When the church gathers together, Paul says that everything should be done for edification. And, previously, I’ve argued that the kind of edification that he’s talking about is “mutual edification.” I defined mutual edification as all (or many) working together to help all grow together in maturity in Jesus Christ.
Now, when we study most church gatherings today, we find something different. Instead of all (or many) working together to edify everyone, we typically find one, two, or at most a few leaders working to edify everyone. As I’ve mentioned before, this is a form of “solo-edification,” not mutual edification.
But, we know from Scripture that there were leaders among the earliest churches. So, what would be the role of these leaders when the church gathers if it was not to do the edifying?
In the New Testament, leaders were not chosen based on their spiritual gifts, and they were not place in positions of authority. Instead, leaders were recognized because they were exercising whatever gift God had given them, and because they were more mature (while still maturing) followers of Jesus Christ, and because they were good (living) examples for others to observe and imitated in life, faith, service, etc.
Thus, these leaders would certainly be edifying others when the church gathers together, using whatever gifts that God gives them as well as working through other opportunities that God provides (i.e., gifted teachers are not the only Christians responsible for teaching). However, this is not the extent of their leading. Why? Because while it is important for leaders to edify others, if all they do is edify other then they are several things missing from their role as leaders during the gathering of the church: 1) they are not allowing others to edify them (part of the “mutual” aspect of mutual edification), 2) they are only teaching others to be edified and not teaching them to edify, and 3) they are not providing examples of what it means to be edified by others.
So, while leaders should certain edify others, they should also allow themselves to be edified by others. This is important both for the continued growth and maturity of the leader(s) as children of God and followers of Jesus Christ. But, it’s also important for the continued growth and maturity of the whole church. Unidirectional edification (i.e., edification that is only done BY the leaders) is not as healthy for the church as mutual edification (i.e., edification that is done by the whole church).
There’s another way to think about this. Someone who feels he/she must be in control of a church gathering or who must be the one speaking, teaching, preaching, whatever, then that person is not actually leading in the way that leading in described in Scripture. This is true even if that person has be placed in some type of leadership position.
A leader among the church will both edify the church and will give plenty of opportunities for others to edify the church as well.