Most people think 1 Corinthians 14 is only about whether we should speak in tongues in church or not. What I found when preaching on this text a few weeks ago was a much broader, and in my opinion, much more important meaning. What this chapter ultimately answers is the question, What is the purpose of a church gathering? …and uses the spiritual gift of tongues versus the gift of prophecy as a case study example to answer this question.
You can check out the entire sermon below, but ultimately the text shows over and over again that the purpose of what we do in a public church service is to edify the rest of the congregation, not to edify ourselves. With that in mind…
- When you get to church on a Sunday, what is your mission?
Answer A: To worship God, to learn and grow spiritually, to see my existing friends, for my kids to grow.
Answer B: All of the above + to help new people feel welcomed, to look around for people who look lonely and go talk to them, to serve, to help people get plugged in to the church, to see if I can pray for anyone, to intentionally build friendships with disconnected people.
It’s not that the things in Option A are bad, but 1 Corinthians 14 is clear that these things are not the mission and purpose of Sunday mornings. These things edify us as individuals. In fact, you could do all of these things at home while watching a church service on television. If you are a committed Christian and this is all you are doing on a Sunday morning, you aren’t obeying Scripture.
I challenge you: don’t be this type of churchgoer. 1 Corinthians 14 is clear that we are to build up the church when we attend church, not simply edify ourselves:
1 Corinthians 14:4 Anyone who speaks in a tongue edifies themselves, but the one who prophesies edifies the church.
5 The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be edified.
12 Since you are eager for gifts of the Spirit, try to excel in those that build up the church.
17 You are giving thanks well enough, but no one else is edified.
26 Everything must be done so that the church may be built up.
What do you personally do on a Sunday morning that builds up the church?
Are you a customer of your church’s mission?
Or are you a contributor to your church’s mission?
Do you go into the restaurant and pay money in order to be fed?
Or are you a co-owner and an employee of the restaurant, serving faithfully so that the mission of your church can be lived out? So that the mission of Jesus’ Church can be lived out?
Most Christians are petrified to share the gospel of Jesus with people because we fear rejection. I am continually amazed at how visitors and non-Christians enter the doors of my church every single Sunday, and the doors of many churches around the world every Sunday, looking for Jesus. Looking for someone who will help them find him. But so often Christian churchgoers are only focused on their own mission and their own self-edification that they never pay any attention to what the Bible tells them they are to be doing on a Sunday morning, which is to build up the church and to not create foreigners in the church (1 Corinthians 12:11-12).
This isn’t just some pastor pleading with you to get more involved at your church. This is the echo of the Apostle Paul’s heart to the church at Corinth, challenging and calling out Christians to not see a church service as something that is all about them, but seeing a church service as the mission of reaching those who don’t know Jesus. And he’s not talking about the sermon content or the music style, he’s talking to churchgoers and what their purpose is for gathering. There are so many lost people who are walking into our churches every Sunday, then walking right out without anyone saying a word to them, without anyone showing the love of Christ to them. So many lost people looking for Jesus in churchgoers, only to walk out never finding him.
Yes it’s a little uncomfortable.
Yes it’s a little inconvenient.
But it is God’s Word to you and God’s will for you.
It’s God’s purpose for your church service: not that you are built up, but that your church is built up. Not that foreigners are kept at bay, but that foreigners become family members.
Sunday is coming. If you are planning on going to church, take a moment to stop, pray, and align your purpose for being there with God’s purpose for you to be there. I guarantee God will give you plenty of people to show the love of Christ to through simple friendly conversation. What better act of Sunday morning worship than to obey God in this way?
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