Summary: Paul shows us what is most important when searching for a deeper relationship with Christ and the gifts of the Spirit.
February 8, 2004 1 Corinthians 14:12-20
Since you are eager to have spiritual gifts, try to excel in gifts that build up the church. For this reason anyone who speaks in a tongue should pray that he may interpret what he says. For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful. So what shall I do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my mind; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my mind. If you are praising God with your spirit, how can one who finds himself among those who do not understand say “Amen” to your thanksgiving, since he does not know what you are saying? You may be giving thanks well enough, but the other man is not edified. I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you. But in the church I would rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue. Brothers, stop thinking like children. In regard to evil be infants, but in your thinking be adults.
The next time you have a birthday in your house of a small child, I want you to watch the child open his or her presents. I can’t help but laugh at it. With open eyes and pounding heart, my little two year old will tear the wrapping paper off with a reckless abandon. For about ten seconds he’ll look at the present, but even before the toy can be completely set free or have a set of batteries put in it, his eyes will be gazed on the next toy. That’s the way it is with kids. When you sit down to play a game with them, it doesn’t take long before they want to move on to something else more entertaining.
The same craving for entertainment has permeated our society. Star Wars was considered an action packed thriller in it’s day. But when you sit down and compare it to today’s movies, it actually seems slow and methodical. We’ve been groomed to move on from image to image every two to three seconds. And so some of us crave the next form of entertainment like a dog salivating over a steak bone.
That’s the atmosphere that there seems to be among many churches today - a competition for who can attract the most people. In order to do this, what they will try to do is use the latest technology and most intellectual philosophy and trendiest songs to attract the listeners. They’ll use surveys and research to try and create what they consider a proper “worship atmosphere”. So they’ll plan out exactly what kind of music you hear on walking in, who is greeting you, and what the layout of the service will be in the hopes of convincing you that this place or event is “filled with the spirit.” With catchy themes and well planned events they always want there to be a sense of excitement to give you the impression that this place is “happening” and the spirit is active. So I would imagine there is a certain crowd out there that stampedes from church to church in search of that ever evasive “spirit” - that cutting edge excitement that really puts them on “fire” for the Lord. They eagerly seek the church that they feel can offer them the most growth.
In a sense, this is a commendable thing. At least they are seeking a deeper relationship with their Lord. They aren’t contend just to stay where they are. When you compare this with the thousands of Christians who are content with staying where they are, and millions of other people who are spending hours and lives on making more money and improving their business skills - I’d rather have someone zealously seeking the spirit than apathy, or misguided zeal for fame and fortune. However, this zeal for the spirit has also led to a religious culture of people who no longer have any core beliefs. Instead, they just go to the church that makes them feel the best and has the nicest people. It’s part of our consumer driven culture that is only concerned with, “what can I get out of this service? How does it make me feel?”
You may not think so, but I can see this same culture within our own church. Attendance at the Lydia Society and Lutheran Women’s Missionary Society has waned in recent years. Interest in Bible classes has fallen. Small group get-togethers have fizzled. Most of it has to do with atmosphere. When a young mom walks into a meeting with a bunch of elderly ladies, she immediately thinks, “this is boring.” I know that some have tried a Bible class on Sunday morning, but when there weren’t any “hot topics” or fiery debates, they decided to themselves, “I didn’t get anything out of it.” One young lady came to a Bible class, but when she saw that there weren’t any members her age there, she immediately left. We make our decisions on what to go to and what to do based on who will be there and how exciting we think it will be.