In my previous post, “I did NOT expect God to do THAT,” I reflected back on our study of Hannah’s prayer in 1 Samuel 2. As I said, her prayer indicates that God often works through ways and people that we do not expect. It reminded me of something Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 1:26-29.
Both of these passages remind us that often God does not work in the ways that we expect, and often God does not work through the people that we might expect.
But, how should this reminder (and pattern that we find throughout Scripture) affect the way that we gather together as the church?
Who do you expect God to use when the church gathers together? Through whom do you expect God to speak and exhort his church when you gather together? Before you answer, think about how you gather with the church. How does your pattern and methods of gathering together indicate your answers to those questions?
For most churches, the answers are apparent. When the church gathers together, we expect that God will use and speak through certain leaders, but not through others. These are our expectations, and those expectations are readily indicated by the way that we meet together and especially by who is allowed to speak and the prominence that is given to that particular time of speaking (i.e., the sermon).
But, what if – as the passages above and many other passages indicate – God truly does desire to work through and speak through “unexpected” ways and through “unexpected” people?
I’ve witnessed this time and time again as we meet together as the church. As different people speak and exhort and teach and admonish, God often chooses to speak through the most unexpected person or through an unexpected illustration or example. A child? Yep. A new believer? Yes. A woman? uh huh. Even an unbeliever?
Would God really speak to his church through an unbeliever? Wow… that would be totally unexpected.
Of course, for many Christians, the assumption would be that I’m talking about a child, or a new believer, or a woman, or an unbeliever delivering a 30-45 minute sermon. That’s not the case. God does not need a sermon or 30-45 minutes or a seminary-trained professional or a pastor/elder to speak to his children.
However, he does want his children to be willing to listen to others… to be open to him working through and speaking through unexpected channels.
When Paul is instructing the church in Corinth about speaking and serving when the church gathers (1 Corinthians 14), he gives a few guidelines, such as doing so in love and for the purpose of building up the church. But, throughout that chapter, it’s clear that he expects God to work through many of the people gathered together.
What are our expectations when we gather with the church? Do we expect God to work through one or two, or through any who gather with us? Do we expect God to work through us?
The way that we answer those questions will affect that way that we gather with other believers. And, the way that we gather with other believers indicates how we truly answer those questions.