to move upon us so much that we can’t sit back like a bunch of bumps on logs. Can I get an ahmen?

  12. 6-16-2011

    Michael,

    Thanks for sharing part of your story! It’s always great to hear more about people’s backgrounds and experiences with the church.

    -Alan