Why New Testament Worship Is More like a Potluck than a Production


1 Corinthians 14:26-33 (NIV)

26 What then shall we say, brothers and sisters? When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. Everything must be done so that the church may be built up. 27 If anyone speaks in a tongue, two—or at the most three—should speak, one at a time, and someone must interpret. 28 If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church and speak to himself and to God.

29 Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said.30 And if a revelation comes to someone who is sitting down, the first speaker should stop. 31 For you can all prophesy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged. 32 The spirits of prophets are subject to the control of prophets. 33 For God is not a God of disorder but of peace—as in all the congregations of the Lord’s people.


To those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be his holy people (i.e., us):

Who knew? Worship is a potluck and everybody brings a dish. Picking up an earlier analogy, worship is a team sport and everybody plays.

When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation.

Somewhere along the way the situation got flipped. These days it’s more like, “When you come together, each of you take a seat and focus your attention on the gifted leaders who are up front leading the worship service.”

What happened? Somehow, somewhere along the way, worship became more of a production than a potluck. As I said here a few weeks back, we now have the strange situation where the coaches take the field and the players sit in the stands. And it is completely normal to us. It seems a long way from the New Testament vision of Christian worship. I’m not saying what we are doing is not Christian. It’s just that it doesn’t seem to be very New Testament.

Here’s where this has led us. The primary reason most people “go to church” is in order to consume. It’s the same kind of mentality we bring to a restaurant. As a consequence we evaluate and critique and assess the food and the service. And I don’t mean to say church is not a place to receive from God. Paul makes clear the primary reason for joining together with others for worship. It is as follows:

Everything must be done so that the church may be built up.

We go to church to give, to make an offering of ourselves as a living sacrifice, to build up the Body of Christ. Church is not about showing up for a worship “service,” but showing up “to serve” God and one another as an act of corporate worship.

I love this notion of “doing” church. Someone brings a word from Scripture the Lord has impressed on them. Another offers a word of encouragement. Yet another brings a hymn or a psalm or a spiritual song. Someone else speaks in an unknown tongue and it is interpreted. This is New Testament Church. It’s orderly and beautiful and powerful. This looks like the Body doing its work to build itself up in the strength of the Holy Spirit.


Our Father in Heaven, hallowed be your name. Your Kingdom come. Your will be done; on Earth as it is in Heaven. I confess I seem far from even alert to employing gifts of the Spirit when I show up for Church. Would you show me a step in that direction, with a friend or perhaps with a band? The more I read and learn the more I feel like I am simply missing out on. Come Holy Spirit and lead me. In Jesus’ name. Amen.


  1. So before we get down on what we are presently doing on Sundays in worship (which is often very faithful and good), how about we try taking this approach from today’s text in a small group of friends?
  2. What if you knew the gathered church was counting on you to bring a gift for worship with you? How would that change the way you thought about “going to church?”
  3. What would it mean for you to begin asking God to give you gifts for the sake of building up the Body of Christ? We don’t have to wholesale change our present Sunday worship approach (which seems impossible) to bring gifts with us to the gathering that we might be prepared to quietly offer, perhaps to a friend or even a stranger sitting down the row, as the Spirit prompts us.