“What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up.” (1 Corinthians 14:26)
A Concert Hall Or A Banquet Hall?
A couple of years ago, I did some reading about a really interesting analogy—one which had to do with pinpointing the nature of the local church’s weekly gathering. As I’ve sought to plan and lead LifePoint’s worship services in a biblically faithful manner, I can’t get away from this analogy. It has stuck with me in a profound way, which is why I want to share it with you now. It was actually framed in a question.
Is a worship service more like a concert hall or a banquet hall?
At first glance, you may be wondering what exactly is meant by that. I did too—that is, until I read the following explanation from a thoughtful pastor by the name of Mike Cosper. This right here makes a lot of sense:
If [a worship service is like] a concert hall, we show up as passive observers and critics, eager to have the itches of our preferences and felt needs scratched. A banquet hall, by contrast, is a communal gathering. We come hungry and in community, ready to participate and share the experience with one another. In the New Testament, the glimpses we’re given of the gathered church are very much like the banquet hall. The church comes together with the expectation of participating by giving and receiving. There’s an expectation that the members gather with work to do.
That idea resonates deeply with me because it proposes a biblically defined perception of the church’s gatherings. In doing so, it confronts our innate tendency to evaluate what’s happening on Sundays from the standpoint of an inactive, consumer-minded spectator. But what’s more, it prompts us to receive the mind of Christ whereby we perceive the church and its gatherings in a manner that is worthy of Him (1 Co. 2:16). Whether we realize it or not, this is something we all desperately need because we live each day in a concert-hall culture, which has wired us to evaluate everything based on the precarious whims of our own subjective opinions.
God has designed the Lord’s Day to be different.
Maintaining a United Gospel Witness
This “concert hall vs. banquet hall” understanding of gathered worship is critically important for LifePoint right now. It matters because our congregation is just days away from entering into what is arguably the most monumental season in our twelve-year history. Yes, of course I’m talking about the whole three-services thing. But on top of that, Community Groups, KidLife Discipleship and StudentLife: The Gathering are all re-launching next week as well.
Leading up to all of that, I want to offer what I believe is both a simple encouragement and a key instruction regarding LifePoint’s gatherings. And it’s this: if there’s one thing we can’t afford to come to church without, it’s a banquet-hall outlook. We must silence our inner spectator in order to be ready to set the pace for faithful participation and engagement among our congregation.
The Apostle Paul prescribed this same outlook in no uncertain terms when he wrote his first letter to the church in Corinth. By all indication, the Corinthians were a highly problematic church. It seems that a contingency of its members were showing up to worship gatherings both to flaunt their so-called superior gifts (14:6-12) and to gorge themselves at the Lord’s table (11:17-22), getting what they wanted out of the gathering and not caring at all about the negative impact it was having on the rest of the congregation. It was consumer-mindedness in its most blatant and destructive form.
Yet Paul contrasts their selfish conduct by showing them a better way. He wisely called upon them to maintain a united Gospel witness. This is perhaps most notable in 1 Corinthians 14:26 (quoted above) where he reminds them that whatever each member of the Body contributes to the gathering, it must build up the entire congregation toward greater faithfulness to the Gospel. In other words, Paul desired for the Corinthians to adopt a banquet-hall outlook. He knew what was at stake.
During this next season in our church, the very same thing is at stake. That is to say, if we’re going to maintain a united Gospel witness, we must contribute to the life of our congregation in a way that builds up the Body toward greater love and faithfulness. Whether we’re singing a hymn together on Sunday morning, serving on Wednesdays with KidLife Discipleship or spending an evening with our Community Group, we must adopt a banquet-hall outlook. In all we do together, let’s labor by the Spirit’s power to set the pace for others, demonstrating what it means to participate and remain engaged as a member of Christ’s Body.
So what are you thinking right now? Is there a chance you might bring the lingering effects of a concert-hall mentality when you walk into the worship room this Sunday? If so, I pray that the Holy Spirit will help you discern that and repent of it today.
After all, the church isn’t where spectators go to be entertained. Nothing could be further from the truth, regardless of what our consumer-minded culture would have you think. No, the church is a Gospel-formed band of pardoned sinners who gather regularly to receive the mind of Christ so that we can honor Him and bless others. That’s what the Bible teaches. As we’ve seen, it’s abundantly clear about the banquet-hall nature of the church’s gathering. So as we gather this Sunday, let’s be sure to bring that same outlook with us. It’s the one thing we can’t afford to forget.
Songs for Sunday, August 21, 2016:
Your Great Name
As performed by Austin Stone Worship
Rock of Ages
As performed by Northwest Collective
All I Have is Christ
As performed by Sovereign Grace Music
O Come to the Altar
As performed by Elevation Worship
Beneath The Waters (I Will Rise)
As performed by Hillsong Worship