1 Corinthians 14:26 The Apostle Tells How to Conduct a Local Church Meeting

1 Corinthians 14:26 What is the outcome then, brethren? When you assemble, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification.

This directive is the only clear strategy in the New Testament on “how to have church.” Other Scriptures point to and support this approach.

1 Peter 4:10-11     As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.

Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God; whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

Romans 12:3-8    For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith.

For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.

Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly: if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith; if service, in his serving; or he who teaches, in his teaching; or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.

Ephesians 5:18-19 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord;

Colossians 3:16 Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.

These directives to the Ephesian and Colossian churches don’t explicitly speak of a church gathering, but they make most sense in that context. For instance, we don’t ordinarily go around speaking to each other in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs except during “church” gatherings.

There are, of course, other types of meetings mentioned in the New Testament. Evangelistic meetings as in Lystra, Athens, and other cities used the “main speaker” model. The same is true of Troas where Paul came as a “guest speaker” and he himself preached until daybreak!

1 Corinthians 14:26 appears to be the only directive for a local church meeting in the entire New Testament. Can you name any other?

This raises the question “Why would this be the sole model for New Testament church gatherings?” Many reasons, I’m sure, but I will lead with four.

1) The 1 Corinthians 14:26 model stresses the personal responsibility of every believer. Each believer is expected to come to the meeting prepared to serve or share in some way. No spoon feeding here!

2) This model allows the full use of various gifts. Healings, words of knowledge, revelations from the Word are all in order. The common model where the pastor does it all tends to stifle the gifts of members. If they can’t use their gifts, why did God plant the gifts in them in the first place?

3) This model allows God the freedom to move in unexpected ways.

4) 1 Corinthians 14:26 keeps people on the edge of their seats. No boring church here!

Let me share our experience at the Church of the Living Water in Muscatine, Iowa. We are fresh to this experience so we have no claim on excellence. In our first six months we found the 1 Corinthians model a key component in the transformation process of our fellowship.

When I asked our congregation on a Sunday morning how our church has changed recently, four adults quickly stood to testify. All were enthusiastic. The first said we have more participation, the next said we have more love and understanding of suffering. A third stated we have more sharing and a fourth noted people’s lives are changing to be more like Christ.

Is the 1 Corinthians 14:26 model the only way to do church? No, but it appears to be the most Biblical. My  book Local Churches Global Apostles examines some surprising patterns of effective churches in the New Testament era. Get the book. Could it be a guide to the transformation you are looking for in your church?

I’d like to hear from other pastors, apostles and church leaders who are using this model. What has been your experience? I’d like to hear from you.

This article was originally published July 9, 2013, updated on November 4, 2020.

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