I'm a young man of seventeen and have been raised and brought up in a very conservative Christian home. I could go on and on about my father, the efforts of my mother, and the great strides I've been extremely blessed to make in being an active member in the church, but there is a very pressing matter at hand.
We currently attend a congregation close by and have been doing so for the past few years. Over time there has been some minor incurrence on the Scriptures, but after expressing concern these were stopped. For example, they bought a projector to put up verses for the sermon, but then during one sermon put up a video display of fireworks. I immediately spoke with the preacher's wife (who is the one to actually put the PowerPoints together) and this was not done again -- at least so far — though they still put up an image of three crosses during the communion.
And more than a few times either the preacher, or the only other elder who preaches, have solicited comments and questions from the church during sermons (as they would in Bible classes) during worship service. I would hope and have always hoped they merely did this unwittingly and out of reflex. (I am rather unsure about the level of study these men hold, but have never questioned it.) My father would talk to them, bringing up I Corinthians 14:26-40, and they would stop, but invariably do it again. Then just the other night, our regular preacher got up at the point where he would do the sermon, the services completely normal up till then, and announced that after speaking with the other elder he felt that it was perfectly fine to have a lesson that night in place of a sermon and that he not only wanted, but expected members of the congregation to participate.
My father has expressed sentiments towards perhaps leaving this congregation and going back to the further one he used to preach at. This would be against all of what we want to do — I've been making great progress in teaching the youth group here, with a great deal of fantastic help from your web site I might add, and thus would hate to leave them there like that. We've decided to speak with other members of the church and then bring to the other elders this Wednesday night what all we can put together.
My father grew up in a very conservative, southern congregation that even taught that it was wrong to have a time set aside for Bible study, as it is not actually permitted by the Scriptures, and so heard I Corinthians 14:26-40 used a great deal in debate. Of course the Scriptures do command the use of teachers and so he has not retained the feeling that it is wrong to have a time set aside for Bible study, but that is set aside so that is may not interfere with where it says, "When the whole Church has gathered together," and the verses mentioned regarding the taking of turns to speak, and of course the silence of women in the assembly. As long as the Bible study is set apart from the worship service itself — to my understanding — then women can speak and several rules regarding the order of worship do not apply. But what our regular minister stated would be placing the Bible study within worship and thus giving way to why those more conservative churches didn't want it in the first place! Not to mention that our minister's words practically, boldly encouraged women to speak out. From what I have found I am affirmed that the Scriptures give no place for such an interactive verbal exchange during worship services and thus feel that the preacher is stepping out of line. I am relieved to say that the congregation at least did not participate as our preacher wanted, but a visitor did, and it seemed a few were happy with the change — as can be expected of those poorly studied in the Scriptures.
We are at great odds with this. As I said, it is a most pressing matter — please, what do you know from the Bible regarding a matter such as this? Thank you in all earnest.
"Let all things be done decently and in order" (I Corinthians 14:40).
As you understand, a church is to offer classes in order to edify its members (Ephesians 4:11-16). These classes, however, are separate from the worship assembly which is discussed in I Corinthians 14.
Focusing on the worship assembly, the rules given by Paul in I Corinthians 14 deal with three issues: that each task of worship contributes to the edification of the congregation, that each task of worship is given time to be done without interruption, and that no one task uses up all the available time. "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. If anyone speaks in a tongue, let there be two or at the most three, each in turn, and let one interpret. But if there is no interpreter, let him keep silent in church, and let him speak to himself and to God. Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others judge. But if anything is revealed to another who sits by, let the first keep silent. For you can all prophesy one by one, that all may learn and all may be encouraged. And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets. For God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints. Let your women keep silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak; but they are to be submissive, as the law also says. And if they want to learn something, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is shameful for women to speak in church" (I Corinthians 14:26-35).
Notice that "teaching" or "instruction in doctrine" is included in the list of things that can be done during a worship assembly. However, the rule of women not speaking during the worship assembly still remains. If a preacher wishes to involve the audience, he should make it very clear that only the men are to answer. To encourage women to speak during this time is a direct violation of what Paul stated.
If a congregation decides it needs more instructional time, then it needs to be announced in advance. For example, there was a period of time that La Vista decided it needed to address a number of questions members had. We set aside one Sunday evening a month to deal with the issues. On that evening we had a shorten worship service and then dismissed. Those who wanted to stay for the questions were invited to do so. We tried hard to make sure the two times were distinct even though one followed the other.