ORDERED LOVE – ORDERED CHURCH – PART 7 – Length of Service
There are always those contingents in the body of Christ that want a ‘longer service.’ Their reasons are because they want ‘more room for the spirit to move.’ The trouble with this approach is several fold. First, the Bible is a collection of books largely written to help order the thinking and practices of various communities. Therefore, order is everywhere on the brain of the communities of God’s early leaders. Second, timing and church services has everything to do with one’s culture more so than with the Holy Spirit. Third, God is not bound by time, and therefore those who insist on more time forget that God is timeless. Let’s unpack these a bit.
Let’s start with culture. I once had a person come into my office and brag about how awesome a church was that they visited. The main reason given was that it was so “free” which was proven by the length of the service. I myself have been a part of many long services. What I happen to know about these groups that have long services, is that it is the norm. In fact, it would be a greater move of God to get these groups out early than it would be to lengthen their service. 🙂
I asked this person if the services would be as long at the church in question next week. She responded, “Yes, of course. The atmosphere is amazing there!” I then asked if the services would be that long in another few weeks. She initially said, “Yes.” But, then she got where I was going. She realized that these services were not so much the work of the Holy Spirit as they were the work of culture and preference. If every service is that long or every service goes over then we are not dealing with the Holy Spirit.
What about the Bible? In reference to the Bible and the ordered thinking of the church, any casual reading of the New Testament will prove that the early Christian communities are typically trying to overcome disorder. It is the disordered spirituality of the Gnostics nearby. It is the disordered spirituality of the Cybeline Priests. It is the disordered and chaotic practices of the Corinthians and Ephesians and more that the early church has to place order into. Therefore, it is not order and regularity that the Christian world was fighting against. Rather, it is what they were fighting for. Thus having an ‘end time’ for service is a healthy aspect of the order of the early Church.
Moreover, let’s remember that the early Christian communities inherited a Jewish framework for their worship. Therefore, time and seasons were all important to them in how they responded, with careful detail to the worship God outlines in the Old Testament. Ultimately, God does not demand such precision, but who can say he is against it? When we have good Pastors and worship leaders who are planning with the wisdom and instincts of the early church, then we can be glad there is order rather than chaos.
Even more, we find the worship as illustrated in the book of Revelation, as something that is ordered. The Seraphim and Cherubim, and the angels, and then the elders, all respond to the call for worship. There is bowing and there are specific phrases. There is a theology of worship that is found in the New Testament, and it is something that is often forgotten in the mix of worship planning in the 21st century.
God and Time: In the history of the church, an hour on Sunday or some set of time, whatever the leaders prescribe, is ‘good enough.’ The reason for this is because God is not bound by time. If we set the order, then God simply works through his people in those time limits. For God is not bound by time. He can get the job done in any time frame. Therefore, for all those who think that longer services mean more of God, they need to think again about God and his relationship to time.
For All the Saints (as we near All Saints Day)