I enjoy watching a good movie and listening to good music as much as the next guy; but sometimes I wonder if our longing for entertainment has snuffed out our desire for the truth. Ezekiel 33:30-32 tells us, “As for you, son of man, your countrymen are talking together about you by the walls and at the doors of the houses, saying to each other, ‘Come and hear the message that has come from the Lord.’ My people come to you, as they usually do, and sit before you to listen to your words, but they do not put them into practice. With their mouths they express devotion, but their hearts are greedy for unjust gain. Indeed, to them you are nothing more than one who sings love songs with a beautiful voice and plays an instrument well, for they hear your words but do not put them into practice” (NIV).
Sometimes I think church services have become more like theater. Don’t get me wrong I don’t want to sit through a church “service” that is boring or dry anymore than you do, but if I constantly have to be entertained in order to attend, I may need to check my spiritual condition.
I don’t think God ever intended for our gatherings to be one or two people doing all the singing, preaching or teaching and the rest sitting there watching and critiquing the performance. In fact, as I have been studying 1 Corinthians lately, it seems the church in Corinth may have had the opposite problem. Paul told them in 14:26-27 “When you assemble, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification.” He goes on to tell us, whether it’s speaking in tongues or prophesying, two or three should participate. “For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all may be exhorted; and the spirit of the prophets are subject to prophets…” 1 Corinthians 14:31-32 (NAS).
So whereas nowadays we tend to have one person speaking or “prophesying”, back in Paul’s day there were many who wanted to share something with the church. Of course we know this may become a bit difficult if you have a hundred people, and they all want to say something, but that’s when wisdom comes in, after all Paul did say, “the spirit of the prophet is subject to prophets.” In other words, we may have to show restraint from time to time and learn to keep our mouths shut in order to let the whole body participate.
I say all this not to ridicule anyone but rather to bring attention to what the church “gathered” is really for. It isn’t for a small few to entertain the rest but it’s for the body as a whole to edify one another. If the church really is in a battle with “the world forces of this darkness and against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places”, entertainment is not a sufficient weapon. While I agree there isn’t a particular formula for conducting church “services”, and variety is to be expected, one thing is for sure. When I drive away with the family after a church service, I want it to generate a little more than just “Wasn’t that a lovely service?”
The following is an extended quote taken from “An Appeal” by William Law.
Thinking and willing are eternal, they never began to be. Nothing can think or will now, in which there was not will and thought from all eternity. For it is as possible for thought in general to begin to be, as for that which thinks in a particular creature to begin to be of a thinking nature: therefore, the soul, which is a thinking, willing being, is come forth or created out of that which hath willed and thought in God from all eternity. The created soul is a creature of time and had its beginning on the sixth day of the creation; but the essences of the soul, which were then formed into a creature and into a state of distinction from God, had been in God from all eternity, or they could not have been breathed forth from God into the form of a living creature.
And herein lies the true ground and depth of the uncontrollable freedom of our will and thoughts: they must have a self-motion and self-direction, because they came out of the self-existent God. They are eternal, divine powers that never began to be, and therefore cannot begin to be in subjection to anything. That which thinks and wills in the soul is that very same unbeginning breath which thought and willed in God, before it was breathed into the form of a human soul; and therefore it is, that will and thought cannot be bounded or constrained.
Herein also appears the high dignity and never-ceasing perpetuity of our nature. The essences of our souls can never cease to be, because they never began to be: and nothing can live eternally, but that which hath lived from all eternity. The essences of our soul were a breath in God before they became a living soul. They lived in God before they lived in the created soul, and therefore the soul is a partaker of the eternity of God and can never cease to be. Here, O man, behold the great original and the high state of thy birth, here let all that is within thee praise thy God, who has brought thee into so high a state of being, who has given thee powers as eternal and boundless as His own attributes, that there might be no end or limits of thy happiness in Him. Thou begannest as time began, but as time was in eternity before it became days and years, so thou wast in God before thou wast brought into the creation: and as time is neither a part of eternity, nor broken off from it, yet come out of it; so thou art not a part of God, nor broken off from Him, yet born out of Him. Thou shouldst only will that which God willeth, only love that which He loveth, co-operate and unite with Him in the whole form of thy life, because all that thou art, all that thou hast, is only a spark of His own life and spirit derived into thee. If thou desirest, inclinest, and turnest to God, as the flowers of the field desire and turn towards the sun, all the blessings of the Deity will spring up in thee; Father, Son, and Holy Ghost will make their abode with thee. If thou turnest in towards thyself, to live to thyself, to be happy in the workings of an own will, to be rich in the sharpness and acuteness of thy own reason, thou choosest to be a weed, and canst only have such a life, spirit and blessing from God as a thistle has from the sun.”