By Yeow Chin Kiong
(1) Some General Matters
Throughout the world, members of Christ’s Body, the church, assemble regularly in congregations to listen to faithful teachers and preachers of the Word while worshipping God. During these assemblies,- so important for the brethren’s spiritual wellbeing,- various brethren will be tasked with different leadership roles, all of which are important for the smooth progress of activities meant to edify (i.e. “build up”) the faith of Christians as well as encourage non-Christians in attendance to obey the gospel.
Whether as regards the scripturally-scheduled day of assembly on the first day of the week (Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:1-2) or at other times the brethren congregate, those who lead in public prayer or the singing of hymns, as well as those who deliver sermons and teach in Bible class, are held to a high degree of responsibility, as they will be leading the thoughts of others with God’s will in the foreground and in the background. They should not take their tasks lightly. In this series, we shall look at what is required of the brethren who lead in various acts of public worship, beginning with general matters applicable to all these acts.
Firstly, if we are assigned a task, we should perform it (and not back out for the slightest reason, leaving the brethren in need of a replacement). Each and every leadership task is a call to stewardship or “servanthood”, and ”… it is required in stewards that one be found faithful” (1 Corinthians 4:2). Whether we consider it an honor bestowed upon us or as a duty entrusted to us, each leadership task bears with it an accountability before God. In Jesus’ Parable of the Two Sons (Matthew 21:28-32), the point was simply to do what you have agreed to do, as was the point of the report concerning God’s punishment on Ananias and his wife, Sapphira(Acts 5:1-11). 2 Corinthians 9:7-8 applies to everything that we give to the Lord, be it treasure, talent or time : “So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity, for God loves a cheerful giver”. No one is forced to serve, so there is no excuse for going back on your word.
Secondly, serve at your very best level, not half-heartedly or sloppily. If we are to “Love the Lord our God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength and with all your mind” (Luke 10:27), ought we to serve Him with anything less? No sportsman goes into a competition ill-prepared and nor should the Christian coming to the assembly to serve his Lord. Missing out on important matters to thank God for while leading the assembly in prayer, misquoting a scripture in a sermon and missing a stanza or a chorus while leading in hymns are the result of not having one’s heart, soul, strength and mind in what one is doing at a particular moment, and probably being on “auto-mode”. Mistakes happen when we are not conscious of what we are doing because we take things,- and ourselves,- for granted, not at all thinking to give our best to our Master by constantly adding value to our service each time we serve. Beloved of God though they were (Malachi 1:1-5), the Israelites after the Babylonian Exile were criticized for their polluted offering (Malachi 1:6-14). If our God is a Giver to us of good gifts (Matthew 7:11; James 1:17), there is no excuse for us to offer Him anything less,- neither of our treasures, talents nor time. Why, for instance, must there be repetitive prayers led publicly numerous times if we have given deep thought beforehand to the contents of our prayers and its delivery?
Thirdly, in whatever capacity they minister in the assembly of the brethren, brethren will be “speaking as the oracles of God” (1 Peter 4:11) and handling the word of God correctly (2 Timothy 2:15). There is no room to lead the brethren into error as, for example, by making reference to the “miracles” of God in our time, contrary to the teaching of 1 Corinthians 12 and 13. The time-honored practice of faithful preachers, Bible teachers, evangelists and deacons should be emulated by all who minister in a public setting: “Speak where the Bible speaks” and “Call Bible things by Bible names, and do Bible things by Bible ways.” After all, there are sufficient scriptures which warn us against altering the content of inspired scriptures and going beyond what is in them. The pulpit of the churches of Christ is not for self-aggrandizement nor the pursuit of any man’s agenda, and all who stand there are to glorify God only by obeying Him. In ministering to the assembly of God’s people,- as in all of life,- “… whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him” (Colossians 3:17), “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are my ways your ways,” says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My Ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9).