Form, content and character in church meetings

A God glorifying church meeting is a combination of three things.

1. Content.
Paul writes to Timothy “follow the pattern of sound words” (2 Tim 1:13-14). There are sound and unsound words and the church service must contain the former. Titus was told that he and other church elders “must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.” (Titus 1:9). What we say is critical. We are not at liberty to invent the content of a church service, either in our liturgy or our preaching, the content is given by God in his word.

2. Form.
Church services must have a form which easily conveys the content. “All things should be done decently and in order” (1 Cor 14:40). Being shambolic or chaotic stems from not being prepared. Content will be lost for lack of form. A well ordered liturgy holds the church meeting together like pearls on a string. The string is unseen but without it the pearls are a disconnected, a pile or worse.

3. Character
Those who oversee church meetings must be holy as God is holy (Lev 11:44-45), imitators of Christ as Paul was (1 Cor 11:1). The character of the minister is as crucial to the content as form. Without a godly character, the content is lost no matter how well a service is stitched together.

a) Form + Content without Character: powerless presentation
Church meetings can be well ordered and true and yet, if the leader of that meeting has an ungodly character, with a reputation for immorality, or if it appears that the leader lacks the faith of which he is speaking, the meeting will be powerless to change the lives of hearers. Those who lead must be an example of the power of God’s word to change lives (1 Peter 5:1-3).

b) Content + Character without Form: chaotic coherence
A coherent message from a godly man within a chaotic meeting will do little good. If the congregation is not led it will be lost. If people do not know what is happening there will be a nervousness about what might happen next. There will be little benefit from the chaotic church meeting.

c) Character + Form without Content: Persuasive poppycock
Anyone with a good character can stand at the front of a room and lead a well constructed church service but without sound content what is said is poppycock. In this case, what makes the content persuasive is the personality of the leader and the setting. This is no good. God will only make use of what he has said and not what men make up themselves.

d) Form + Content + Character: God glorifying gospel meetings
When the truth about Jesus is combined with well ordered meetings led by men of godly character then the meeting glorifies God and is effective in growing his kingdom.

About neilrobbie

I am a 6'6" formerly ginger Scot, in a cross cultural marriage to my lovely Londoner wife. We've lived in SE Asia and since 2005, I have served as an Anglican minister in Wolverhampton and West Bromwich.
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