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What if mutual edification is not allowed?

Posted by on Nov 2, 2012 in edification, gathering | 6 comments

What if mutual edification is not allowed?

For the last few days, I’ve published several posts about the important of mutual edification when the church gathers together. I think this (i.e., mutual edification) had in mind when Paul wrote, “When you come together… let all things be done for edification.” (1 Corinthians 14:26 ESV)

This type of edification is not the work of one person or even a small group of people among the church. Instead, mutually edification is a work of the whole church helping one another grow in maturity in Jesus Christ. Neither solo-edification (one person building up others) nor self-edification (one person building up him or herself) is the same as mutual edification.

However – and let’s be honest – usually when believers gather together, they are not allowed to take part in the work of building up one another. Instead, a person (or group of people) in an official capacity decide who can or who cannot take part in the gathering of the church. In other words, in many (perhaps most) cases, most followers of Jesus Christ are not allowed to take part in mutual edification in most church gatherings, even if they wanted to.

So, what should these people do, assuming that they want to take part in mutual edification? Is it best to ignore the leaders’ plans and interrupt the service in order to take part? No, probably not. Is it best to remain passive and not work to build up the church? No, that’s not best either.

My suggestion is to begin with prayer, study, and examination of your own motives. Then, speak carefully and humbly with the positional officials, explaining your concerns.

But, remember this: mutual edification can and should take place any time we gather with other believers. If it cannot take place in one gather, then gather in another location or on another occasion. What do I mean? I mean invite a few close friends to your house or to a restaurant or to a coffee shop or to a park. Explain that you need to hear from them – you want to know what God is doing in their lives – you want to learn from what they’re going through. And, of course, you should seek to help them grow as well.

It is not your responsibility to convince everyone that you are correct. So, explain your position / concerns, but then live in the way that God is calling you to live. Begin to both teach and learn from your brothers and sisters in Christ whenever you are with them. Speak to them and listen to them. Sacrifice your own plans in order to join others in their life.

Are you getting together with one other brother or sister in Christ? Then build each other up. Are you gathering with just a few? Then edify one another. Are you having lunch with some other believers? Encourage each other.

Like Paul said, “Whenever you come together… let everything be done for edification.” If you can’t build up each other in one meeting, then get together at other times.


6 Comments

  1. 11-2-2012

    we would often stand in the lobby, hallways, or simply be with one another out on the lawn (steps, parking lot, etc.) to encourage one another right on through part or all of a function that would routinely hush mutual edification. When someone might venture to ask why we’re not “in the service” [actually, every moment we are "in the service" of the Living God.] we would tell them that we had become caught up in edifying one another. Uncommon for anyone to take offense by this. After all, we could always just pick up a cassette or DVD of the pastor’s speech for that week (if someone made reference to something in it — seldom is a sermon of significant interest to those who believe).
    So then, be selective with the time we have together?

  2. 11-2-2012

    I’m enjoying this series, Alan.

    I’m still adding to a series of my own on the effects of group size. One clear effect is on the ability for people to interact in meaningful ways, in particular mutual edification is more likely to happen in small groups than in larger ones.

    http://jesus.scilla.org.uk/2012/10/groups-of-sixty-to-eighty.html

    I’d be interested to hear your thoughts about that.

  3. 11-3-2012

    Alan, I wholeheartedly agree with both your assessment and your action plan. However, even doing what you suggest can be difficult, especially if a church is “program oriented” or if people have the idea that they’ve “put in their time for the week” by attending church on Sunday. We’ve found that even aggressive pursuit of fellowship with others can result in a small – or lack of a – response.

  4. 11-5-2012

    Marshall,

    Yes, exactly. I’ve often thought that if we were to ever “attend” that kind of church again, I’d probably spend most of my time talking with people in the lobbies and hallways.

    Chris,

    Group size is very interesting, isn’t it. I agree that if the group gets too large for people to be able to mutually edify one another, then it would be best to break up into smaller groups.

    Steve,

    Oh, you are absolutely right. It can be extremely difficult. Not only that, but, unfortunately, some leaders will see it as rebellious.

    -Alan

  5. 5-14-2013

    This last year has been transformational in how I see the church, its structure, its function, etc. I have come late to this Blog series but have found in it so many things that have echoed my thoughts as well as expanding on them and stating them more eloquently than I could. My natural inclination when learning something new is to teach it to others, and sometimes to do it with a nuclear bomb. God and my wife have been teaching me the meaning of gentleness and I realized that what turned me to this way of thinking was by example. I met with people who attended a different church, but practiced daily a more organic style of church in which for the first time I experienced mutual edification. I was like a desert, soaking it in. In the last two weeks I realized that my best witness currently is to continue living that lifestyle and indeed to step it up, going out of my way to engage in Christ-centered, mutually edifying conversations with those around me.

  6. 5-15-2013

    Gordon,

    You said, “In the last two weeks I realized that my best witness currently is to continue living that lifestyle and indeed to step it up, going out of my way to engage in Christ-centered, mutually edifying conversations with those around me.” That’s the same conclusion that I can to a few years ago. I hope I get to hear what God does in and through your life through those conversations!

    -Alan

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