Daily posts to help you connect with God
and keep yourself travelling in the right orbit
ORBIT | WEEK THIRTEEN
ORBIT – DAY SIXTY TWO
Hello and welcome to another Orbit, the weekday devotional from the youth team at St Mary’s Reigate. If you’re just joining us for the first time, Orbit is a daily Bible reading, with some thoughts to help you put it into practice in your life. We hope this is useful – if you like it, please do spread the word!
The reading today is slightly longer – but I’ve given you the whole thing rather than editing it down. To explain the context – this is Paul telling the church in Corinth about how to conduct their services.
BIBLE READING – 1 Corinthians 14: 26-33
What then shall we say, brothers and sisters? When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. Everything must be done so that the church may be built up. If anyone speaks in a tongue, two—or at the most three—should speak, one at a time, and someone must interpret. If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church and speak to himself and to God.
Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said. And if a revelation comes to someone who is sitting down, the first speaker should stop. For you can all prophesy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged. The spirits of prophets are subject to the control of prophets. For God is not a God of disorder but of peace — as in all the congregations of the Lord’s people.
First of all, it probably didn’t sound too thrilling when I said that today’s reading was a list of instructions about how to hold church services; second of all, you’ve probably never been to a church service that was quite like this! Each person bringing their own hymn or mini-sermon; people speaking in tongues; prophets sharing their divinely-inspired wisdom. On one level it sounds like chaos compared to what we might experience in the Church of England or other modern denominations.
Yet at the same time, the whole point is that this is far from chaotic. Paul is actually giving some fairly strict rules for what should and shouldn’t happen in a church service. Rule one: everything that happens, should be done in such a way that it builds up others. This isn’t about gifted preachers receiving acclaim for their abilities, or even musicians being praised and selling albums off the back of their great worship songs. This is about everyone taking part, and everyone’s part being equally valuable.
Rule two: there needs to be a structure and an order to things. If people are to speak in tongues – which is never a high priority to Paul anyway – then they should speak one at a time, and there should be three of them at the most. There should be the same number of prophets – people bringing words of encouragement from the Holy Spirit – and they too should prophesy in turn. God, says Paul, is a not a God of disorder but of peace. He doesn’t want church to be a place of chaos, but a place of safety, where his people are genuinely seeking to love one another, and him.
The third and final rule: in church, God is still in charge. All of the elements of Paul’s imagined church service – the tongues, the prophecies, the revelations and the interpretations – all of them still come from God. Without his presence and involvement, this is just a group of people standing around, acting weird. That’s why Paul includes an extra instruction – if someone is sitting down, and hears God speak to them, they should stand up and speak, and the previous speaker should stop to let them.
Three important rules for church: equality, order, and listening to the Holy Spirit. The big challenge for us to think about today: how much do our modern church services really resemble what Paul is describing? We do a pretty good job in today’s church of being ordered and organised… but do we make enough room for the spontaneity of the Spirit, or even for each other?
There are lots of great things about the way we do church today, but it’s always helpful to look back and learn from what the early church did too. Equality, order, and listening to the Holy Spirit – ideals that need to remain at the heart of every church family, ours included.
You might want to join me in praying this prayer.
Lord, I thank you for your church, and for calling me to play a part in it. I ask that you would use me to build up other members of my church family, and that I would meet you and experience you through taking part in it. Amen
There’s now a chance for you to pray, or listen to God, or simply be still for a few moments.
Each day we will provide you with a simple challenge; something to do which helps you put this little thought into action. Here’s today’s challenge:
Spend some time today praying for the leaders of your church – that God would bless them, build them up, and help them to capture some of the spirit of the early church described in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians. If you’re wondering how else to pray for them – why not get in touch with one of them, and ask?
If you want to get in touch, you can always email email@example.com, or message us on Instagram – we’re @stmarys_satellites. Let us know what you think of this daily reflection – please – we’d love your feedback.
We’ll be back with another edition of Orbit tomorrow. Thanks for taking part today!