Friday, May 21, 2010

One Way

The One Way sign is a good symbol for what happens when most churches come together for their primary gatherings. The communication is almost all one way. Someone stands behind a microphone and announces/speaks to everyone else. That person is usually one of two people: the "worship leader" or the pastor. These two people get to exercise their spiritual gifts for the edification of others as the communication flows in one direction. In most instances, the only group communication comes in the form of singing; these songs, however, are selected not by the group but by the "worship leader."

The problem with this one way communication is that it doesn't follow what we see in the bible. When we look at the early church, we see group communication, group edification, and group exercise of spiritual gifts. Instead of seeing a ceremony that includes an "order of worship," stage, and pews, we read about people meeting in homes sharing with each other, encouraging each other, and building one another up in the faith.

In a typical, modern, institutional church gathering, there may be 150 people present. If all 150 were invited to exercise their spiritual gifts, a great deal of edification could take place. However, we know that in a typical worship service, only about 5 of those 150 ever get to speak. And, it is one person, the pastor, who does the vast majority of the speaking. When this happens, it starves the church. These five people's spiritual gifts are not enough to meet the needs of the body. Everyone needs to be actively using their gifts and invited to do so.

If we look at a small, biblically-modeled church gathering, we will see something very different. There may only be 20 people present, but all are invited and encouraged to exercise their spiritual gifts. In this way of multiple and mutual communication, all 20 people are edified by all 20 people using their gifts. In this case, the church thrives because all parts of the body are working. No one person has to do too much. Everyone works together.

As we think about our church gatherings, let us encourage a movement toward not one or two way communication, but multiple direction communication. Keeping in mind that all things must be done in an orderly manner, let's encourage and invite everyone in the church to exhort one another to holy, God-honoring lives. Let's encourage each other to serve the church and the broader community through good works.

Let us be active as we come together. Let us participate. Let us seek and encourage the entire body to use its spiritual gifts as we gather together.


Aussie John said...


Your article causes me to draw a parallel between traditional ecclesiology and traffic trying to go the wrong way down a one way street.

What do you think?

Eric said...


It seems to me that the church gathering described in scripture would be best described as a multi-way street. One-way communication is certainly not envisioned.

Pastor Leo said...

I'd like to read your thoughts about how this would look on a typical Sunday AM. How does this work at Chevis Oaks?

Eric said...


The primary difficulty is that in a traditional setting, it does not work. One of the main reasons for this is that the architecture does not allow for it. The size of the body also causes difficulty. Additionally, most pastors simply would not allow for this because they expect to do the vast majority of the speaking.

One way to move in a positive direction is to have a time for sharing in each gathering where everyone is given the opportunity to speak. We have done this at Chevis Oaks. When people will speak, it is beautiful and edifying.

Mark said...

I think Leo's question is the question asked by many people in modern church settings. The difficulty thing for most of us outside of that is the fact that there is not a visible, living example of this that we can point to. The truth is, the questions about "how would it look" really can't be answered. What can be answered for sure is that it wouldn't look like "church on Sunday". We can also say that it would involve each individual contributing, to build one another up. We can say that there will be teaching singing, prophesying, etc. Beyond that, we may not be able to answer much. This is, in reality, a wonderful thing, in that it is an opportunity for us to follow the lead of the Holy Spirit, as He builds what he wants, because only He really knows "how it should look". We can't get caught up on needing to know exactly what the alternative to modern church would look like. We need only to know that there is a better way, seek after Christ for that way, and trust Him and do as he instructs.

Eric said...


Thanks for commenting.

As to how it would look, I think we do have a pretty good idea - if we want to follow what is modeled for us biblically. In fact, you mentioned it when you wrote, "it would involve each individual contributing, to build one another up. We can say that there will be teaching singing, prophesying, etc." Clearly, everyone would be invited to exercise their spiritual gifts to the edification of the body.