We are a post Pentecostal church. All of us, not just leaders or ministers, or those in ‘apostolic succession’. All those years ago there were more than 100 people in that upper room. Acts 1:15 says there were about 120, and Peter addresses them as ‘Brothers and sisters’, so many more than just the remaining male apostles. So, both men and women, some named, but many more who are not. This lack of a name, or the gender of the women doesn’t mean they are less likely to have received the Spirit, less prepared for ministry.
In Acts Chapter 2 verses 1 through 4 we read, “When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.” In other words, both men and women, young and old, were given gifts which would enable to undertake a variety of ministries for the Kingdom of God, working in harmony with the Spirit.
All together, all filled. So why does the church act as if it were only the 12, and especially only Peter? I’m not decrying the important role of Peter, but he wasn’t the only one.
Yet by verse 14 we have Peter standing up with the eleven. Already there was hierarchy. Yet this same Peter has his name on the book which says (1 Peter 2:9) “You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” He addressed this to ‘God’s elect’ – that is to all Christians.
Paul likens the church to a human body in I Corinthians 12:12-23:
“Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many. Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact, God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor.”
Yet we are aware that there is a need for leadership in any group – someone must choose the music, to preach, or to pray. But it need not be the same person who does all. We do need people specially trained in certain areas such as preaching, or music, but that does not mean others cannot ever take part.
In Ephesians 4:11-13 we read:
“So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”
If there are 100 people in a congregation there will be parts of the service when only a few of these will be able to minister, and other parts where all join in. This does not mean that their ministry in song and prayer is of any less value. Yet too often only a very few have opportunity to do more, and it is usually the same few each week. There are even the one man churches, where one person does everything, except perhaps the cleaning and making the tea. I think of the cathedral not too far from here where services are canceled because a priest cannot be present for some reason. This is not a Biblical pattern, and nor is it, I think, what God wants. The Spirit came to equip the whole church and is still doing so. Let’s live that out in our worship and ministry.