Why do assemblies have a Bible class or ministry meeting during Sunday School?
What better occupation could engage the parents of children in the Sunday School or the believers who have an interest in this work? If unbelievers come, what an opportunity to tell them the gospel! In the setting of the Sunday School, a Bible class can be more personal than the weekly Bible Reading and still be an effective way to teach the Scriptures. If the assembly chooses to use this time for a ministry meeting, could we think for one moment that such preaching of the Word is “out of season” (2 Timothy 4:2)? The more believers are exposed to “sound doctrine,” the more spiritually healthy they become. Every assembly ought to provide ample opportunity for profitable ministry.
Is allowing 5 to 15 minutes For ministry after the Breaking of Bread merely tradition?
No, expecting ministry at the Breaking of Bread is scriptural. In Acts 20:7, Paul ministered the Word in conjunction with the Breaking of Bread. The gathering described in 1 Corinthians 14 included both the Breaking of Bread (compare verse 16 with 10:16) and ministry “to edification, and exhortation, and comfort” (vv. 3, 24, 26). Timothy was to give attention to the public reading of Scripture (1 Timothy 4:13). In the Thessalonians’ gatherings (1 Thessalonians 5:19 – 21), the Spirit prompted men to speak from God. The believers were to value this, evaluate what was said (see 1 Corinthians 14:29), and treasure what was profitable. We do not have prophets (1 Corinthians 13:9, 10), but we do have the Scriptures for our profit (2 Timothy 3:16; 1 Corinthians 12:7). Believers should therefore expect to receive profit from the opening of the Word at every assembly meeting, including the Breaking of Bread.
Prior to partaking of the bread and cup, if the Scriptures are opened, they should contribute to remembering the Lord. An exposition of a passage would be as out of place here as various men reading miscellaneous passages such as psalms exhorting us to praise despite our troubles. Heart response to Christ should characterize this gathering; Spirit-guided ministry will promote this.
When the assembly has remembered the Lord, the fragrance of their worship will set the tone for any ministry to follow. The only weekly ministry some believers hear is at the Breaking of Bread. For that reason, special concern should be given to provide profitable ministry then. If just “5 to 15 minutes for ministry” has become the norm in places, this ought to be changed for the profit of all.
What principles give guidance for ministry in an assembly?
I Corinthians 14:29 teaches the principle that no man is the judge of his own ministry. Those who guide the assembly should encourage men who can open the Scriptures profitably to give ministry. In the case of younger men, those who evidently fear the Lord will receive help from such kind encouragement, too. Those who speak to fellow-believers from the Word of God should be hesitant to do so without the encouragement of reliable believers. No assembly needs a “volunteer ministry” (men eager to fill in wherever they can find an opening) or an “every man ministry.” Only a Spirit-prompted ministry is profitable.
Some specific principles are: 1. Honoring Christ is the ultimate goal of the message (John 16:14); 2. Love for the listeners and an awareness of their need motivate the message (Mark 6:34); 3. The Spirit will open the way so the occasion is not forced (1 Corinthians 12:6; Proverbs 25:11); 4. The message must be both something the speaker has enjoyed and also for the profit of all (1 Corinthians 12:7); 5. The variety of needs among believers can only be met by the varied wealth of Scripture – all the counsel of God not the repetition of one theme (Acts 20:27; 1 Peter 4:10); 6. If a message is from God, it will be properly prepared (1 Timothy 4:15, 16; Isaiah 50:4; 1 Corinthians 14:33; don’t misappropriate Luke 12:11); 7. The mental, emotional, and physical conditions of the hearers must be considered (Mark 4:33); 8. God-given ministry does not polarize believers, cause contention, or exalt self (1 Corinthians 3:3; 4:6; 13:4-5; Galatians 5:20); 9. The value of the ministry of others must be considered so that no one monopolizes the time (1 Corinthians 12: 12, 21; 14:32).
Should consideration always make room for the ministry of visiting brothers?
No. If a man doesn’t occasionally give profitable ministry in his home assembly, his distance from home will not transform him or his ministry. Being a visitor doesn’t give a man the right to minister. On the other hand, Christian courtesy would rarely fail to consider a visitor. The principle in 1 Corinthians 14:32 seems to indicate this. The Spirit of God would not cause a man to act without considering others.
Visiting another assembly, especially a smaller company, is more than a convenience for breaking bread, however. It is an opportunity to give the believers some spiritual help with warm and uplifting ministry. They are likely tired of hearing themselves and will greatly appreciate the lift.