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Church  Meeting  Dynamics
:: real congregational-encounter with God requires awareness of our shared spiritual identity as God's people ::
– Congregational worship is not an introduction to the sermon! –
In briefest
summary, how we got to where we are –
It has become a spiritually destructive trend –
to turn the teaching/sermon
of a leader into the central
focus of a church meeting.
In general, this subtle corruption has had a widespread damaging
effect on the work
of the Holy Spirit
among God's people!
Unmediated direct
encounter with God
is the primary objective
of the truly Christian
Church meeting.
The Protestant
Reformation tended to move the gravitational centre of the church meeting from the service of the sacrament to the preaching of the sermon. The evangelical movements of the eighteenth-nineteenth centuries and the Pentecostal-charismatic movements of the twentieth to twenty-first century have, to a lesser extent, moved this centre to a more or less shared balance between sermon preaching and worship singing, with the sacrament as a special worship event. 
The Lost
Within the last few decades the world's discovery of the benefits of 'positive thinking' and the international growth of the entertainment industry have both affected the public meetings of the Christian Church in preaching and worship leading styles. The influence of the world will always be a factor in affecting how the Christian Church views itself and conducts its church meetings and therefore understanding the real dynamics of the church meeting is all the more important today.

How then
ought it to be?
Didn't God give us a pattern, a blue-print – some liturgical framework/pattern to follow?
comparison of different denominational styles and methods does not lead us to an answer. Reassessment of the meeting as a whole, in the light of its primary purpose, is really the place to begin. Although that purpose is not limited to one issue, it does have a focus – an ultimate aim.
Using the church meeting place as an effort, through music, singing, special interest items, etc., to maximize an audience, may serve as some sort of Christian outreach – but it is not a meeting of Christ's Church.
So, changing ritual, liturgy, order of service, or adding new elements or methods may have some value at times in relation to the state of the people that are affected. But, simply fine-tuning the status quo to the needs of the people will not in itself uncover the dynamic that rightfully belongs to the meetings of God's precious people. The best that any order of service can be is as a 'walking stick' to help the spiritually disabled walk into an encounter with Him!
often however, the order-of-service predominates in the consciousness of the congregation, thereby distracting/hindering direct spiritual encounter and may even be a deceptive substitute for it.
Anecdotal evidence of Christian history (such as spiritual revivals) can inspire us and generate a longing for a renewal of the special blessings of past times. But recreating the past is not our calling. On the contrary, to do so would be an insult to the reality of the Holy Spirit who has been given to Christ's Church and who graciously dwells in the immediacy of God's people.
1.  What is the Central Dynamic?  
do tend to dominate the structure of Christian services and we therefore need to seriously re-focus on the central purpose of the Christian church meeting. No single purpose can be greater than – an encounter with God Himself! This is the real gravitational centre for all that is said or done in a really effective church meeting.
Whether that encounter occurs through the agency of singing, sermon, or sacrament, is not as significant as the fact that it happens! – God meeting with His people, beyond their separate individuality! This is God effectively giving flesh to the spiritual body of Christ today!
Encounter with God does not lie in the ministry of angels to us. Encounter with His direct presence is the very essence of the relationship of the Holy Spirit to Christ's people. This relationship is much more than an idea or a principle. This relationship exists in that holy Person given to Christ's church on the Pentecost after our Lord's ascension.
'What Happened at Pentecost?
Given as a bride is given to be part of the new identity of her beloved. God's Spirit – the Holy Spirit – is in Christ's church, not as a tenant, but now as intrinsic to simply being a Christian.
Therefore, to deceive the people of God is to lie to the Holy Spirit (as Ananias and Saphira unhappily discovered: Ac.5). This truth, this spiritual reality, lies behind Paul's serious warning to view, judge, discern our fellow believers rightly, that is – as the 'body' of the Lord (particularly exemplified in the Lord's Supper) – lest a similar thing happen to them (such as 'weakness' or 'sickness' or 'death' – 1Corinthians 11:29-31).
who are functioning as believers, especially in concert, simply are the presence of God, the living expression of Christ. For this reason God's Spirit fills us, enabling us to do that which is appropriate to His presence.
This perspective on the spiritual identity of the believers opens us to the Holy Spirit's own approach to church meetings – that is, the inclusivity of His compassion for Christ's flock!
In the Apostle Paul's time the believers at Corinth needed serious correction concerning their method of observing Eucharist, Holy Communion. His apostolic remedy was –
the practical implementation of inclusiveness in the church meeting (just as a convoy moves at the speed of its slowest ship if it is to remain a convoy, 'wait for one another', 1 Corinthians 11:33); and,
the limitation of recognized ministers' ministry ('two or at the most three') so as to encourage diversity in congregational ministry among the believers. (1 Corinthians 14:26-33).
2.  Inclusivity of the Spirit  
Word of God orders us to 'wait for one another' (1Corinthians 11:33), and it is more than etiquette that is here at stake. This is the only right and proper conduct if one truly discerns 'the Body' – the church of Jesus (1Cor.11:29), in the unity of the Redeemed-in-Christ, which the communion of the Lord's Supper assumes to represent. 
of any kind!
Thus, there can be NO segmenting of the celebration of Christ's death, such as ever allowing a separate –
•  youth or adult Holy Communion;
•  men or women's Eucharist;
•  poor persons or rich persons Lord's Supper;
•  commoners as opposed to an aristocrats Breaking of Bread; and,
especially not a Communion of presbytery-approved members, or at an early hour of the day for the dedicated so that the less worthy in the general meeting of believers are thereby excluded!
Sub classes of any kind can never be recognised in our manner of celebrating the foundation of Christian unity – or it simply is not the Lord's Supper as far as the Holy Spirit is concerned, even though He may bless individuals in their personal worship during such a travesty of Communion.
In Christ there is one, and only one, kind of person recognized, a new person (Ephesians 2:15). Not 'new' by reputation among others, but only through personal relationship to the Lord of the Supper.
For this very reason, if no interpreter of an unknown 'language' is in a meeting, the unknown-language speaker ('tongues' speaker) may not speak – no matter how inspired he or she may feel (1Corinthians 14:28). No-one is to be excluded from the spiritual dynamics of the meeting by not understanding the language! The meaning of each speaker must be available to all.
Of course, this meeting limitation on speaking in 'tongues' from one's own spirit does not apply when the whole meeting (all the persons present) are participants in a shared experience of worship in this manner – for then they are as one person in their experience. 
Paul is certainly not protecting intellectual intelligibility by this command for interpretation in 1 Corinthians 14. He is protecting the practical and conscious unity of the congregation – in continuity with the preceding chapters of his letter. Christ's compassion excludes no-one present in the Christian meeting.
This practice of inclusivity rejoices in diversity!
3.  Diversity of the Spirit  
Apostle Paul commands – 
if anyone speak in tongues (in any meeting of the church) let it be 'two or at the most three' speakers; and let it be 'two or three' prophets (1Corinthians 14:27,29), however long the church meeting may be.
This is not a limit of three 'tongues' or three prophecies. It is a limit on the number of persons exercising a particular form of ministry in order to diversify the ministry of grace in the Spirit.
Why this limit on persons of proven ministry?
Spiritual ministry in Christ's church was never meant to be the domain of one particular gift, be that gift – teaching, preaching, healing, or whatever else is used by God. The whole Body of Christ is entrusted with the ministry of God's grace; not the pastors or priests, no matter how blessed their service may be.
If the whole church is part of this ministry, then the church's unity must be expressed in the complementary diversity of that unity, in all its richness.
However, this dynamic diversity within our inclusive unity as Christ's church, presupposes a prior and greater reality – Christ's ownership of His people!
Christ's Ownership
church is the Lord's!
The English word 'church' has its origin from early Greek Christian usage of the term κυριακόν 'kuriakon' – belonging to the Lord, as in 1 Corinthians 11:20. The ownership authority of Christ in His church is foundational to this dynamic of the church meeting.
No kind of ministry, however inspired, or of whatever duration, has any ownership rights over God's people.
There is no Seat of Peter, there is no Council of Twelve, and there never was! Ordination to church ministry has no intrinsic authority. There is no 'apostolic succession' of leadership in any form whatsoever. At best 'ordination' is simply a fuller recognition of Christian ministry and does not confer it in any sense.
Even less then is the local leader, whatever named, or however blessed, ever an owner of any of Christ's heritage.
This truth is first stressed in 1 Corinthians 3 and 4 before the issues of discipline and spiritual unity are dealt with. The much preached "gold, silver, precious stones" and "wood, hay, stubble" illustration is not about personal lifestyle. It is about leaders' and preachers' behaviour in building up the church or otherwise (3:15).
In its own context, the Bible's dire warning of 3:17 has absolutely nothing to do with the private behaviour of a Christian, but it has everything to do with the public behaviour of Christian leaders.
"If anyone destroys God's sanctuary [the congregation], God will destroy him, for God's sanctuary is holy.
And you
[plural] are that sanctuary!"
1 Corinthians 3:17
The value of a leader, any leader, among God's people is with respect to enabling the Lord's people to know their Lord. At very best a leader is a spiritual mid-wife to help birth the faith of Christ's people toward God with them. Whether this be –
by inspired guidance, by teaching truth, by giving correction,
by prophesying encouragement, or by ministering healing of any kind
– the ultimate aim, which thus conditions all of these, is that His people might know Him in His direct ownership of them and presence among them.
The loss of this is the loss of the dynamic of the Christian meeting.
The Encounter
that has been said so far only has value toward enabling direct encounter with God. This is the ultimate aim of any meeting that is fully Christian.
Encounter does not mean an emotional experience. It does not mean feeling good, receiving insight, knowing more about God, and so on...
It means meeting with God!
The personal path to this encounter is praise. Praise is simply the practice of responding appropriately/appreciatively toward God with one's whole person, with mind, mouth, hands, until one's whole being has focus within the awesome majesty of the all-glorious God of mercy. But, praise is more than simply thanksgiving!
It is good to give thanks for what God has done, His works, but this is only the entrance to the path of praise. Praise has its focus beyond this, on the very person of God – the awesome and beautiful attributes of His person! When the soul feeds upon this appreciation its faith is simply agreement with the values and purposes of the Most High. It is responding appropriately. It is a trust beyond understanding! It is Abraham's faith (Gen.15:5-6, Gal.3:6-7), which is the spiritual birth-nature of every real Christian.
The subjectivity of our human psyche, with its susceptibility to unbelief, and natural doubts, cannot close the door on direct encounter with God. Encounter is not a feeling of faith, either in the individual or in the general climate of a congregation. The act of praise is an active and deliberate denial of doubt. As such, the practice of praise defies every denial of Christ within us, no matter how small or deep.
As much as a martyr's precious faith rejects and overcomes pain in death, so the faith of the worshipper rejects natural feelings of doubt and uncertainty and chooses to come to God with a defiantly unconditional trust. Paul and Silas, in their exhaustion, sang praise to God, through the pain from their public flogging, with aching backs and their feet clamped in stocks of the inner prison. God's earth quaked in response to this faith!
Acts 16:26-27
Faith is never simply the absence of doubt, but is always its defiance!
Thus, the path of praise into encounter with God does not need the seclusion of a convent or monastery. It is the rightful path of every believer, wherever ...
But the consequent joy, often evident in the practice of praise, does not lead our worship into informality. The tendency in some circles to insert an interval into congregational worship for refreshments, especially in colder climates, mitigates against the sharp focus and sense of reverence essential to spiritual awareness and congregational encounter with God.
Thus, it is the minimal duty of all, and of every office-bearer and minister, with vigilance, to protect and to encourage the people's focus and their release of this faith, through the process of praise, into an all encompassing encounter with His immediate presence.
In Summary Then
value of every element in the liturgy of any meeting lies in its direct contribution to the focusing and motivating of God's people in their appreciation of their Lord – whether this is by prayer, song, thanksgiving testimony, rebuke, teaching, etc. – as the love of the Holy Spirit Himself may guide the process.
the natural affect of local human culture on any congregation's worship, such as in-vogue music styles and platform performance, needs a continuing vigilance to prevent a subtle deviation from the purpose of the church meeting, moving it from direct encounter with God (in which the reverent 'fear of the Lord' is always a factor in the joy of His presence) to an audience-increase-orientation to have 'successful' meetings, in which spiritual reality is traded for the world's measure of success.
The Lord's ownership of His people is the foundational orientation for all who have part in any form of ministry in the meetings of God's people, from musicians to worship leaders to preachers, for it gives us a profound love and treasuring of each other, which goes beyond human perceptions of each other.
  "By this we know love, that He laid down His life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers." 1 John 3:16.
Accordingly, the godly-love principle enunciated in 1 Corinthians 13
must be the constant conditioning of every action and attitude in the administration of our church-meeting-methods.
Ministry is of the Holy Spirit, who dwells in each believer at all times. Meetings of the church are demonstrations of a church's identity as the Body of Christ. Meetings of the church are not an opportunity for ministry, but rather the compounding of ministry, which functions in God's people at all times.

Laughter in the Church Church Leadership The Spirit & Your Flesh

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