the weblog of Alan Knox

Mutual Edification and Individualism…

Posted by on Jan 8, 2007 in community, edification, gathering | 3 comments

I have argued previously that the purpose for the gathering of the church in the New Testament is mutual edification (1 Cor 14:26)—each believer building up other believers and being built up himself or herself (see here, here, and here). If most churches understand their purpose in gathering to be something other than edification (i.e. worship or evangelism), then this change in understanding will have significant implications for the contemporary church. These implications fall into both philosophical as well as practical categories.

This series will examine several of the implications of mutual edification for the gathering of the church.

First, each believer in the church must break away from an individualistic mindset (focusing only on himself or herself) in order to focus on the spiritual needs of others. David Peterson states,

In contemporary English, to say that something was ‘edifying’ usually means that it was personally helpful or encouraging. It is easy to misinterpret Paul and to think of edification individualistically, meaning the spiritual advancement of individuals within the church. This term, however, regularly has a corporate reference in the apostle’s teaching.[1]

When believers forget the corporate aspect of their gatherings, the resulting “epidemic of individualism quite simply leads to spiritual death by isolation”[2] in spite of any extant individual devotion to God. Frances Schaeffer recognized that this idea of community is necessary both for the church to grow, as well as for the church to impact the culture at large.[3] Mutual edification will not be the purpose of a group of believers as long as their thoughts are on themselves. Instead, the body must develop an attitude in which the spiritual growth and nurture of others is as important, if not more important, than their own (see Eph 4:7-16).

This community aspect of the church must exist at all times within the life of the believer, not just during the gathering, such that the community becomes a family, aware of the weaknesses, needs and problems of their brothers and sisters, and such that the community cares enough to take action to strengthen the weaknesses, meet the needs, and correct the problems.[4] Among a group of believers, this type of dynamic family life develops simultaneously with mutual edification during the gathering of the church. Edification will not occur without community awareness, and community awareness will not develop apart from mutual edification.

Implications of Mutual Edification Series:
1. Mutual Edification and Individualism
2. Mutual Edification and Leadership
3. Mutual Edification and Excellence
4. Mutual Edification and Reverence
5. Mutual Edification and Activities


[1] David Peterson, Engaging with God: A Biblical Theology of Worship (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1992), 206.

[2] Curtis Freeman, “Where Two or Three are Gathered: Communion Ecclesiology in the Free Church,” Perspectives in Religious Studies, 31, 3 (Fall 2004), 261-62.

[3] Francis A. Schaeffer, The Church at the End of the 20th Century (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 1994), 42.

[4] Robert C. Girard, Brethren, Hang Together (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1979), 23.


Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 1-9-2007

    Alan –

    1 Corinthians 14:26 says “Let all things be done for edification.”

    Now you’ve gone and done it again (LOL) … now I can’t just sit idly by and not look into what the Lord says in His Word about the purpose of our gatherings.

    I am certain that I have not stumbled upon your blog by chance. Your posts lately are quite edifying and force us to look for the truth, to examine everything we do as a church body in light of God’s Word. For that I am thankful since, as you know, my husband and I are currently seeking where God’s place is for us.

    Please … continue to think out loud about the assembling of the church … 🙂


  2. 1-9-2007


    I am glad that you find my blog edifying. Let me know what you find when you study God’s word about the purpose for the church’s gathering.


  3. 1-10-2007


    You are right on target. Dougald and I have this mission statement concerning our church’s invovlement in missions [FBC Durham is our church; Salem is a church in Kazakhstan]:

    “Our goal it to work alongside Salem church through mutual discipleship in order to reach Kazakhstan, Central Asia, and the world through the gospel of Jesus Christ.”


  1. The Assembling of the Church | Implications of Mutual Edification as the Purpose of the Church Gathering Together - [...] of posts three years ago dealing with implications of meeting together to edify one another (“Individualism,” “Leadership,” “Excellence,” “Reverence,”…