Last week, I wrote several posts on the topic of “mutual edification.” The series (which wasn’t really planned as a series) began with a post called “A structure that emerges naturally based on the people involved” in which I commented on a passage from one of my favorite books. Then, I wrote “About edification, mutual edification, self- or solo-edification,” defining the various types of edification and examining why type Paul says should take place when we gather with other believers. In the next post, I discussed “The role of leaders and mutual edification.” Finally, I asked (and answered) the question, “What if mutual edification is not allowed?”
A Facebook friend (GeorgiaAna) shared my post on leaders and mutual edification with her Facebook friends (see the share and comments here.) In the comments that followed, GeorgiaAna made a great observation and a request:
I was also hoping you’d be inspired to give some examples. I know that examples can be turned into patterns to cut and measure by — but they’re helpful to some learners in getting the ideas cemented into a usable form. It’s all a struggle to maintain that balance that is authentic edification without manipulation, and too few speak about it.
Over the last few days, I’ve been thinking about her request and the benefits and dangers of examples. I’ve decided to share some examples, but I want to start with a couple of caveats.
1) I can only share examples that I have taken part in, and I can only share them in a general way. Whenever we get together, different things happen, different things are said, different people speak, etc. I cannot tell you what will happen next Sunday when we gather together (or anytime this week we get together with brothers and sisters in Christ). So, remember, these are general examples.
2) Like GeorgiaAna stated, I am not sharing these examples to be turned into forms or methods for others to emulate step by step. Instead, I’m sharing these examples as ways that God has worked (and continues to work) through a group of believers in order for us to serve one another to build each other up and to mature as a group. God will probably work through other groups of believers in different ways because the believers are different.
So, with that stated, I’ll share a few ways that we mutually edify one another.
As a group, we have decided to study through a book of the Bible together. (However, between books we often do topical studies.) For example, we’re currently studying through Ephesians. We’ve also decided as a group that it works best for us for someone to facilitate each week’s study. That person changes from week to week, and that person is not responsible for doing all of the teaching. In fact, we know that we are all responsible for studying the passage and for teaching one another. During this time of teaching/discussion, many people will take part as we work through the passage. The “facilitator” helps us stay on track, but does not attempt to control the meetings. For example, last Sunday we had planned to work through 16 verses, but we spent half of our time on the first verse. And, we stayed there because so many people were being encouraged and challenged by what was being shared.
We also attempt to mutually edify one another in the way that we sing. Whenever we sing together, different people can request songs. Often, the person who requests that we sing a song together will explain why they want to sing that song. Also, often, after we sing, someone (or more than one person) will comment on the lyrics. In this way, singing becomes less about the music and entertainment, and much more about considering the lyrics and how they reflect our lives with Christ.
In praying, we also seek to build up each other. It’s hard to say exactly when we pray when we gather together. Sometimes we have an extended prayer time at the beginning of our gathering, sometimes at the end, and sometimes scattered through our time of being together. We always have an open time of sharing requests, praises, thanksgivings, etc., and open times of prayer, where many people can take part. I’ve noticed that people often minister to one another as a result of this prayer time after we have stopped praying.
One of the most important aspects of gathering together is eating together. We’ve decided to eat together at the end of our gathering. We don’t have a formal meal. Instead, each family brings food for their family. Others, who don’t bring food, run out to fast food restaurants to pick up some food. Then, others, share food that other families bring. Everyone who wants to stay is always welcomed (and invited) to stay and eat, even if they didn’t bring food. This time around the table is important in continuing conversations from the prayer, Bible study, etc. as well as further discussing and sharing what’s going on in each other’s lives.
Then, finally, there is so much time of just hanging out together. We’re not a stickler for starting or stopping at a certain time. And, as we start gathering together, we’ll often spend extended amounts of time just talking with one another. The same thing happens after we eat together. We’ll often continue talking with one another hours after we’ve finished eating.
These are a few of the examples of how we mutually edify one another when we gather together. (I’ve mostly described our scheduled weekly gatherings.) However, there’s another absolutely necessary element that I’ve talked about yet. What’s that? This Sunday gathering is not the only time that we see one another during the week. For most of us, we spend time together several other times during the week, and these times of gathering together are just as important in mutual edification as our Sunday gathering.
I’d love to hear other examples of how you seek to mutually edify one another when you gather with the church.