We visited a local Pentecostal church this morning. Wonderful praise. Sense of anticipation of God's presence, input. At one point a message in tongues was given and the interpretation. But strict adherence to the clock, and a sense that the real happenings were all professional, the technical ones at the back and the ministry ones at the front. And this on a Sunday when ministry outreaches and programs for the fall were being introduced and described. The Presbyterian in me looked for a good taste of the Worrrd of God. There was no message or sermon.
As I watched announcements and program logos projected upon the screen, I noted the passivity of it all for the larger number of attendees. The movie theatre sense of it made me disinclined to take action or to engage with the people on either side of Hilary and me.
Now listen to the scriptures describing fellowship in the early Church:
1 Corinthians 14:
26How 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.
27If 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.
28But if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church; and let him speak to himself, and to God.
29Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge.
30If any thing be revealed to another that sitteth by, let the first hold his peace.
31For ye may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be comforted.
32And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets.
33For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.
I had this mental picture of the congregation including a large palette of vivid oil paints. One member brought forward his contribution of sky blue and applied it to a large canvas. His inclination was toward exhortation. Another brought her colour, maroon, representing a fit piece of scripture. A third, a much older man sang a verse of an old hymn. His colour, forest green, and very appropriate for the leading of the morning. A young frail-featured man with a quiver to his jaw released charcoal gray, compassionate intercession for a family going through the knothole of severe illness. A fifth, a mother in her late thirties, bringing harvest orange and chestnut brown, for tongues and interpretation. What was taking place before us, arranged by the Holy Spirit, was a beautiful corporate expression of art and worship and wisdom (involving all of the senses and attitudes of heart). This was the "togetherness" emphasized in the Acts of the Apostles, the "all in one accord". The forming picture showed a small village at the base of an extravagant mountain, with crops and pastures and sheep on the slopes and with the suggestion of clean homes and healthy commerce, socializing and worship in the town.
If this were to come to pass in our midst we would cease calling it "meeting or assembly or Holy Communion or Morning Prayer". We would call it instead "family" in the Lord Jesus. May it come to pass this side of Glory.