Happy Mother’s day to all you mothers out there. Today’s message is one I did a little while ago. I showed the Tuesday Video as an sermon introduction when I preached it so here is it for you to watch below, It’s just like you’re in Church. Enjoy and be challenged.
I preached from 1 Corinthians 14, you can read it here.
It’s a great clip isn’t it. This has to be one of my favorite videos on youtube, “Me Church, where it’s all about me.” There is also another clip out there, called “me worship”, you should look it up, it is this guy on the piano singing worship songs to himself. He sings songs like; “I exult me”, “I lift my name on high”, “It’s all about me”, and other classics so look it up, “me worship”.
Now while these clips are done in fun there is a serious side to them. They are a bit scary if you think about it. It think what makes them scary is the fact that there are churches and christians out there who wouldn’t see a problem with the content of these clips.
In fact they may even see these clips as a legitimate advert for the church of their dreams. They may see these clips and want to pick up the phone and find out when the services are. Now I’m sure these churches out there are American churches not Australian, and they’re probably American pentecostal churches not baptist churches.
Anyway whoever these churches are they’re not our church, neither are the individuals us. We’re better than that. And well, even if this clip was speaking to our church, which it isn’t, it certainly wasn’t speaking to me. Maybe, looking around there probably are a few of you who it was speaking to, but it definitely wasn’t speaking to me or challenging me about how I view church. Or was it…?
If we take a step back for a moment and put on our cultural awareness glasses it shouldn’t be very hard to see that our culture-middle class, white australian culture, focuses on me. Me and what I can get and enjoy for me. Advertising, pop culture, lifestyle shows and the like all preach a message of me, myself and I.
We often hear people say, I’m looking after number 1. What I can do, and get for myself is almost like a goal for our culture, a sign of success and achievement. In the business world and so many others, it’s survival of the fittest, and so I do all that I can to prop myself up, even at the cost of my integrity and character, and relationships.
Western Culture says it’s all about me. I guess the tragedy for us today, that these clips highlight, is that: all too often, instead of the church influencing the culture around it, it is in fact the culture that influences the church. And what we begin to find is the church is just another place for my needs to be met.
Even just this week talking with friends up in perth, I heard about that, ‘me church mentality.’ Apparently their church has had to go back to running children’s Sunday school for the whole service not just during the message.
I think what happened is that they used to do it that way and then decided to change it, to run just during the message so that the kids and Sunday school leaders could participate in the corporate worship together.
But unfortunately there was so many complaints about kids church being shortened, and parents having to look after their kids during worship rather than the Sunday school, that the church had to change it back to being run for the whole service.
Now I know we laugh at stories like this, but unfortunately it is so easy for us all to fall into the trap of thinking ‘me church, where it’s all about me.’ And when we fall into this trap we actually loose sight of why we come to church in the first place.
And so again we come to the book of 1 Corinthians to be encouraged by a church, that judging by it’s antics, you’d expect to find in the 21st century not the 1st century, and encouraged by preaching from Paul though 2000 years ago, is so encouraging and relevant for us today.
See the Corinthian church struggled with the ‘me church complex’ as well. Reading through this chapter there seems to be a few cases of “me church” finding it’s way into ‘Jesus Church”.
This chapter is all about Paul spotting the “me church” tendencies and encouraging the corinthians to move away from “it’s all about me” by exhorting them to a better place where brothers and sisters look after each other, where people are selfless rather than selfish. There is a lot of good things to learn from this chapter.
It’s a long chapter, 40 verses in fact. However these first few verses, verses 1 -5, gives us a pretty good introduction to the problem that the Corinthian church was dealing with.
(1 Corinthians 14:1–5 NIV11) “1 Follow the way of love and eagerly desire gifts of the Spirit, especially prophecy. 2 For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to people but to God. Indeed, no one understands them; they utter mysteries by the Spirit. 3 But the one who prophesies speaks to people for their strengthening, encouraging and comfort. 4 Anyone who speaks in a tongue edifies themselves, but the one who prophesies edifies the church. 5 I would like every one of you to speak in tongues, but I would rather have you prophesy. The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be edified.”
Within this chapter we discover the Corinthians strong leaning towards the gift of tongues, a gift that builds up ‘me’ rather than prophecy that builds ‘us’ up.
The Corinthians are desiring spiritual gifts, however instead of using their spiritual gifts for the common good, they are seeking the gift that focuses on me, the one that builds me up.
Now your probably thinking like Paul, that focusing on our relationship with God is not a bad thing, in fact it’s something to be encouraged. And you’d be right, encouraging engaging with God and developing that relationship is important.
There is a number of verses in this chapter where speaking in tongues is encouraged, these verses are; verses 5, 13, 18 (where Paul says he speaks in tongues more than anyone), and 39.
So that is all good, tongues shouldn’t be dismissed or frowned upon, but we need to remember that these last few chapters, chapters 10-14, have been looking at church practice, answering the question, “How are we as a group of individuals now meant to live as a unified community?”
These chapters are less about looking at individual relationships to God, and more about helping christians to live as brothers and sisters, with Christ as the king.
When we look at this particular chapter, we should notice which Chapters it’s in the middle of. I wonder if it’s very location is meant as a sort-of gentle reminder that it’s not all about me. I wonder if Paul has purposely put these words here to send a subtle message.
See because when he’s talking about the Church and church practice in 14 he’s already written his ‘love manifesto’ in the famous ‘love chapter’ chapter 13. And so with love fresh in our minds we move straight into how we are meant to act when we come together for worship. But not only that in the next chapter, chapter 15 Paul begins talking about the Gospel, and outlining what the Gospel is. And so what are we meant to make of that?
It’s as if Paul, by putting this chapter where it is, is saying love and the gospel should be at the forefront of your minds when you come together, ‘me church’ doesn’t have a place when a congregation is a ‘love and gospel’ driven church. And with this in our minds lets look more closely at this chapter.
In this chapter Paul says, sure speak in tongues. In verse 5, as I’ve already mentioned, he says, “I would like everyone to speak in tongues…” So tongues are good but what he’s saying though is don’t let speaking in tongues get in the way of the important gift of prophecy.
Why? Well Paul believes that prophesy builds up the church. The last part of verse 5 says that prophecy edifies the Church.
So prophecy builds up the Church, and this is exactly what Paul is saying is required when we come together. And so now this would be a good time to explain prophecy, and how it builds up the church.
I’ll also take this time to look more closely at the gift of tongues and explain how tongues is more of a ‘me’ gift rather than an ‘us’ gift, though, as we’ll find, it can be that too.
Ok so tongues, what are they and what do they do in the life of the believer and the church? Firstly though, I want to point out, speaking in tongues, is not evil, or wrong, or even to be frowned upon. There is a general consensus amongst the apostles and early church that tongues was a spiritual gift, given by the Holy Spirit.
Speaking in tongues is a form of prayer, in verse 2 Paul says the person who speaks in tongues speaks to God. But the form that it takes means that what is being said is indecipherable to others, like babel, in fact I think Elizabeth is speaking in tongues at the moment.
Paul says in verse 11, If then I do not grasp the meaning of what someone is saying, I am a foreigner to the speaker, and the speaker is a foreigner to me. And so while tongues are a gift from God, to help people in their praying to God, they are not beneficial to the whole church because no one understands each other and in fact can become foreigners to each other.
Paul says it will be a bit like speaking into the air, or a trumpet sounding random notes confusing soldiers wanting to know, “is that the charge for battle or the charge to retreat.” Tongues according to Paul doesn’t have a place in corporate worship, it should be practiced in the privacy of your home.
However Paul does make exceptions, in verse 27 Paul says you can speak in tongues, in fact two or three of you can, but, and here is the clause, there must be someone to interpret. Words which are not understood are no help but words which are interpreted are. But as a general rule, tongues are for home, and not for church. A “me” gift rather than a “building up the church” gift, and we want the latter.
And so now we move onto prophecy, the spiritual gift that Paul says we are eagerly to desire. Prophecy is a gift from God, intended to convey God’s messages to his people and to the world. In a sense the Bible is a prophetic book, for it conveys the message of God to the world.
However there are specific messages and instructions for people at specific times and situations-so the prophet is important. Now it should be said that prophets, are not fortune tellers, they don’t predict the future.
They convey the message of God, often the prophets of the Old testament would prophesy, ‘If you do this…God is going to do this…’ In verses 24-25 we see the office of prophecy being used in a light that at first seems a bit harsh but at the end is clearly seen to build up and strengthen,
“(1 Corinthians 14:24–25 NIV11) “24 But if an unbeliever or an inquirer comes in while everyone is prophesying, they are convicted of sin and are brought under judgment by all, 25 as the secrets of their hearts are laid bare. So they will fall down and worship God, exclaiming, “God is really among you!”” So with this example Prophecy builds up.
And that just about sums it up. For the Corinthians coming together was about building each other up, not about me over you, or my gift taking precedent over yours. The Corinthians were seeking spiritual gifts, maybe for the wrong reasons. Regardless of their motives Paul encourages then, if you’re going to seek gifts seek the ones that build up the church.
This passage should be one of encouragement for us as well; Helping us in our journey together, we are a family and as a family we look out for one another and build each other up.
Now while we may all not have the gift of prophecy or the gift of tongues, or the gift of interpreting those tongues, we all have gifts, and abilities, we all have something to bring to the table, something to offer.
So yes, while church should benefit me, and build me up, and help me in my spiritual journey; these things are not the primary goal of going to church, rather these things should be seen as side effects. By building others up, I myself am built up.
In fact there should really be, written on a label, on the side of the church, right under the warning that ‘this church may contain nuts’ a warning saying that says as a side effect you may be built up and encouraged.’
In closing today I have a challenge for you, for us. See because a message is not just meant to be heard but acted upon. I want you to find a genuine way, as we go into the hall, and chat and have a drink and some goodies, to be selfless, to build others up rather than yourself. Whether that be making a drink for someone, or offering someone a biscuit. Or maybe it’s asking someone how they are doing, how they are really doing.
See Jesus is our model. He showed us how to do Church, how to build others up rather than ourselves. As I finish I want to read Philippians 2:5-8.
“In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!”
Here is the example to follow, me church or love and gospel church, that is the question.