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Range and Diversity of Contributions in Church Meetings

Posted by on May 11, 2010 in books, edification, gathering, spiritual gifts | 2 comments

For Paul what happens at church gatherings originates in the Spirit and flows through the whole membership for the benefit of all. Everyone is caught up in this divine operations (1 Cor. 12:7). The process itself is described through the use of active verbs to stress its dynamic character: contributions to the meetings are “energized,” “manifested” and “distributed” by the Spirit (1 Cor. 12:7, 11). He uses a variety of nouns to capture the diversity of what takes place. It is an exercise of “gifts” or “presents,” a variety of “services” or “ministries,” a range of “activities” or “operations” (1 Cor. 12:4-6). The concrete speech events and activities that result from this are listed, with differences, three times in Paul’s letters (Rom. 12:4-8; 1 Cor. 12:8-11; Eph. 4:11-13). These lists highlight the versatility and diversity of the Spirit’s working. Since, for Paul, everyone in church is under an obligation to discern the validity of contributions to the meeting, “liturgy” is fundamentally the people’s work. It is not in the hands of one person, a leadership team or a worship committee, even if certain people play a more prominent role in shaping what takes place, for example, those with greater prophetic or spiritual discernment (1 Cor. 12:10; 1 Cor. 14:30). (R. Banks, “Church Order and Government,” in Dictionary of Paul and his Letters (Edited by G. Hawthorne, R. Martin, and D. Reid; Downers Grove: IVP, 1993), p. 133)


2 Comments

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  1. 5-11-2010

    Alan,

    I heard it once said that “liturgy” literally means “the work of the people.” Not sure what language or its derivation, but that’s interesting. Work of the people? No wonder today’s American Christians are called “pew sitters.”

  2. 5-11-2010

    Steve,

    “Liturgy” is from the Greek term leitourgia, which generally means a service offered to someone in need. It was also used in Hellenistic society of the “service” offered by a benefactor or patron on behalf of others, usually with a cultic or religious sense (i.e., offering an expensive sacrifice). The modern English usage of “liturgy” probably comes from the cultic or religious usage.

    -Alan