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Replay: How do we edify others?

Posted by on Jan 21, 2012 in edification | 8 comments

Replay: How do we edify others?

Two year ago, in January 2010, I started a series on the subject of mutual edification by looking at a passage in 1 Thessalonians. The series continued with posts about passages in Romans and 1 Corinthians. Finally, it ended with posts that asked a couple of questions: 1) who edifies whom? and 2) how do we edify others?

The post below was the conclusion of that series: “How do we edify others?” I do not offer specific steps towards edification, because I think the “steps” will changed based on the people involved. However, I do offer a few guidelines that I’ve noticed about edification. If you’re interested, links to the other posts in the series can be found at the bottom of the post.

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How do we edify others?

This is my last planned post on edification for this week (see “Salvation as the motivation for mutual edification,” “Acceptance and edification,” “What is Edification?” and “Who edifies whom?“). In this post, I would like us to consider some of the methods we can use to edify others.

Once again, let’s with begin the definition from a previous post: Edification is using words and deeds in the context of familial relationships and fellowship to help one or more followers of Jesus Christ grow in their understanding of Christ, their love for and unity with their brothers and sisters in Christ, and their faithfulness in living like Christ.

There are a few things to consider at the beginning. We are gifted differently. We have different opportunities. We spend time with different people who need to mature in different ways. We are all at different levels of spiritual maturity in different parts of our lives. We cannot make specific statements about methods of edification that will cover all instances.

However, there are some general guidelines that can help us think through how we are (or are not) edifying others. For instance, I think we can all agree that Scripture teaches that we can use our words to either edify (build up) or destroy (tear down). But, it’s not just our words. Our actions (deeds or lack of deeds done for the purpose of serving others) can work to either edify or destroy. If we desire for people to grow both in their understanding and in their way of life, then both our words and our way of life must be used to edify.

Second, we must understand that in different contexts, different methods of edification are appropriate. Paul makes this very clear in 1 Corinthians 14. For example, while uninterpreted tongues is an appropriate means of edifying the one speaking, it is an inappropriate means of edifying a group of believers.

Third, in spite of the second principle, we should still recognize that ANY time we spend with another person or other people is an opportunity for edification. We see this in Scripture often as people make disciples and encourage one another when the church is meeting together, or when they are working together, or when they are sharing meals together, or when they are traveling together.

Fourth, edification is a mutual process. If I only view myself as the “edifier” in a certain relationships, then I have misunderstood the way that God’s Spirit works through his children. Even if I am the more mature believer, I can still learn from and be encouraged by and be discipled by (i.e., edified by) a less mature brother or sister. I can be wrong… I am wrong in many of my beliefs, my relationships with others, and my way of life. Humility is very important in our relationships with other believers such that we are willing accept the teaching, correction, example, etc. of others.

Fifth, and finally for now, in order for the church to grow in maturity, every believers must take advantage of the opportunities, giftings, talents, abilities, relationships, etc. that God has given them. Excellent leadership does not produce growth in the church. A phenomenal teacher/preacher does not produce growth in the church. Instead, it is when all believers are working together to edify one another that Paul says the church (together) will grow in maturity toward Jesus Christ.

I know that I still have much to learn about edification. I’m looking forward to the times that God uses the people in my life to edify me, just as I’m looking forward to times when God chooses to use me to edify others. We need one another.

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Some Thoughts on Mutual Edification:

  1. Salvation as the motivation for mutual edification
  2. Acceptance and edification
  3. What is edification?
  4. Who edifies whom?
  5. How do we edify others?

8 Comments

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

  1. 1-22-2012

    In thinking about passages that present participatory meetings with mutual ministry (like I Cor 14:23-30, Heb 10:23-25, I Pet 4:8-11, etc.), I wonder about the best way for having “every one of you” bringing something in turn in the meeting to become the norm and not the distant aspiration. For now, even when we want to have it so, edification within the context of the gathered assembly remains unrealized as depicted in scripture. We seem to try everything in between, but not what is presented by these passages.

    Typical of “moving in the right direction” is to have the speaker invite comments and discussion. Because we come from a church tradition and culture that has had only one speaker week in and week out with no audience participation beyond an occasional, somber, “amen,” even when we move past the same speaker every week, we still tend to have a “speaker-at-bat” led meeting where others might ask a question or add something to the designated passage or topic for the meeting. We might even go to great lengths to orchestrate and facilitate some level of participation in our topic.

    Is this the best we can imagine those passages depict?

    Personally, I’m beginning to think our approach to participatory style–the presenter-led meeting with a topically controlled approach–is just another failure to fulfill the promise of these passages. The “speaker-at-bat” is considered a very good facilitator if they can get a bit of audience interaction on our topic/passage. Yet in effect, we still muzzle the saints from leading off with what God has placed on their hearts for us by both controlling the meeting and by not leaving them space/expecting them to contribute as He leads.

    Doesn’t our best attempts to move past the pastor controlled meeting space still deny committing one another to the care and capability of the Spirit in contributing to one another when assembled? Wasn’t this something Paul was very quick to do with pagans only recently converted, leaving them on their own after a few weeks or months without “leadership?” Do the saints, in fact, need us and not the Spirit, to help them begin to “participate” so narrowly? I suppose I’m advocating “throwing the meeting in the deep end of the pool to learn to swim together,” but this seems to be the biblical pattern.

    With the Holy Spirit gifting each believer and residing within us, and the authority of the word to step up with, is the expected functioning of believers within a gathering helped or hindered by the meeting leader-facilitator and topical control? If the saints are so crippled by never having seen this, are they healed by continuing to see it in this modestly modified form?

    It seems to me in these passages, there is no weekly facilitator/discussion leader. Any speakers need to leave room for others, not by inviting comments, but by giving space (frankly, by sitting down and closing their mouths). Of course, in our speaking we can provide a good model. Then we must also sit down and open space–providing the rest of the model.

    To model participation, those accustomed to speaking have to model muzzling ourselves for much of the meeting.

    It seems in these passages that everyone/anyone speaks. On any topic on their hearts. To sing, to pray, to share scripture, to teach, to share insights, to ask for prayer. No topic for the day. No passage for the day. Each as God leads.

    And, as Alan has pointed out several times, we come prepared by having “considered one another” with a view to provoke love and good works, and that this is our responsibility to one another and to God as good stewards of God’s grace (giftings).

    At the risk of sounding harsh, as long as we continue to have the preponderance of our times together be facilitator lead meetings with topic or passage imposed content we are refusing to let God have the meeting through each member, and we are poorly modeling the scriptural depiction of participative, mutual ministry when assembled.

  2. 1-23-2012

    Art,

    Like I told you yesterday at lunch, I really appreciated this comment. I sense another “Comment Highlight” coming…

    -Alan

  3. 1-23-2012

    The Shakers (Quakers) followed Art’s suggestion, so if that line of thought is intriguing you may want to study their history.

    Although I have no Quaker background I have experience with a practically similar method, and as a consequence have concluded for myself that this formula is no more magical. There certainly should be freedom for everyone to participate, and this does mean something more than merely telling them that their opinion is welcome; but not everyone’s gift is going to be shared verbally.

    Are you prepared to say that the only way fellow Christians minister to you is through their speech? If not, are you prepared to match those servants in their service, whatever it is? Kindness? Housework?

    Why would you require the hand to serve as a mouth, or the foot as an eye? Placing an expectation on all that they ought to participate, darn it, or church isn’t working right! is just another way of ignoring what God is doing by focusing on a program.

    Sometimes God has placed only you (or whomever) with the inclination to teach, and you are the only one who will have much to say when the context has even a whiff of teaching–which at some point, it should. Just don’t consider those conversations around the dinner table “un-Christian” or “cheating on church.” Letting the Spirit move means context as well as content.

    I’m speaking forcefully because you’re describing my present reality that I see in need of improvement. There are aspects of waiting that I have benefited from, as well; I’m not completely against it.

  4. 1-23-2012

    Arlan,

    Thanks for the comment. I’ve also benefited from “aspects of waiting”…

    Please watch for my post tomorrow morning on this topic.

    -Alan

  5. 1-24-2012

    Hi Arlan,

    I think Alan’s post was broad–covering the 7 days a week, 24 hours a day aspect of our inter-relationships, including when all are assembled together but not at all limited to that setting. My response was solely talking about the time when the saints are all assembled together in one place (I Cor 14:23-40).

    In that assembled setting, I was mainly describing the observable “mechanics” of the interactions as described in I Cor and other passages noted. That is a far cry from what we do today. In practice, this style of meeting is very difficult to embody. And, we can’t blame it on the lack of spirituality today, because the Corinthian church presents to us saints who were every bit as carnal as we typically find in churches today. So what is wrong? I frankly don’t know.

    I’ve been in a few groups where this actually worked well, and in each the context was that all during the week there were many interactions together and we knew and cared for each other. But in the main, doing so repeatably in a wide variety of groups remains largely unrealized–even when a determined effort is made to enliven these passages in practice when assembled.

    It would be interesting to explore ways to get back to this pattern, what the barriers are, what accelerates this way of being assembled together, etc. For now, we all do the best we can within our limits to love one another when assembled and during the 7 days of every week.

  6. 1-25-2012

    Art,

    Interestingly, I think that one of the struggles that I’ve had in studying Scripture is in finding that hard separation between “the 7 days a week, 24 hours a day aspect of our inter-relationshps” and “when all are assembled together.” The struggle to find that distinction in Scripture is one of the things that initial led me to study the gathering of the church and to start this blog.

    -Alan

  7. 1-26-2012

    As a child, there was a hard separation for me about grace. It was taking time before meals to be thankful, and that prayer is still well crafted, “Bless us, O Lord, and these Thy gifts which we are about to receive from Thy bounty through Christ our Lord. Amen.” When grace became a way of life, thankfulness and recognition of God at mealtime and in 24×7 life merged.

    I still know when we are gathered at the table for a meal, but I’m no longer uniquely taking a moment to be thankful at that time.

  8. 1-26-2012

    Art,

    Speaking of “gathered at the table for a meal”… I’m thinking about extending the “teaching workshop” so I can enjoy more of that Chinese food… ;)

    -Alan