On Christian Order in Worship
Every congregation deals with issues concerning what is appropriate when the body of Christ assembles together to worship. Some churches set their practice by looking to the culture to guide their practice, some churches simply follow traditions, and others search the Scriptures to see what God prescribes for His people. We want to be a people who look beyond cultural pressure and the traditions of men and seek to follow what God has set for us for our good.
One major concern in regards to Christian order in worship is the roles of different people in the gathered assembly. This includes roles according to age, gifting, and gender. Roles according to gender are one of the most controversial, yet this is a subject we must seek to be Biblical on. Every church sets gender roles, whether they do so by segregating men and women, or by giving women license to pastor and preach.
It is our desire, as faithfully to Scripture as we can, to set the standard for practice in our gatherings. We believe that Scripture sets one uniform standard, and we intend for our church to have one practice whenever we gather together. There has been some confusion about what is and is not appropriate in regards to the contributions of women in our gatherings, we want to clear up that confusion and set a standard of practice.
[In all areas of faith and practice, we are open to being corrected according to Scripture and reason, but until such a time as we are convinced by Scripture and reason that we ought to have a different practice, this is where we are landing.]
Texts in Consideration:
1 Corinthians 11:1-16
- Women were praying and prophesying during the worship gathering
- It is proper for women to be visibly under authority in the assembly
- Whether or not head-coverings are cultural, the principle of authority and submission are clearly present
1 Corinthians 14:29-38
- The instruction for women to remain silent is in the context of testing the prophecy given during the worship gathering
- When we give a word in the gathered assembly, we are speaking as though we have a word from God for the edification of the body. As such, it is subject to testing and correction according to the whole council of the Word of God.
- There is an appropriate and an inappropriate way for this to look, largely according to the order of authority in the home and in the body
1 Timothy 2:12
- It is inappropriate for a woman to exercise authority over a man, in the home or in the church.
- Teaching is clearly a form of exercising authority.
Acts 2:14-21 (Joel 2:28-32)
- It was an Old Covenant expectation that under the New Covenant God would pour out His Spirit upon all of His people.
- Even though women were overall passive in Temple and synagogue worship, there was promise that one day men and women would hear from God; dream dreams, see visions, and prophesy.
- Being a part of the body of Christ is not dependent on birth, economic position, or gender.
- Greeks and Jews, free men and slaves, men and women, are all equally filled with the Holy Spirit in Christ; women are not less or inferior in the economy of Christ.
1 Peter 2:4-5; 9-10
- Under the New Covenant, all believers hold a form of priesthood; everyone has access to the Father through Christ. We do not need to go through anyone else to approach, or hear from, God. In Christ we boldly approach the throne.
- Men and women have equal access to the Father in Christ
Principles into Practice
With all of these Biblical principles in view, here are some guidelines for our practice when we gather together as a body.
- We believe that Scripture is clear that the role of leading and teaching in the gathered assembly is given only to men.
- We believe that Scripture is clear that women are gifted by God’s Spirit, and do have a role in worship for the edification of the entire body.
- We believe that Scripture teaches enough on this issue that we can be confident in setting a standard of practice.
- While it is appropriate that formal teaching be limited to men who are so gifted, it is appropriate for any who are spiritual, both men and women, to give a word of exhortation and encouragement as God lays it on their hearts according to good order.
- It is appropriate for all who are spiritual to pray in the gathered assembly according to the leading of the Spirit and good order.
- We will set aside times in our gatherings for discussion, exhortation, questions, and for prayer. In these times it is appropriate for anyone who is spiritual to ask questions, give a word of something God has laid on their heart, and to pray.
- It is inappropriate in these times for anyone other than an elder to make a point that is outside of the accepted belief and practice of the church.
- Everything is subject to proper testing according to the whole council of the Word of God. It is a charge of spiritual authorities to guard closely the doctrine of the body; error will be corrected as lovingly and graciously as possible, but it must be addressed.
- When something is said that seems against the testimony of Scripture, it is inappropriate for a woman to bring question against a man, and it is inappropriate for a younger man to bring question against a recognized authority in the church (pastor or otherwise).
- Any challenges to what has been said that are inappropriate for the gathered assembly should be discussed in good order privately. We do not intend to stifle questions and concerns, but to handle all things according to Scripture and good order.
- Whenever possible, it is safest and most appropriate for married women to speak through their husbands. If it is possible, they can get his thoughts on what they desire to ask or to say before proceeding, or they can wait until an appropriate moment in the home. Similarly, single women should look to their fathers if they are present.
The intention of this is to bring clarity where there has been confusion, to liberate everyone to be able to use their gifting in order to build up the body. We need all the gifts that God has given our body, yet we need to use them according to God’s prescribed order.
Until such time as God brings greater light to this issue and we are convinced our practice ought to be otherwise, we intend that this be the consistent practice of all of our gatherings. We do not want people to be left guessing what is and is not appropriate in any given situation; one rule of practice for everything.