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Disregard 1 Corinthians 11-14?

Posted by on Aug 31, 2010 in books, church life, edification, gathering | 9 comments

Disregard 1 Corinthians 11-14?

Frank at “Reimagining Church” has published a letter from Jon Zens to Jim Belcher, author of Deep Church, in a post called “An Analysis of Jim Belcher’s Deep Church.”

Much of the analysis focuses on the manner that churches meet together. For example, Jon writes:

You assert, “Since the Bible does not give us enough information to construct a worship service, we must fill in the blanks” (p.137).  Why do we feel compelled to find a “worship service”?  There is no evidence that the early church had “worship services,” as we conceive of them.  The largest insight we have about a Christian gathering appears in 1 Cor.14.  We have these glimpses because Paul was correcting a problem.  In this passage we see (1) the whole ekklesia gathered; (2) an open meeting where everyone was potentially involved in prophecy; (3) that what was spoken had to be understood by all; (4) multiple expressions from many, “each of you has…”; (5) no mention of a sermon by one person; (6) no pulpit; (7) no leaders.  You mention “the people up front” (p.139), but in the 1 Cor.14 meeting there is no “front,” as they met in homes with simplicity as a family.  Indeed, while the NT does not give a lot of information about believers’ gatherings, my question is: Why have our traditions essentially jettisoned what light we do have from 1 Cor.14 and other passages?

Later he writes:

Again I must ask, is it hermeneutically responsible to disregard the weight of 1 Cor.11-14 and fill in the blanks with practices that fly in the face of what is revealed?

There is much about meeting together that Scripture does NOT tell us. However, Scripture does tell us some things about how the early churches met together, and how Paul specifically instructed some early churches to meet together. Thus, we have a kind of path to follow.

Why would we want to stray from that path? Why would we want to disregard 1 Corinthians 11-14 and other passages that describe some aspects of church gatherings?

I’ve read many books and articles in which the authors defend modern church practices. But, I’ve never seen this question answered.


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

  1. 8-31-2010

    Alan, now why do you have to go and publish something that makes so much sense. Geesh. ;-P

  2. 8-31-2010


    This should be another reminder to all of us of the human tendency to do all we can to justify the particular traditions that we love and feel comfortable with. So much for “sola scriptura.”

  3. 8-31-2010

    Well, not only should we not “fill in the blanks” in 1 Corinthians 11-14, we ought not take an eraser to certain passages either. If we are going to be consistent, by all means lets be really consistent.

  4. 8-31-2010

    I don’t think most in the institutional church even think about this question. If they did, a whole lot would change.

  5. 9-1-2010

    Wonderful observation and how could you avoid the logic of his points? Or, why?

    Still, I think this a symptom, but the cure isn’t simply a restored structure. “Doing church right” won’t make the church “right.”

    Like so many others, I think of the extant church today typified by the church of Laodicea in Rev 3. I think here, Jesus speaks to the root of our problem today. Fundamentally, He has been locked out. Fundamentally, the solution is opening that door back up–one person by one person–and regaining an ongoing relationship.

    This seems way too simplistic until you consider that is how Jesus started this whole thing. A relationship with a handful of people.

    Secondarily, the church as a whole needs to make changes, but it is important to note that none of these are specifically structural. I hesitate to capsulize the three areas of counsel He advises this church for fear that we will interpret them in the light of “what we know” and “expect” based on what we know. Much like since we know church should have a worship service, and since this isn’t found in scripture, then God just means that we should strike out on our own and do our own thang.

    I Cor 3:9; Titus 1:5; Rev 3:18 hove some insights we need to consider. Primarily once again bowing our knee to Jesus our Master and Saviour, and walking with Him. Secondarily the whole of Rev 3 regarding laodicea:

    Rev 3:13,22 listen, be teachable

    Rev 3:14 who He is that the Laodiceans are missing

    Rev 3:15,16 in His eyes, in His heart

    Rev 3:17 x-ray of our cancer

    Rev 3:18 prescription for our cancer

    Rev 3:19 His diagnosis and His knife are not yet His judgement, but His loving care to save the patient

    Rev 3:20 The means to receive the treatment

    Rev 3:21 The benefit to be gained for enduring the treatment

    Rev 3:22 listen, be teachable – indicating WE do not have the answers. And, that He does.

    There is so much focus on how to do church (simple church, emerging church, cottage church, mega church, and so forth). There is so much talk about church planting today. And, doing so may be one aspect of helping the church “annoint her eyes with eyesalve so that she might see again.”

    Rev 3, Laodicea–this is the epi-center of God’s heart, counsel, and effort for the church today.

  6. 9-1-2010

    Just to be clear, the passage doesn’t say “no leaders,” there is just no mention of leaders.

  7. 9-1-2010

    Let me add that this isn’t magic. I’m troubled by the enchantment some have today with wildfire “church planting movements.” Or, the “waves of God” blowing through communities and striking people with one or another emotional movement.

    I think the Laodicean Prescription will play out–if it does–similarly to the first century. Arduously, at great cost, relentlessly bot over decades, not months.

    There is no “take two” and call me in the morning for us today. Our disease is bone deep and highly progressed. We won’t feel better in a week.

    No, we need today men and women who will walk with Jesus and love Laodicea as He loves Laodicea, hazarding their reputations, resources, and lives for her with Him, laboring unseen and unthanked–gladly, gratefully.

  8. 9-1-2010


    Well, Jon wrote it and Frank published it… I just copied it. 🙂


    Yeah, we don’t usually “live” in the manner we see in Scripture, do we?


    I agree… even though we disagree on the interpretation of certain passages. 🙂


    For many people, thinking about this question or these passages are not important to their way of living. I think they’re missing much of what God has for them here and now.


    I agree. In fact, in most cases, disobedience is not the problem, but a symptom of the problem. Disregarding 1 Cor 11-14 is one of those symptoms.


    You’re right.


  9. 7-28-2011

    they gathered to celebrate the Eucharist-Paul understood this as did all Christians until the late 1400’s. Where you find the celebrating of the Eucharist-the body and blood of Christ-there you find Christ


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