Let me say it again: Jesus is truly rather than nominally Head of His church when the Spirit is sovereign in the assemblies.
And how can we know that the Spirit is sovereign in the assemblies? Answer: when there is no "order of service." Answer: when there is no "liturgy." Answer: when men allow the Spirit to work.
Either the Spirit is sovereign in the assemblies, or He is not. There is simply no middle ground. If He is "partly sovereign," that is a contradiction in terms. It is an oxymoron. So how is it, exactly, that the Spirit is sovereign over the assemblies as constituted?
Does the Spirit work through men's planning? Certainly. I do not question that. But a planned meeting makes the Spirit subordinate to the planners at the time of the actual meeting. Thus the Spirit may be sovereign over the planners' meeting but not over the church meeting itself. The meeting is already planned. It is hard to distinguish from a scheduled performance.
I do not say there is no praise of God or godliness in these planned meetings. I do not say there is no sincerity or encouragement in these meetings. I say there is no sovereignty of the Spirit over these meetings.
So am I making a rule? The rule being "no planning?" No, I am following the practice indicated in the New Testament, and in I Corinthians 14 in particular. The rule is not "no planning," the "rule," if you want to call it that, is the Spirit plans the meeting and carries it out as He sees fit.
Our perspective on this says everything about our view of the church meeting. "Why, the sovereignty of the Spirit means disorder! It means anarchy in the churches! Men will say whatever they want; doctrine will be ruined; long-winded men will dominate the proceedings. And we will not be entertained very well."
I fully realize that the churches as organized today cannot "put the cat back in the bag." You cannot reorganize churches with their pulpits and pews fastened to the floor, and with congregations which consider these sacrosanct, and with their age-old expectations for what a church meeting should be, and expect something positive to happen.
The only churches which can enable the Spirit to work in them are smaller meetings or new meetings in which the old traditions are not held sacrosanct. Godly shepherds (elders) are necessary. An overseer is, first of all, an overseer of order in the church meetings. "Overseer" is not some vague job description. It first of all pertains to oversight of the meetings, and the teachings and prophesyings that occur there. Ruling, in Romans 12:8, means in part the kind of intervention required in church meetings in the event of mistaken or unbiblical teaching. It is very straightforward. Anarchy is not inevitable. The spread of false doctrine is not inevitable. But the question is, do we have a godly and wise eldership equipped for oversight? Do we have confidence in these men? Or do we prefer professionals, and put our trust in them?
You see, the churches have added insult to injury. Problems are created by disobedience to the New Testament teachings and practices, and the remedy for these is more disobedience to New Testament teachings and practices. Long ago elders ceased shepherding and we yielded to, and in fact clamored for, professionals.
I say that men can indeed frustrate the Spirit of God, that men can indeed overrule the Spirit of God, and that, though the Spirit may overrule men whenever He pleases, He also refrains from overruling them as He pleases. Thus Paul's words to the church in Thessalonica, "Quench not the Spirit."
We are to understand that the Spirit is not a power-monger. He is no bully. He does indeed accomplish whatever He pleases, but He prefers the willing acquiescence of God's children, both individually and corporately.
A meeting led by the Spirit may allow for lengthy teaching by one man, as occasion requires. No doubt this must be planned ahead of the meeting. But any meeting built around a sermon, by the same man or men, every week, in perpetuity, is nowhere indicated, whereas "the work of the ministry" of the mature saints is indeed indicated as regular practice. See Eph. 4:12; Rom. 12:3-8, I Cor. 14, Heb. 10:25, along with myriad "one another" passages that have application, not solely in the meeting, but first and foremost in the meeting.