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 What should our gatherings look like?

We recently had a thread where we discussed what gatherings, meetings, call it what you like, should look like. It prompted me to go back to the Scriptures and look again. If I had to choose from Scripture, I would choose Paul speaking and correcting the Corinthians in 1 Cor 14:26-33. Obviously we see in these verses how the Apostle Paul was leading them in how to conduct their meetings. I will give the Scripture below and will include Matthew Henry's take on it which I always enjoy. My question for consideration is , does this look, in any way shape or fashion like the meetings you attend, if so, could you share, if not, can you say why you think it is not. So conservatively , if there are three messages in tongues interpreted and three messages from prophets and just one psalm, one doctrine and one revelation, then that would potentially nine people involved in any given service and all learning and being edified by that. ........

How is it then, brethren? when ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying. If any man speak in an unknown tongue, let it be by two, or at the most by three, and that by course; and let one interpret. But if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church; and let him speak to himself, and to God. Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge. If any thing be revealed to another that sitteth by, let the first hold his peace. For ye may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be comforted. And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets. For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.
(1Co 14:26-33)

Matthew Henry
1Co 14:26-33
In this passage the apostle reproves them for their disorder, and endeavours to correct and regulate their conduct for the future.
I. He blames them for the confusion they introduced into the assembly, by ostentation of their gifts (1Co_14:26): When you come together every one hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, etc.; that is, “You are apt to confound the several parts of worship; and, while one has a psalm to utter by inspiration, another has a doctrine, or revelation;” or else, “You are apt to be confused in the same branch of worship, many of you having psalms or doctrines to propose at the same time, without staying for one another. Is not this perfect uproar? Can this be edifying? And yet all religious exercises in public assemblies should have this view, Let all things be done to edifying.”
II. He corrects their faults, and lays down some regulations for their future conduct. 1. As to speaking in an unknown tongue, he orders that no more than two or three should do it at one meeting, and this not altogether, but successively, one after another. And even this was not to be done unless there were some one to interpret (1Co_14:27, 1Co_14:28), some other interpreter besides himself, who spoke; for to speak in an unknown tongue what he himself was afterwards to interpret could only be for ostentation. But, if another were present who could interpret, two miraculous gifts might be exercised at once, and thereby the church edified, and the faith of the hearers confirmed at the same time. But, if there were none to interpret, he was to be silent in the church, and only exercise his gift between God and himself (1Co_14:28), that is (as I think) in private, at home; for all who are present at public worship should join in it, and not be at their private devotions in public assemblies. Solitary devotions are out of time and place when the church has met for social worship. 2. As to prophesying he orders, (1.) That two or three only should speak at one meeting (1Co_14:20), and this successively, not all at once; and that the other should examine and judge what he delivered, that is, discern and determine concerning it, whether it were of divine inspiration or not. There might be false prophets, mere pretenders to divine inspiration; and the true prophets were to judge of these, and discern and discover who was divinely inspired, and by such inspiration interpreted scripture, and taught the church, and who was not - what was of divine inspiration and what was not. This seems to be the meaning of this rule. For where a prophet was known to be such, and under the divine afflatus, he could not be judged; for this were to subject even the Holy Spirit to the judgment of men. He who was indeed inspired, and known to be so, was above all human judgment. (2.) He orders that, if any assistant prophet had a revelation, while another was prophesying, the other should hold his peace, be silent (1Co_14:30), before the inspired assistant uttered his revelation. Indeed, it is by many understood that the former speaker should immediately hold his peace. But this seems unnatural, and not so well to agree with the context. For why must one that was speaking by inspiration be immediately silent upon another man's being inspired, and suppress what was dictated to him by the same Spirit? Indeed, he who had the new revelation might claim liberty of speech in his turn, upon producing his vouchers; but why must liberty of speech be taken from him who was speaking before, and his mouth stopped, when he was delivering the dictates of the same Spirit, and could produce the same vouchers? Would the Spirit of God move one to speak, and, before he had delivered what he had to say, move another to interrupt him, and put him to silence? This seems to me an unnatural thought. Nor is it more agreeable to the context, and the reason annexed (1Co_14:31): That all might prophesy, one by one, or one after another, which could not be where any one was interrupted and silenced before he had done prophesying; but might easily be if he who was afterwards inspired forbore to deliver his new revelation till the former prophet had finished what he had to say. And, to confirm this sense, the apostle quickly adds, The spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets (1Co_14:33); that is, the spiritual gifts they have leave them still possessed of their reason, and capable of using their own judgment in the exercise of them. Divine inspirations are not, like the diabolical possessions of heathen priests, violent and ungovernable, and prompting them to act as if they were beside themselves; but are sober and calm, and capable of regular conduct. The man inspired by the Spirit of God may still act the man, and observe the rules of natural order and decency in delivering his revelations. His spiritual gift is thus far subject to his pleasure, and to be managed by his discretion.
III. The apostle gives the reasons of these regulations. As, 1. That they would be for the church's benefit, their instruction and consolation. It is that all may learn, and all may be comforted or exhorted, that the prophets were to speak in the orderly manner the apostle advises. Note, The instruction, edification, and comfort of the church, is that for which God instituted the ministry. And surely ministers should, as much as possible, fit their ministrations to these purposes. 2. He tells them, God is not the God of confusion, but of peace and good order, 1Co_14:33. Therefore divine inspiration should by no means throw Christian assemblies into confusion, and break through all rules of common decency, which yet would be unavoidable if several inspired men should all at once utter what was suggested to them by the Spirit of God, and not wait to take their turns. Note, The honour of God requires that things should be managed in Christian assemblies so as not to transgress the rules of natural decency. If they are managed in a tumultuous and confused manner, what a notion must this give of the God who is worshipped, to considerate observers! Does it look as if he were the God of peace and order, and an enemy to confusion? Things should be managed so in divine worship that no unlovely nor dishonourable notion of God should be formed in the minds of observers. 3. He adds that things were thus orderly managed in all the other churches: As in all the churches of the saints (1Co_14:33); they kept to these rules in the exercise of their spiritual gifts, which was a manifest proof that the church of Corinth might observe the same regulations. And it would be perfectly scandalous for them, who exceeded most churches in spiritual gifts, to be more disorderly than any in the exercise of them. Note, Though other churches are not to be our rule, yet the regard they pay to the rules of natural decency and order should restrain us from breaking these rules. Thus far they may be proposed as examples, and it is a shame not to follow them.

 2013/3/21 17:56

Joined: 2009/12/11
Posts: 212

 Re: What should our gatherings look like?

While an interesting post, I'm beginning to think conversations of this type are pointless. Though I have had a call of God to pastor for the last 3 years or so, I've only recently been given the opportunity to minister on a regular basis. I know that many here do not like the "established church", but that is where I feel specifically called to. However (and a big however at that), I do not like the state of our established churches. That's kind of like saying I think fire is hot. You can call me Captain Obvious. While many churches do great things, the majority are more like social clubs. If this wasn't true, we wouldn't have many of the social issues (sins) that we have today.

I recently began working as a youth pastor at a Nazarene church. It is your typical church. There are a lot of great people there. But so often when I overhear conversations about what the church is trying to accomplish I wonder if they are trying to build the church or build the Church. They mean well, I have no doubt, but I think they've become institutionalized, if you will. They have lost the basic evangelistic message of the Gospel, which is to GO and make disciples.

I've been praying and asking God to help me find a way to break this inward thinking in order to return to a more Gospel centered approach to "church". I've done a lot of reading on blogs about how to have a successful youth ministry. The thing that keeps coming to mind is that if there is no Holy Spirit inspiration, conviction and presence, it's all garbage. What people are hocking on websites are just the same methods packaged in hipper words. There is more to church than programs. I'm there to worship God with other believers. I want to experience Him and see other people have their life shaken. I want to see people believe who do not believe. I want to see kids weeping both for their ugliness and the beauty of grace. I don't want a method. I want God.

While I'm not disregarding the words of your post, appolus, I just wonder if the form matters. The Welsh revival, and most other modern revivals occurred in typical churches. I'm no historian on revival, but it seems that when the Holy Spirit fell it was not because the people had adopted the correct method for doing church. It was because people were crying out for God and willing to listen when He showed up. Certainly, we should look to scripture for guidance, but I just don't see these verses as a framework to use if you want the Holy Spirit to do a work.

Matt Smith

 2013/3/22 7:46Profile

Joined: 2006/7/31
Posts: 3057

 Re: What should our gatherings look like?

Greetings Frank

I have been thinking so much about this topic since you posted. At first I thought I can't really reply because right now and for a long time actually we have not really met with other believers. For a long time because I allowed past hurts to infect my heart I didn't really want to meet with other believers. I realize its all just excuses to relieve my sinful conscious for not being more open, for not willingly going out to be a servant to others. I think a time is approaching rather quickly when we will only have one another and just like those first believers we will need to help one another. I believe we are the body of CHRIST, a family made up of brothers and sisters with JESUS as our head. No one desiring a "higher" position then another, each working and functioning as GOD has called them to. Each one working together to meet the needs of the brethren. I imagine what it would be like to sit in a gathering just after Peter spoke to the crowds. People busy caring for each others needs all eager to love JESUS and live in submission to HIM. I imagine that there was a desire to hear the things the LORD placed on each others hearts, to see the things HE was showing each of them.Perhaps a small gathering of sisters meets together in their home, maybe ten or fifteen of them share their burdens with each other and pray for one another. Perhaps later these same women will work together to prepare meals for their family, the church, as they come together to break bread and give thanks unto the LORD. In the midst of this church there is a desire to pray for and lay down their lives for one another, to help and encourage one another through daily living and any struggle that might come up.You would find that a common theme in this group of believers, is the desire to always be a servant, to JESUS first and then to each other. I imagine that sin when discovered in their midst would be dealt with immediately in love and in JESUS. Other brothers or sisters would point each other to the LORD and pray that they would see their sin and return to the LORD. Counsel would be prayerfully sought from the LORD and then given to those who stumble. I believe their would be trusted brothers and sisters who being led by the HOLY SPIRIT would spend time with younger ones sharing their understanding from the LORD to always grow the KINGDOM and see JESUS lifted up and glorified. This would be how I see a gathering of saints in one area living would be, could be if... We were each living one to another daily, breaking bread, caring for and loving each other, reaching out to meet each others needs, to bind each others hurts and carry another burdens, praying for and pointing each other always to CHRIST JESUS and then reaching out to the lost and sharing the truth so that more might be saved...

God bless

 2013/3/22 7:55Profile


Hey brother Hoohoou,

Your reply made me smile. I believe that you completely missed the point of the post, and then you go on and articulate the point of the post :) The whole point of the post was to articulate what Paul was teaching, so if you believe that Paul was teaching form then you have an issue with the Holy Spirit. I deliberately left out my opinion and merely gave the Biblical example of a church who was being corrected for their lack of order. The Welsh Revival meetings were almost an exact copy of the Scripture I laid out. A couple of woman would arise and sing, it would usher in the Holy Spirit, Evan Roberts would speak and pray, others all over the building would pray, there would be weeping as the Holy Spirit moved upon the gathering and of course, many, many souls were saved. Brother Greg and I and others had the opportunity to take part in a prayer meeting in Moriah chapel where the welsh revival took place. There was a leader of the prayer meeting, and during it he would kinda nod to a person and they would arise and pray. There was also spontaneous singing of hymns as led by the Spirit and so on. It was wonderful.

Brother, if you do not want a method, re-read the original post and see how Paul describes how meetings should take place and that with order as well. But I must suggest to you, as one who spent several months at a Nazarene church, that it would take a miracle to see this kind of meeting amongst them. The fact that I was not a " Nazarene,' and was there amongst them just puzzled them no end. Near the end of my time there, one sister, a good woman turned and said to me, with all sincerity and honesty " Who are you?" The notion that there was a Body of Christ out there that was not Nazarene was just so puzzling to her...........bro Frank

 2013/3/22 11:04

Joined: 2005/5/2
Posts: 3776


If I had to choose from Scripture, I would choose Paul speaking and correcting the Corinthians in 1 Cor 14:26-33. Obviously we see in these verses how the Apostle Paul was leading them in how to conduct their meetings.

Why not read the entire epistle, 1 Corinthians, and get an overview of the problem in the church - and Paul’s antidote? For another perspective I draw from a different chapter: 1 Cor. 11 in the following Bible study. Consider this as food for thought:

a) Read 1 Corinthians 11: 17-34. What is Paul’s overall tone here?

b) What evidence does Paul provide of the Corinthian church’s failure to live forgivingly?

c) What two qualities seem lacking? (answer: humility and empathy. These are the two qualities necessary for living forgivingly.)

d) Read :30. Describe the overall health of this church.

Here we can draw from scientific claims. Experts now assert that many of our troubles are caused by a failure to forgive. Unforgiveness damages our physical, mental, emotional, and relational stability - and even our environmental stability. It’s not hard to see how unforgiveness puts our entire human race at risk.

The Corinthian church was at risk because of how they were treating each other. Paul wrote his letter to confront this crisis. In the letter he addresses divisiveness, competition over favorite leaders, boasting over their lax morality, lawsuits, pride, superiority over spiritual gifts, hypocrisy, insensitivity to the “weaker brother”, and self-interest. That’s a dreadful diagnosis! We can only imagine the inner pain - the anxiety, shame, dehumanizing behavior, family stresses, and so forth. Now let’s see how Paul confronts the whole mess by redirecting their entire focus.

e) Return to I Cor. 11. In the middle of his discourse on their failure to show love, Paul inserts a few words about the Lord’s Supper.
Read vs.23-26. What phrase does Paul repeat twice?

f) In view of the church’s issues, why is this important?

g) Perhaps you recall times when a big deal was made over the finer details in Paul’s letter - like head coverings. Churches have had bitter splits over these points (and there’s been no end of disputes over gender roles). Do you think Paul’s big point got missed? Indeed! Scripture is not a medicine cabinet from which we can grab preferred prescriptions. That’s a sure way to divide people.

Oh, how easy it is to drift from God’s gift of forgiveness and cling to prescribed behaviours as the path to God and solution for our sin problems. Oh how easy it is to lose sight of God’s fabulous promise. Paul warns: Remember! Remember your forgiven-ness in Christ. This is God’s gift to you! It’s free. You can’t make God more or less forgiving toward you by what you do; Christ took care of that. But you must REMEMBER your forgiven-ness.

h) What does it mean to REMEMBER God’s gift of forgiveness? Read Mark 1:15. What two clues do you see?

i) Here we see two key themes: repentance and faith. Casual use of these terms has depreciated their impact; so we must revisit them:

j)Repentance comes from the Greek [metanoia]. It means to change directions, turn around, adopt another view, change my mind. I see my need for mercy and turn to God. Faith [pistis] carries the idea of trust. Faith is the hand that receives the gift, trusting God's gracious forgiving intentions toward me. Repent and believe; that’s how we REMEMBER Christ. It’s a deep experiential knowing.

k) Read vs.28, 31. Why is it important to be “discerning with regard to ourselves”? See also 1 John 1:9.

l) In 1 Cor. 11:27-34 what word do you see three times to denote the potential risk for this community?

m) How are judgments also a form of mercy? (v.32)

The distresses of failure serve to draw us back to God. We admit we have drifted; we change our mind and trust God anew. We remember Christ’s body and blood. We remember his costly forgiveness, and how God set aside his wrath that we may be reconciled. God gives us a clean start. Debt free! We see his face shining on us once more, and know his presence within us. Thank you Jesus!

The word Eucharist comes from the Greek [eucharisteo]. It means thanksgiving. The Eucharist meal is an expression of thankfulness. Really, thanksgiving is a continuous attitude. This is our posture toward God, expressed in self-giving love.

n) Read 1 Corinthians 13, the well-known love chapter. You find this in the middle of Paul’s treatment for disorderly worship. Note how Chapter 13 is intended to point the worshippers back to their purpose and priority. What is it?

o) Read I Cor. 11: 27-30 again. What is happening to these people?

p) In scripture forgiveness is tied to wellbeing. See Psalm 103:2-3, Luke 5:17-26, and James 5:16. Such texts raise questions for today: Would we be healthier if we sought God’s forgiveness more earnestly? Have we become too dependent on medical science? That’s something to ponder. At any rate, our wildest imagination could not fathom the riches in Christ, made available through his costly gift of forgiveness. Remember him and give thanks!

to ponder: Just how good are we at enjoying the gift of “debt” free living? (What may be holding us back?)

A fitting summary of the forgiving life is offered by Mary Jane:

We were each living one to another daily, breaking bread, caring for and loving each other, reaching out to meet each others needs, to bind each others hurts and carry another burdens, praying for and pointing each other always to CHRIST JESUS and then reaching out to the lost and sharing the truth so that more might be saved...


 2013/3/22 11:13Profile

Joined: 2004/7/7
Posts: 7464


"The thing that keeps coming to mind is that if there is no Holy Spirit inspiration, conviction and presence, it's all garbage. What people are hocking on websites are just the same methods packaged in hipper words. There is more to church than programs. I'm there to worship God with other believers. I want to experience Him and see other people have their life shaken. I want to see people believe who do not believe. I want to see kids weeping both for their ugliness and the beauty of grace. I don't want a method. I want God."

It appears to me God has given you a vision. May you be faithful to it. You also know that walking with the LORD is a constant growing experience - that of casting off works of the flesh and putting on the mind of Christ. THIS will make a difference where the rubber meets the road.

God bless.

Sandra Miller

 2013/3/22 11:15Profile


Hi MJ,

I think your thoughts on what gatherings would like like are wonderful, praise the Lord. Now sister I believe those days are coming. I believe with all my heart that Gods remnant children are being raised up all over the world. They are being separated, like the sheep from the goats, the wheat from the tares. Many of them are in a sort of desert, not of their own choosing, but by the calling of God. In that desert they are learning to depend upon Him entirely so that when the time comes, persecution and so on, that even if none go with them, still they shall follow. Yet that does not change the fact that they have a sincere and genuine desire to have genuine fellowship with those of like-mind, meaning those who burn with a passion for the Lord and are hungry and thirsty for His presence and simply just cannot do business as usual anymore. This is the process of God calling His own. This is the process of counting the cost. Certainly, when the Lord was crucified, one would have to be found outside the walls in order to be identified with Him. To be outside the walls, to be detached from the system is not an easy or a simple thing, it comes with great cost and indeed if it did not it would not be the decision that it is. This calling is only going to get more intense as we move forward, as the day of the Lord approaches. Yet the Lord has called us to gather together, and all the more as we see that day approach and that is why I believe you will begin and are beginning to see a visible representation of these called out children..............bro Frank

 2013/3/22 11:16


Hi Roadsign,

I do not deny that the Corinthians had many problems and each of their problems or all of their problems combined would make many wonderful study. My focus is on gatherings and what Paul had to say about gatherings. Please feel free to start a thread about the many problems of the Corinthian church, but the focus of this thread is what he taught them in regard to meetings and how this certainly reflected on how other gatherings were conducting their meetings. God bless you.........bro Frank

 2013/3/22 11:20


The thing to note in these passages under discussion is there was body participation. Not body passivity. The trend today is to be passive in church gatherings.


 2013/3/22 12:12

Joined: 2007/2/3
Posts: 835
Alberta, Canada


Concerning 1 Cor. 14.26:

"How is it then, brethren? When ye come together every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation."

Granted, Paul is speaking to the disorder in the Corinthian assembly here. They were all so eager to participate that they were thrusting themselves forth almost on top of one another. (And their motive, it appears, was the immaturity of excited children; everyone was very focussed on the importance of what they themselves had to contribute.)

But to look at most church gatherings in our day, you would think that the decision has been made to avoid any potential disorder by having absolutely nothing to do with the kind of meeting Paul talks here; it's too hard to control.

But note: Paul, to deal with this disorder, does not say, "Let these things be not done."

What he says is, "Let all things be done unto edifying." And again, "Let all things be done decently and in order."

So there can be a beautiful order when liberty is given for all the saints to participate in a gathering, and brothers and sisters are thinking not of themselves, but of one another, of edifying (building up) one another... and in all things are intent on giving the Spirit of the Lord His lordship.

Allan Halton

 2013/3/22 12:40Profile

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