the weblog of Alan Knox

Mutual Edification and Leadership…

Posted by on Jan 9, 2007 in edification, gathering | 8 comments

(Part 2 in a series on the implications of mutual edification as the purpose of the gathering of the church): 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.

Second, the church should recognize that focusing on the gifts and abilities of one individual (or a small group of individuals) will not lead to the spiritual growth of the body, regardless of how large the audience becomes. The current trend of Christian celebrities and mega-church personalities does not lead to every believer accepting their responsibility to build up the body of Christ. Instead placing the spotlight on “the man of God” or the pastoral staff promotes the unbiblical distinction between clergy and laity, between trained ministerial professionals and ordinary Christians. As Robert Girard expressed, “The Church was never meant to be a one-man show. The Body was never expected to draw all its life, teaching and leadership from any one person – however spiritual or well-trained that person might be (Eph. 4:16).”[1]

Considering Paul’s hypothetical situation in 1 Corinthians 14:23-25, the unbeliever was not converted because the Holy Spirit was with a “man of God,” but because the Holy Spirit was with a community of believers—the people of God. In order for mutual edification to be the result of any gathering of believers, every believer should recognize and accept their own calling—all are called to be ministers (servants), all are called to be preachers (proclaimers), all are called to be evangelists, all are called to be teachers, all are called to make disciples.

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

Notes:

[1] Robert C. Girard, Brethren, Hang Loose (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1972), 51-52.


8 Comments

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  1. 1-10-2007

    Alan,

    In 1st Cor. 12, Paul discusses the various gifts and ‘ministries’ in the church. He ends the chapter with several questions. One of them is, “Are all teachers?” He doesn’t answer the question.

    So, given the context of chapter 12, what would you say his point is? In the last paragraph you said, “all are teachers.” Maybe I’m not traking with what you are saying, and I’m no NT scholar, but it appears to me that Paul is saying there are different gifts God has called us to, though we are to desire the “higher gifts.” (v.31)

    Maybe I’m missing your point in the last paragraph. If I am please forgive me. Could you shed some light on this for me?

    Through Christ
    Dougald

  2. 1-10-2007

    Alan,

    I don’t think I stated my question clearly in the last comment. So, here it is, “How does your final paragraph correspond to what Paul says in chapter 12?”

    Through Christ,
    Dougald

  3. 1-10-2007

    Dougald,

    That’s a great question. Notice in 1 Cor. 12:29 Paul also asks, “Are all prophets?”, expecting a “No” answer. The purpose of these rhetorical questions seems to be to demonstrate the diversity of gifts – which, by the way, is also the purpose of chapter 12. So, the Spirit gifts people differently.

    Now, skip down to 1 Cor 14:31 – “For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all be encouraged.” Now, it can be argued that the “all” that are able to prophesy are the “two or three prophets” in 1 Cor 14:29. However, that would mean that the remaining “all”‘s of 14:31 are talking about those same two or three prophets as well. But, it seems that the “all” who learn and who are encouraged is, well, all of the people gathered.

    Now, how do understand this seeming contradiction? 1 Cor. 12:29 seems to indicate that all do not prophesy, while 1 Cor 14:31 seems to indicate that all do prophesy. Well, I think the answer is in the work of the Spirit.

    In 1 Cor 12, when Paul asks, “Are all teachers? Are all prophets?…”, he’s asking if the Spirit normally works through everyone to prophesy or teach (remember, all gifts are works of the Spirit). The answer would be no. However, since the Spirit works as HE wills, then everyone has the potential to teach or prophesy (thus 1 Cor. 14:31), not because of their abilities, but because of the Spirit working through them. In other words, “teaching” is not only within the realm of those with certain training or abilities, nor is it only within the realm of those through whom the Spirit normally teaches, but it is a potential for all believers.

    In fact, I think that 2 Tim 2:2 (among other passages) shows that God does expect all believers to teach at times.

    I’m sorry this comment is so long (perhaps I should apologize to Steve for picking at him about a long comment yesterday). I talked about the difference understandings of spiritual gifts in this previous post.

    Thanks again Dougald! I’m enjoying the Missions as Ecclesiology blog that you and Wes are writing. Keep up the great work!

    -Alan

  4. 1-10-2007

    Alan,

    Thanks for the quick response. I believe that your answer to the question is a reasonable explanation of the two texts.

    It gives some food for thought. I guess there are two questions left for us. 1) How would this look? It seems to foreign to the current way we ‘do churhc.’ 2) Will we be obedient to it?

    I’m glad you are enjoying our blog. I hope that I learn a lot from my interaction with those who are in different fields of study and I hope that it is used to encourage the brethren.

    Thanks,
    Dougald

  5. 1-10-2007

    Dougald,

    You ask two very important questions:

    1) How would this look? It seems to foreign to the current way we ‘do church.’ 2) Will we be obedient to it?

    These are the questions that I have been asking (of myself and others), and attempting to answer (from Scripture and from observing others).

    -Alan

  6. 1-10-2007

    Alan,

    thanks for the reference to our blog, (let me be a shameless promoter) I have another blog http://www.ulfilas.dufilas.blogspot.com, more general in purpose if you would like to check it out.

    Are there not other passages that relate both some gifted as teachers, yet all being responsible to teach others?

    Like Ephesians 4. Verse eleven introduces us to the gift of the pastor/teacher, but the remainder of the chapter focuses on the speach of believers to other believers. Chapter 5 also refers to speaking in verse 19 and following.

    In your post, you state that all are called to be servants, proclaimers, evangelists, to make disciples. I agree.

    But, doesn’t the Bible still posit some level of distinction between the pastor/teacher and the people, not in terms of obedience, but responsibility? Scripture states that teachers will face stricter judgment, but if all teach, then how can there be stricter judgment?

    In your response to Dougald, I see that you are saying that all have the potential to teach, because of the will of the Spirit, though not all teach at the same time. I agree with you here. I am not trying to cause any division, I think we unheathily make a clergy/laity distinction. But isn’t there necessarily a distinction between the teacher and the taught, at that point in time?

    If this comment appears to be a non sequitor, just respond accordingly,

    Wes

  7. 1-10-2007

    Wes,

    I copied the url into my browser, but it did not work. Can you check the url that you typed in?

    Yes, there are other passages to speak of all believers teaching (the Great Commission for instance). I believe that anyone who teaches (not just pastors/elders) will be held accountable to what they teach. I believe that anyone who proclaims will be held accountable for what they proclaim. I also believe that everyone will be held accountable for each word (even idle words) that they speak.

    Yes, there are teachers: these seem to be people through whom the Spirit normally teaches. Yes, I beleive they will be judged more strictly, because they teach more.

    I hope this helps clear up my understanding. If anyone disagrees, I’d love to hear their views as well.

    -Alan

  8. 1-10-2007

    Alan, yeah, I mistyped my own url!

    http://www.ulfilasdufilas.blogspot.com

    I placed a dot between ulfilas and dufilas by error.

    Anyway, great post and responses. I don’t see any major disagreements.

    Wes