The Letters to the Corinthians by William Barclay
IT IS TRUE TO SAY that there is no more interesting section in the whole letter than this [Ch. 14], for it sheds a flood of light on what a church service was like in the early church. There was obviously a freedom and informality about it which is completely strange to our ideas.
There was obviously a flexibility about the order of service in the early church which is now totally lacking. There was clearly no settled order at all. Everything was informal enough to allow any man who felt he had a message to give, to give it. It may well be that we set far too much store on dignity and order nowadays. It may well be that we have become slaves of service. The really notable thing about an early church service must have been that almost everyone came feeling that he had both the privilege an the obligation of contributing something to it.
A man did not come with the sole intention of being a passive listener. He did not come only to receive, he came also to give. Obviously this had its dangers for it is clear that at Corinth there were those who were too fond of the sound of their own voices; but nonetheless the church must have been in those days much more the real possession of the ordinary Christian.
It may well be that the church lost something when she delegated so much to the professional ministry and left so little to the ordinary church member; and it may well be that the blame lies not with the ministry for annexing those rights, but with the laity for abandoning them, because it is all too true that there are many church members whose attitude is that they think far more of what the church can do for them than of what they can do for the church, and who are very ready to criticize what is done but very unready to take any share in doing the church’s work themselves.
William Barclay (1907-1978)