Here’s a long passage from Catherine Booth about how church meetings should be done. Dare you read it?
“While the gospel message is laid down with unerring exactness, we are left at perfect freedom to adapt our measures and modes of bringing it to bear upon men to the circumstances, times and conditions in which we live. ‘I am made all things to all men,’ declared the great apostle to the Gentiles who had thrown off the paraphernalia of Judaism years before, yet became as a Jew that he might win the Jews.
The great strong intellect became as a weak man that he might win the weak. He conformed himself to the conditions and circumstances of his hearers in all lawful things that he might win them; he let no mere conventionalities or ideas of propriety stand in his way when it was necessary to abandon them. He who was brave as a lion, and hailed a crown of martyrdom like a conquering hero, was willing to submit to anything when the requirements of his mission rendered it necessary.
Now here it seems to me that the church — I speak universally — has made the grand mistake of exalting the traditions of the elders into the same importance and authority as the word of God. People contend that we must have quiet, proper, decorous services. I say, Where is your authority for this? I defy any man to show it. I have a great deal more authority for such a lively, gushing, spontaneous, and what you call disorderly, service as our Salvation Army services sometimes are, in the fourteenth chapter of First Corinthians, than you can find for yours. The best insight we have into the internal working of a religious service in apostolic times is in this chapter (1 Corinthians 14), and I ask you, Is it anything like the ordinary services of today?
We cannot get the order of a single service from the New Testament, nor can we get the form of government of a single church. Hence one denomination thinks theirs is the best form, and another theirs; so Christendom has been divided into various camps ever since; but this very quarrelling shows the impossibility of getting from the New Testament the routine, the order and the fashion of mere modes. Do you think God had no purpose in this omission? The forms, modes and measures are not prescribed as in the Old Testament disposition. Why?
The principle is laid down that you are to adapt your measures to the necessity of the people to whom you minister; you are to take the gospel to the people in such modes and habitudes of thought and expression and circumstances as will gain a hearing. You are to preach to them in a way as will cause them to look and listen. What scope for the various manifestations of the Spirit! The argument that this free operation of the Spirit has been abused is no argument against it, for then you might argue against every privilege. Here is abundant evidence that these Corinthian converts had opportunity to witness for Jesus, each one to give forth the gushing utterance of his soul, and tell other people of the experience which the Holy Ghost had wrought in him.
And look at the result! ‘If . . . there come in one that beleiveth not, or one unlearned, he is convinced of all, he is judged of all: and thus are the secrets of his heart made manifest; and so falling down on his face he will worship God, and report that God is in you of a truth.’ What unkind things have been said of The Salvation Army because people at our meetings have fallen on their faces under the convicting power of the Spirit. But you see this is apostolic.
Should we not pray to be set free from the traditionalism and routinism in which Satan has succeeded in lulling us to sleep? It was only the repressing, and ultimately, I am afraid, the all-but estinguishing, of the Holy Spirit’s urgings that has led to the dead way in which many services are conducted.
I maintain that the only indispensable qualification for witnessing for Christ is the Holy Ghost. Paul expressly, over and over again, abjures all mere human equipment. He expressly declares that these things were not the power even where they existed, but that it was the Holy Ghost. Therefore, give me man, woman or child with the Holy Ghost, full of love and zeal for God, and I say it would be a real strength and joy to that convert to testify to the church. The Lord is not going to evangelize this land by finished sermons and disquisitions, but by the simple testimony of people saved from sin and the devil, by His power and His grace. He is going to do it as He began, by witnessing.
Read your New Testament and you will be struck with the amazing amount of evidence for this unconventional kind of service. When shall Peters and Marys be so filled with the Spirit that they cannot help telling what God has done for the, like the woman of Samaria who, when she had found Him of whom Moses and the Prophets had written, went and fetched her fellow-townsmen and women to hear Him? The way in which the Lord is going to gather out His great and glorious kingdom in these latter days is by the power of testimony in the Holy Ghost.”
(“Highway of our God” by Catherine Booth, page 61-63, published by The Salvation Army Supplies And Purchasing Department, Atlanta, Georgia, 1986.)
Check out my new book, Beyond Church — An Invitation To Experience The Lost Word Of The Bible — Ekklesia; available at Amazon.