Services the Early-Church Way
by Pastor Jim Feeney, Ph.D.
- Summary: The early Church walked in Pentecostal power. Church services were vibrant and Spirit-filled, and they featured spiritual worship, anointed preaching/teaching, and the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit. We should expect the same.
1 Corinthians 14:26 What then shall we say, brothers? When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church.
KJV: ...hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying.
- •• When the congregation gathers for church services (“comes together”), there are certain fundamental things that take place “for the strengthening of the church”.
- •  A psalm,  a doctrine,  a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation.
• Or, summarized: worship ... Word ... and gifts of the Holy Spirit. Let’s see how these three elements contribute powerfully to biblical, Spirit-filled, Pentecostal church services as in the bible days.
1) “A PSALM [KJV]... a HYMN [NIV]”
The American Heritage Dictionary defines a hymn as: “A song of praise or thanksgiving to God.” Vine’s dictionary of Greek words says that a psalm is “A sacred song, sung to musical accompaniment.”
- •• Spirit-led, Spirit-filled worship is just that — songs of praise or thanksgiving to God.
Ephesians 5:18-20 ...be filled with the Spirit. Speak to one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
- •• Spirit-filled people worship God in “psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs”. These words are three ways of saying essentially the same thing.
•• Spirit-filled people gather to “ sing and  make music in [their] hearts  to the Lord.”
-  “Sing!” Open your mouth and sing to the Lord.
 Let the music also be “in [your] heart”. Set aside the day’s worries and cares. Let your heart be stirred by the Lord.
 Let it all be “to the Lord”.
- •• This type of worship — Holy-Spirit-prompted ... songs of praise and thanks ... sung from our hearts ... offered to God — strengthens the church (that is, us!).
2) “A DOCTRINE [KJV], a WORD of INSTRUCTION [NIV]”
- •• A teaching of God’s Word. I once did an exhaustive study of all forms of the words “preach” and “teach” in the New Testament. What I discovered was this general pattern: We are to preach the Gospel to the lost and teach the fullness of God’s Word to the saved. In short, preach to lost people, so that they may be saved and then come under consistent teaching of the fullness of God’s Word.
- • Acts 13:1 “In the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers...”
1 Corinthians 2:13 “This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words.”
- •• In our church services, I take that responsibility to you very seriously — that is, to teach you spiritual truths “in words taught by the Spirit”.
2 Timothy 2:7 “Reflect on what I am saying [Paul was saying God’s Word], for the Lord will give you insight into all this.”
- •• In the Spirit-filled church service, you may expect God to give you illumination upon His Word that is taught.
2 Timothy 3:16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for [a] teaching, [b] rebuking, [c] correcting and [d] training in righteousness.
- •• What! Does the apostle mean that the teaching of Scripture is not for meeting people’s “felt needs”? No, but rather the Scriptures are for:
- [a] for teaching — A, B, C, line upon line...
[b] for rebuking — You’ll rarely hear Scripture used to rebuke in today’s market-driven church culture.
[c] for correcting — that’s right. For correcting, not just for affirming and making the hearers feel good.
[d] for instruction in righteousness. And how greatly that is needed in today’s society, where our godless culture is changing the Church more than the Church is changing the culture!
- •• As with worship, the teaching of the Word is done for the strengthening of the church.
3) “A REVELATION, a TONGUE or an INTERPRETATION” —
...that is, the gifts of the Holy Spirit, represented here by these three supernatural manifestations of the Spirit.
1 Corinthians 12:8-10, KJV “...the word of wisdom ... the word of knowledge ... faith ... gifts of healing ... the working of miracles ... prophecy ... discerning of spirits ... tongues ... the interpretation of tongues.” These are what have been commonly called the nine gifts of the Holy Spirit.
- •• Without these, we have an imbalanced church, as in much of modern Protestantism. That is, worship and word, but no gifts of the Holy Spirit!
•• When the church comes together, we need the edifying influence of a tongue-and-interpretation, or the similar effect of the gift of prophecy. We who live our lives in a natural world need the supernatural impact of “a revelation” (perhaps a word of wisdom or word of knowledge).
•• Paul said of the Corinthian church (1 Corinthians 1:7): “You do not lack any spiritual gift.” Let that be the testimony of the churches today!
- • Why? Because the gifts of the Spirit, too, are important “for the strengthening of the church”.
When any of these things are lacking — Spirit-led worship ... Spirit-anointed ministry of the Word ... or the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit — then man substitutes lesser things.
- •• Programs ... “hot” music ... lots of fellowship, etc. These may in some instances be good things, but they’re not the best things that the church needs for growth to maturity.
•• In closing — Pastors, elders, and other church leaders, I urge you to pursue the 1 Corinthians 14:26 pattern for New Testament church services. That is, a dynamic mix of spiritual worship, anointed teaching, and the manifestation of the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit. The result will be (vs. 26) “a strengthening of the church”.
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©1999, James H. Feeney. Copyright statement.