It’s been almost two thousand years since the birth of the Church. A lot has changed during that time. Discoveries in science, education, medicine, and technology have changed the world. This is especially true with the advancement of electronic communication. Let’s face it: computers have transformed the way we live. So, it stands to reason, that if everything in the world is evolving, would it not also be true with the Church? Many prominent leaders are saying that if the Church doesn’t keep pace with society, we won’t be relevant in the 21st century.

That all sounds logical. Life is certainly evolving, good in some ways – not so good in others. The Church is evolving in certain areas, as well. I was just speaking to a colleague the other day about how important hymns and liturgy were in the Church. They played a critical role in teaching and training the illiterate. Many hymns were theological masterpieces, written to teach people about the person and nature of God. Liturgy was, likewise, a means of reinforcing the tenets of the faith.

Today, much of the world, especially in the western culture, no longer struggles with illiteracy. As a result, many churches have moved away from singing hymns and reciting Biblical doctrines. We have opted, instead, for a more current style of worship and practice. Is that wrong? Perhaps, to some, but generally speaking, opting for methods that can better help us learn or bring us into a more Biblical style of worship is never wrong. The problem, however, comes when we move away from the fundamental teachings of Scripture that foster growth, life, and genuine fellowship. Let me explain…

One thing that has changed by moving away from Scripture is the gathering of believers. Today, church is pretty much of a spectator event; in the early Church, everyone participated. Listen to what the Apostle Paul told the Church at Corinth… “How is it then, brethren? Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification.” (I Corinthians 14:26 NKJV)

The Biblical model is very different from what happens in most congregations today. For the most part, church has become a place to receive, but it has not always been that way. In the beginning, everyone came prepared to give, to serve, and to pour out their heart to God. They weren’t there to hear a dynamic preacher or an exciting worship band to stir the soul. They were each there for the edification of the church. So, they lived daily with the Lord, and prepared their hearts to share with the others when they gathered. Each one embraced the responsibility to edify the others, as the Lord led.

There is a reason for God giving us this model: Most of us learn best when we are actively involved. Recently, in one of our meetings, a gal who does not normally preach or teach shared a teaching. Afterward, she told us that she learned much more preparing to give that message than she normally does in studying the Bible. There is wisdom in each of us giving ourselves to prepare. At the very least, our hearts will be ready to meet together with each other and the Lord. We may also be surprised to find gifts we never knew we had! What a joy to minister to each other, as God ministers to us!

And that’s exactly what happened… As in Corinth, our sermons are interactive, a time to share His life. The sister taught what she brought, but so did others, contributing to the message. As a result, the Lord ministered to each of us through the many-membered body – and everyone who participated learned. This is a Biblical model and more effective than having only one person share his or her gift, while everyone else listens.

Many Christians have done little but sit in church and listen. What would the church look like, if we more fully embraced the call to teach others what He has taught us? That was what the early Church did. They didn’t have the New Testament like we do today. The teachings of Jesus, the Apostles, and the post Apostolic Fathers, were passed on verbally. Those who heard were responsible to teach others.

Today, practically everyone owns a Bible – and yet, Biblical illiteracy is a real problem in the Church. It’s not that we don’t have a Bible, we just don’t know it! Again, what if every believer was responsible to teach others what they have learned? All of that would change. Consider the words from the book of Hebrews to those who lagged behind in this area… “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” (Hebrews 5:12-14 NKJV)

One reason the Church may not be impacting the culture today is that we are not properly equipped to do so. I hear Christians say that it’s due to the absence of five-fold ministry. The apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers are supposed to equip us. (Ephesians 4:11-12) Indeed, they are! However, we are also to grow through our personal relationship with God (Colossians 2:19) and by supplying the Spirit to one another. (Ephesians 4:16) We need to grow in all three ways to become mature believers.

So, is the evolution of the Church a good thing? Where it has fostered a more Biblical model of Church life, the answer is a resounding, “Yes!” Worship has certainly evolved in recent years. We have shifted from singing about God – to singing to Him. This new intimacy in worship has impacted the lives of many believers. However, other elements of our meetings have stunted our growth by ignoring Biblical models. As we move forward with the times, perhaps we also need to take a look backward to improve… As Jesus said, “Therefore every scribe instructed concerning the kingdom of heaven is like a householder who brings out of his treasure things new and old. (Matthew 13:52 NKJV)

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