When our group here in Gwinnett comes together for a time of worship and corporate encouragement, we have what we call an “open meeting.” This has been discussed other places on this blog before, but essentially it is a time when the Body comes together to participate in God speaking to His people through His people. We try to follow the very broad but foundational principles spoken of in the scriptures for our time together (most notably 1 Cor 14, but others, as well).
For those new to this type of meeting, it has its challenges. Some people take to a more open and spontaneous environment like ducks to water. My wife was that way. Others have a difficult time with the “lack of structure.” And specifically, the lack of a regular and intentional teaching time, or a sermon.
Now, if you are like me, you were raised in a more neo-traditional church that was very structured. The styles of things were probably different, but the basic structure was the same across the board: music/praise at the beginning, some taking of an offering, and then a longer time sitting and listening to a teaching or sermon of some sort. The whole structure places the importance on the sermon/teaching time. The system of paying a salary to at least the one person doing the teaching every week underscores the importance of the message.
But the problem is that you won’t find this structure, or the necessity of a prepared teaching, detailed in the Bible. You find something different in 1 Cor 14. Every member is to willingly and voluntarily participate, whether in song or teaching or reading of scripture or prayer or however the meeting is led by the Holy Spirit. And what you have instead, when following the biblical model, is something far more beautiful and powerful because at the end of the time together, you not only heard from God but participated in following the Spirit yourself. That is true discipleship.
But even though God’s messages to His people are consistently clear in these times of gathering together, some people still miss the nicely packaged sermon and teaching that the previous structure gave them. They feel something is missing. Invariably people get frustrated with some times together because, “No one got up and gave a message.” My response is usually, “You’re right. About eight people got up and gave a message.” And generally speaking, there was a theme and a word for the Body woven throughout people’s different expressions and gifts, which is far more reason to believe the message than one person prepackaging it for you. Sometimes you have to renew your mind.
Let me be clear, though. In our group, sometimes we have longer times of teaching. In fact, often we do. We have both men and women who are gifted and solid teachers, and God uses them.
Some of this is personality, but sometimes the people who have the most problem with a lack of regular “sermons” are “trained ministers.” They have been told and trained to have a message, a teaching, ready for the church every week or so (there was one time I was giving three Bible messages a week or more). It isn’t their fault; it’s been pummeled into their brains that this is their job as a leader, not to mention the shock of no one regularly giving them an individual platform to use their gift.
But which is the greater leader, the one who prepackages a message for everyone every week … or the one that teaches people to hear the voice of God themselves and become the minister, giver and encourager in the Body they were meant to be?
I know which one I have chosen.