That day the Lord gave his life and his spirit to a few thousand. They were the first of millions, of tens of millions. The life that animated Peter and made him a rock is the same life born in us at the moment of our salvation. When Peter stood and addressed the crowd he did not speak because he was the best educated or most knowledgeable. To the end of his life he was illiterate. He did not speak because he was the minister and he was expected to. He spoke because the life of the Lord was within him demanding to be expressed.
The same life animated the entire church. Peter and the apostles led the church but the entire church functioned. When they were scattered by persecution a few years later they gathered again in towns and villages across Judea. Apart from the occasional visit they were without help from the apostles. Yet they survived and flourished. Deprived of leadership they knew what to do because of the life within them.
When Paul set out into Galatia, into Macedonia and into Greece he took the same life with him. When he came to Corinth he spoke, he preached, he taught but most importantly God gave the believers his life. When they came together every one had something. How? Because the Spirit of God dwelt within them! They did not need a priest to approach the Lord. The Lord made every believer a priest.
The life that lived within Peter and Paul, within James and John is the same life that lives within every believer today. That same life is crying out to be expressed. It longs to bring a psalm, a teaching, a tongue, a revelation or an interpretation. To meet with a man at the front week after week after week quenches that life. The right to speak or minister does not come from a bible school diploma or a seminary degree it comes direct from the throne room of heaven. And that right is a gift, a gift of God to all who believe.
You, the people of God, were not called to be an audience but a living breathing, functioning part of the body of Christ.
We Tried This Before
In the early 1970s the charismatic movement struck the church in Britain with a vengeance. No denomination was untouched and new churches sprang up everywhere. Many young Charismatic leaders read I Corinthians 14 v 26 and believed it. They tried to establish churches which held open meetings. It was exciting but short lived. Within ten years the attempt had been abandoned and charismatic churches held services like everyone else. Yes, the music was a little more exciting and the congregation was free to jump around but the charismatic service was a concert followed by a lecture just like every other denomination.
Why did they give up? It wasn’t because they decided those meetings were unscriptural. Those leaders gave up because they believed it could not be done. The open meetings they held were disastrous. Poor speakers spoke poorly. Songs were sung out of tune. Meetings rambled and went nowhere. Foolish things were said and done. For most people who experienced those meetings it was something they never wanted to try again. Years later the leaders of the charismatic movement told themselves that it was just youthful naiveté to expect anything else.
The human race is totally and utterly fallen. Most ministers need no doctrinal argument to convince them of this. They know the power of the fall and the foolishness of which their audiences are capable. If you haven’t experienced a functioning church it is easy to have a romantic idea of how lovely it must be. Unfortunately the romance will not survive contact with reality.
Churches meet in rows for practical reasons. Front led services are safe. All things will be done decently and in order. It will be well presented and everyone will know where they are. The audience need not put in any effort beyond turning up. If they are fortunate it will even be enjoyable. The music will be in tune and the sermon will be ‘on message.’ The standard Sunday morning service is not the way we meet for no reason. It is effective and simple. Christians can attend, listen and leave. No other commitment is required.