Years ago, I read a book called A Man Called Peter, which was the biography of Peter Marshall, the man who was chaplain of the U.S. Senate (not the game show host). The book told of the time when reporters asked Marshall if he could give them a copy of his prayer in time for them to run it in their papers, rather than having to wait until he actually delivered it. Marshall explained that that was impossible, since he merely prayed as the Holy Spirit moved him at that time. One reporter called out, “Couldn’t the Holy Spirit move you ahead of time?”
One of the great tensions in planning an assembly is just that: how much should be planned? Can we allow for spontaneity without falling into chaos? Can we organize our assemblies ahead of time without limiting the Spirit?
I feel a need for a balance of both spontaneity and organization. If I had to lean one way or the other, I would lean toward organization, merely because human nature can often lapse into sloth and call it spontaneity. I find nothing particularly spiritual about a song leader who does not choose songs ahead of time because he wants to let the Spirit move him. Why not spend time in prayer and study during the week and let the Spirit move you as you plan the service?
The larger the gathering, the more structure that will necessarily need to be involved. Still, there needs to be room for someone to bring what God has placed upon their heart. There needs to be enough flexibility in our schedules so that someone can share a thought, a prayer need, or a timely passage without everyone in the congregation groaning about the delay.
I’m not sure of all the ins and outs of that, and I know that this can be a touchy subject for some. I’ve written before about assemblies and don’t want to rehash all of that again. But I know that we can grow in our understanding of how to have structure and flexibility at the same time.