The most extensive passage in the New Testament regarding the gatherings of the church is found in 1 Corinthians 11-14. The teaching is summarized in the very last verse—1 Corinthians 14:40: “But all things must be done properly and in an orderly manner.”
This principle gives us both freedom and guidelines. “Properly” and “orderly” are open to interpretation. Each church—guided by her leaders—must choose wisely as decisions are made regarding the gatherings of the church. First Corinthians 11-14 is clear: The gatherings are not to be chaotic. But neither are they to be chained down in legalism.
Consider 1 Corinthians 12:7: “But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” Notice that “each one” is given gifts to be used “for the common good.”
Now look at 14:26: “What is the outcome then, brethren? When you assemble, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification.” “Each one” has something to contribute for the same purpose: “edification”—the common good and building up of the church.
Paul wrote that there are “varieties of gifts and ministries” and this is the way God Himself designed the church (12:4-6). Our gatherings should acknowledge this and provide the freedom and opportunity for all to participate in the building up of the body.
“Every member participation” is probably the most unique aspect of our gatherings. We believe it is a long-neglected element of Christian worship—and we are not the first to think so. Bringing it back in a “proper and orderly” way is to build up the body and greatly bless all of us.
It is important to point out that 1 Corinthians 11-14 provides the full picture—the balance that is designed to prevent this participation time from becoming chaotic. Paul highlighted the importance of the ministry of “prophets”—those leaders who were gifted and equipped to prevent “confusion” (14:31-33)—so that “all may learn and all may be exhorted” (14:31) and in their “thinking become mature” (14:20).
Our leaders are committed to wisely and graciously shepherding this part of our gatherings while inviting all to participate—keeping in mind that the point of every-member participation is not to be different or draw attention to ourselves, but to share the gifts the Holy Spirit has given us—to build up (edify) the body of Christ.