Sunday school lesson for the week of July 27, 2014
By Beth Barnwell
Lesson Scripture: 1 Corinthians 14:13-26
Key Verse: When you meet together, each one has a psalm, a teaching, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. All these things must be done to build up the church (1 Corinthians 14:26).
Purpose: To praise God through a variety of worship practices that build up the church.
This week’s lesson is, in part, about how God’s word is expressed through language, but it’s also about our Spiritual Gifts. Language can be a tricky thing if not understood, however, through our God-given gifts of the spirit, we are able to come together to praise Jesus Christ in just about any language, spoken and unspoken.
The most memorable worship service I have ever attended was during a mission trip to Honduras. The Sunday morning of our departure, the mission team attended a worship service in a very small church. The floor was dirt, the pews were rough-hewn benches without backs and the room was absolutely packed! My limited grasp of the Spanish language kept me from understanding the spoken words completely, but the hospitality of the people and the presence of the Holy Spirit absolutely filled the room! Language and Spiritual Gifts came together to create a spiritual experience that will remain with me forever.
If you are not aware of your spiritual gifts, it’s something you might want to explore. I’ve taken the Spiritual Gifts Workshop on a couple of occasions and my No. 1 spiritual gift remains consistent. It’s the gift of faith. Unfortunately, hospitality is not among my top three, but thankfully, there are more people than I can count who do share this gift.
Do you know your spiritual gifts? Do you have opportunities to use your spiritual gifts?
As we all have different spiritual gifts, we also have different worship languages – different ways in which we worship. When I think of attending a worship service, my mind (and my preference) goes to a traditional service with a choir, good gospel old timey hymns, the Gloria Patri, etc. I know there are many, many people who are in agreement with me. But – I also know there are many, many people who would rather walk over hot coals than attend a service of that design. For this reason, I am so glad God has called people to serve who think a little more outside the box. I was recently in conversation with a co-worker who was talking about attending a new church in the area. The church’s use of art and music during the worship service spoke to her in a way that made her feel very welcomed. Her exact words were, “They were modern without overdoing it.” Then she said something that should resonate with all of us. She said, “They were also very friendly. Everyone spoke to me.” That church understands the language of hospitality, which also happens to be a spiritual gift. They were welcoming. As stated in the Student Handbook, “The first place to initiate a relationship is through the welcome we offer or receive in visiting a church.” And what does God want from us? A relationship! He doesn’t care what attracts us, whether it’s the music, art in the sanctuary, video presentations, or a simple piano solo. What He cares about is that His message reaches us and is not diluted by the means. Different approaches reach and appeal to different people. There is no right way or wrong way to worship as long as the primary purpose is to honor Jesus Christ and grow into a relationship with Him.
What has been your experience in visiting other churches? How does your church welcome visitors?
In the Student Handbook section, Watch Your Language, I could identify with the author’s description of his experience while visiting a British English church. When I visit the Catholic Church with my husband, I have to remind myself to stop at a particular part in the Lord’s Prayer. In a very quiet room, the words “forever and ever” ring very loudly when you’re the only one saying them. Nothing shouts out Protestant louder than saying the Lord’s Prayer during a Catholic mass. I don’t apologize for it, but it does emphasize the difference in our worship language. Different – but neither more important than the other and both share the common goal of bringing people to Christ.
Paul’s words to the Corinthians regarding speaking in tongues concerned Spiritual Gifts. He further explained that this particular gift requires the additional spiritual gift of translation in order to reach people for Christ and Christians as a whole. Wycliff Bible Translation is a Christian organization that translates the Bible into languages throughout the world; most of which have no written alphabet. Missionaries with Wycliff travel to remote villages, listen and learn the native tongue, develop an alphabet, and then interpret their language into the written Word. By the end of 2013, according to Wycliff there are 7,000 known languages in use today; 2,200 active languages across 131 countries have translation and linguistic development projects in place; 1,300 languages have access to the New Testament and some portions of scripture; 500 languages have completely translated Bibles. They also report that 1,800 languages still need for Bible translation to begin and 180 million people still need the Bible translated in their language.
Wycliff missionaries do not necessarily witness and translate people speaking in tongues as Paul discusses, but they do use their spiritual gift of translation to help build up the church and bring the written Word to the least and the lost. The Great Commission challenges us to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” God doesn’t tell us exactly how to do this, which is probably a good thing because we all hear, learn and grow differently. Our Spiritual Gifts are all different but all play a very important part in meeting this challenge. Showing hospitality to others, welcoming them to a life of goodness, translating words and processes that may be unfamiliar are just a few ways to build up the church.
The Key verse encourages us to remember: “When we meet together, each one has a psalm, a teaching a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. All these things must be done to build up the church.” Each one of us has a role. One is no less important than another. The goal is to build up the church and bring people to Christ. Our differences need not be a distraction as long as the common goal is the same. Hebrews 13:2 reminds us “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.” We never know how our actions, words, expressions, will effect the lives of those we meet, but it’s certainly something we should be constantly aware of.
How do your actions and words relay to strangers that you are a Christian? Would they feel comfortable (welcome) approaching you?
Beth Barnwell is a staff member of the North Georgia Conference, serving as administrative assistant to the director of Congregational Development. She is a long-time Sunday school teacher. Contact Beth at email@example.com.