As I’ve studied Scripture to understand the purpose of the church meeting, I’ve seen the importance of mutuality. What is “mutuality”? Mutuality is the recognition that God can and does work through all of his children, and therefore, everyone should have the opportunity to edify others during the church meeting.
In most modern church meetings (of almost every denominational flavor), mutuality has been abandoned. In fact, when I ask people why only the pastor is allowed to speak during the church meeting (with very rare exception), I get one of a few answers.
1) There could be heretical teachings.
2) It would be chaotic to allow anyone to speak.
These answers demonstrate that the people believe that mutuality is dangerous and not acceptable during the church meetings.
There are other answers to the question of mutuality:
3) There are too many people in the congregation.
4) Other people are not trained or educated.
These answers demonstrate that mutuality can be good, but not necessary. Thus, in some circumstances, it is okay to abandon the concept of mutuality when the church meets.
However, Scripture seems to indicate that mutuality – mutual ministry and mutual edification – is necessary for the growth of the body. In Ephesians 4:11-16, Paul says that every member of the body must work together in order for the church to mature. In 1 Corinthians 14:26-40, Paul encourages two or three to speak in tongues (with interpretation) and two or three to prophesy (with others judging). Would Paul also apply his “two or three” rule to teaching, exhortation, etc.? Either way, it seems that Paul has mutual speaking in mind during the church meeting. The author of Hebrews tells his readers to “exhort one another daily” and to “consider one another to stir up love and good works”. This last exhortation is given specifically in relation to “not forsaking meeting together”. Thus, the context of stirring one another up to love and good works and encouraging one another is whenever believers meet together.
Scripture exhorts the church to find a way to allow mutual ministry, mutual teaching, mutual exhortation, especially when the church is meeting. Instead, in many cases, we’ve decided to set aside the instructions and examples of Scripture. While most believers would never set aside commands about murder or stealing, we’re more comfortable abandoning the exhortations toward mutual ministry when the church meets. We’re much more comfortable in allowing our circumstances or decisions (i.e. size of the congregation, tradition, education) override what Scripture teaches about our responsibilities toward one another.
I’m glad to see that more and more followers of Jesus are beginning to question how and why the church meets.