Let all things be done decently and in order.
I Corinthians 14:40 (KJV)
Although the New Testament was (with the possible exception of Matthew’s Gospel, depending on how you interpret the statements of Papias) written in Greek, the human authors were (with the possible exception of Luke) all from a Jewish background. So, even though they wrote in Greek, they were thinking in Hebrew (and possibly Aramaic as well, especially those who had been raised in Galilee). Jewish traditions based on the teaching of the Hebrew Scriptures (what Christians now call the “Old Testament”) formed the basis of their thought and practice. Christian assemblies (even those made up predominantly of Gentiles) were based more or less along the structural lines of the Jewish synagogues. An understanding of these Jewish customs, some explicitly Biblical and others traditional, is essential to a fuller comprehension of much of what is contained in the New Testament. It is from his Rabbinic background, rooted in the synagogue, that the Apostle Paul dictates his instructions for the Church to his amanuensis (secretary-scribe). Even though the Corinthian Church was predominantly a Gentile body, it had been structured along Jewish lines. Thus, Paul does not explain some details that he assumes his readers will already be familiar with, but which we modern readers might have to rediscover.
One such concept is the recognition of and respect for “minhag.” The word “minhag” was a term referring to the “custom of the house,” or we might say the “order of the synagogue.” From one synagogue to another across the ancient world, there were many facets of synagogue service and custom that would be common to all. However, there were also specific aspects of synagogue “order” that might be unique to a particular locality. When traveling, Jews would attend local synagogues, but would always respect the “minhag,” the local custom of that particular “house.” There is even a Scriptural reference to the “law of the house” (Ezekiel 43:12). A visiting Jew, regardless of his status back home, would sit quietly in the synagogue in which he visited, and not say or do anything unless recognized and invited to participate by the leadership. He would respect the “law of the house.” We see one example in Acts 13:14-15, where Paul and his companions entered the synagogue and “sat down,” until they were overtly invited by the leadership to share.
This concept of “minhag” underlies Paul’s instruction to the Corinthian Church as regards proper order in releasing the Manifestation Gifts in the local assembly. Where Paul gives specific instructions, such as no more than three individual congregants to give an utterance in tongues to be interpreted (I Corinthians 14:27), then we certainly are to follow this Holy Spirit inspired regulation. However, in other matters of detail, where our inspired Scripture is silent, then it is up to the leadership (most often, in our day, the Senior Pastor) of the particular “house” to establish a clear and well-defined protocol for releasing the Manifestation Gifts in that local assembly. Our people will be much more confident and free to move in the Spirit when they know both the Biblical guidelines, and the protocols that we as leaders have established in our respective “houses.” I will only deal with two of these protocols from my experience in this article.
First, based on both the Biblical command to “know those that labor among you” (I Thessalonians 5:12), and also on the principle of “minhag,” I established guidelines in the church I pastored for many years, that one had to have been given permission to give a tongue or prophesy. I did not allow “outsiders” to attempt to rise up and take over the service with their own agendas. If one was not certain whether he or she had permission to give a tongue or prophesy, then the rule was that one did not. Those who know me know I was always an open, “permission-giving” pastor. It was not hard to get permission to move in the Spirit, and these guidelines were regularly taught and reinforced. One needed only to approach me after a service and inform me that they believed they had something in the Spirit during the service. I would instruct the person to “check it out” several more times, to see make sure that what they were receiving was generally in line with the flow of the service. Then I would give the person my permission to step out next time. In addition, I always instructed our people who had begun to come into a degree of spiritual manifestation, to NEVER visit another church and attempt to move in the Spirit unless they were specifically called out and invited to do so by the local leadership. We may not always know what particular protocol that local pastor has established in that congregation, and we always want to respect the “law of the house.” Even after being in ministry for well over three decades, I do not prophesy in a congregation I am visiting unless specifically called upon by the local pastor. If I am visiting some church and believe I have something from the Holy Spirit, I pray, “Lord, if you want me to move in this service, have the pastor call on me. Otherwise, I’m just going to pray, and You will release this message to the congregation through someone that they know and respect, who is familiar with the local ‘minhag.’” I cannot count the number of times after so praying that the pastor would look down from the platform, see me, and say, “Brother Jeff, come here. The Lord has given you something so you feel free to obey Him.”
Second (I learned this by watching how Pastor John Osteen orchestrated the Gifts), I instructed our people that did have permission to move in the Spirit, that when they believed they had something, they were to come forward and stand in the “spot” (where a dedicated microphone stood for that specific purpose). When I sensed that the timing was right, I would bring the attention of the congregation to a focus by saying something like, “I believe the Lord has something for us. Let us reverence Him and hear what He wants to say.” Then I would nod to the individual standing by the microphone, who would then deliver the tongue or the prophecy.
The point is, that where Biblical order is clear, we follow the dictates of inspired Scripture. But where logistical details arise, not specifically mentioned in the Bible, it is the responsibility of the pastor and local leadership to establish clear guidelines for the release of the Manifestation Gifts in their particular local assembly. Be Blessed!