1 CORINTHIANS 14:20-33A, 39-40
20Brothers and sisters, do not be children in your thinking; rather, be infants in evil, but in thinking be adults. 21In the law it is written, "By people of strange tongues and by the lips of foreigners I will speak to this people; yet even then they will not listen to me," says the Lord. 22Tongues, then, are a sign not for believers but for unbelievers, while prophecy is not for unbelievers but for believers. 23If, therefore, the whole church comes together and all speak in tongues, and outsiders or unbelievers enter, will they not say that you are out of your mind? 24But if all prophesy, an unbeliever or outsider who enters is reproved by all and called to account by all.25After the secrets of the unbeliever's heart are disclosed, that person will bow down before God and worship him, declaring, "God is really among you."
26What should be done then, my friends? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up. 27If anyone speaks in a tongue, let there be only two or at most three, and each in turn; and let one interpret. 28But if there is no one to interpret, let them be silent in church and speak to themselves and to God. 29Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others weigh what is said. 30If a revelation is made to someone else sitting nearby, let the first person be silent. 31For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all be encouraged. 32And the spirits of prophets are subject to the prophets, 33for God is a God not of disorder but of peace.
39So, my friends, be eager to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues; 40but all things should be done decently and in order.
"All things should be done decently and in order" is one of the favorite verses among Presbyterians of all stripes. (Did I not make this comment not too long ago? I believe I did. Foggy memory, oh well.)
The great irony, of course, is the context of this verse, which many Presbyterians would find surprising: the context of prophesying and speaking in tongues with interpretation. We take so many verses out of context!
Because I am a Presbyterian I am not making fun of some "other" group. I am commenting on my own theological tribe. Sometimes it's good to laugh at yourself/your group. It helps with perspective.
The larger point of this passage, however, is not about Presbyterians or irony. The larger point is that there can be order even when certain kinds of ministry or expressions of faith look initially out of control. We can use our brains and see who we can include as many helpful elements in worship for the building up of others, for the common good. It is possible! Some careful considerations should suffice.
The other set of verses I highlighted are verses 24 & 25. These verses consider what might happen when an unbeliever visits a church when prophecy is taking place. It won't be weird, like in the case of everyone speaking in tongues without interpretation (since speaking in tongues is unintelligible for those hearing it). Prophecy is intelligible. It is spoken in a known, natural language. What might happen? The visitor might hear the "secrets of his heart" disclosed. This is neither necessarily shameful nor praiseworthy. "Secrets of one's heart" are things we harbor or we cherish. The point is that these unspoken hopes or thoughts might be disclosed through a prophetic interaction with someone with the gift of prophecy. And such an interaction might lead the person to acknowledge God! An unbeliever might move towards becoming a believer through prophecy, in other words.
This is one of the lessons we are learning as we are going through Shawn Bolz's Translating God. We serve a wonderful God, a God who speaks. As we grow in our prophetic gifting, may the Lord give us greater opportunities to touch not only fellow believers but nonbelievers with the love of God. Amen.
Let's pray: Lord Jesus, we pray for a greater release of the prophetic in our church and in our individual lives. We confess you are not silent. You know every human being intimately. We ask that you would teach us how to use the prophetic gifting for the building up of others. In your name, amen.