Remember that a big thing for us is that the church is people. Important within that is our gathering together - it achieves something we cannot do online or any other way. One of our strategic areas of development this year is to pay attention to God working among us when we gather (we are calling it our 'corporate capacity') - which includes our Sunday worship together, our members meetings, and our whole church prayer events. Since 'God is with us' (the Christmas good news), it should not surprise us to see signs of God and His Kingdom working among us when we meet. Jesus physically revealed God, and now as we meet together all with our hearts set on Him, it seems a natural consequence that Jesus goes on revealing God to us, releasing ministry in the process.
So on this topic Paul is very positive about prophecy (God revealing). Yet in the passage Paul contrasts this to another gift - tongues - and appears to be quite negative about it. Yet it is a mistake to think that Paul is against tongues: v26 and 39 remind us that everyone has a role to play and that can include using the gift of tongues, even when gathered.
Rather Paul is getting at the possibility of tongues in a corporate setting becoming problematic. In short we can put it like this:
- Prophecy - is God revealing to draw together (i.e. uniting), unlocking our lives and ministering among us
- Tongues - is often God with an individual in private communion. In a public setting this could be seen as exclusive, and could have a splitting effect (i.e. the opposite of the uniting Paul wants to see). In the worst case an outsider coming in may simply thing everyone is mad, or part of some strange experience-seeking cult
So when we gather, how might each of us be open and willing for God to move among us? Jesus talked of living water, so let us enter the flow of that which He gives for cleansing, healing and refreshing. Let us be open to multiple Pentecosts, i.e. His outpouring again and again. Of course we cannot force this, but a good place to start is to rejoice in Him, his grace, might and power. This focusses our attention on Him rather than us or our needs. Make it our decision to find joy before the Lord, not being afraid for the sheer awesomeness of His glory to over-ride where we might otherwise have inhibitions.
In that joy come to a place of waiting, listening and hearing from Him. Maybe there is a certain truth God is saying or bringing to your mind. Speak it out! Offer it for the others gathered. At times we might fix on a simple refrain, singing those words over and over to allow the meaning to embed deeper within us. At other times silence and waiting may become more appropriate. Even movement and dancing can contribute, because there is no set or prescribed way - we simply desire His presence, revelation and ministering among us.
Exodus, 2 Kings, Ezra and Acts all have examples of God being powerfully present in the people gathered. In each case people go with a greater sense of God and His purposes, lives are changed. That is our prayer for each Sunday. Let us make it our desire and expectation - for all our meetings: Sundays to worship, members meetings to celebrate and discern His work, and whole church prayer gatherings. Even down to the smaller gatherings like small groups - may they meet and come away knowing they have done business with God.
Why shouldn't we see God move powerfully among us? Let us go forward with expectancy, open to His presence among us and all that may bring. May it be about Him, God with us, revealing Himself and His ways ever more, being pleased to minister among us.