the weblog of Alan Knox

We need to hear each other’s stories

Posted by on Jun 11, 2013 in edification, fellowship, gathering | 6 comments

We need to hear each other’s stories

Mutual edification is more than just another option or a good idea. It is necessary for the church grow in maturity.

What do I mean by mutual edification? “Mutual” refers to each part of the church working together to impact every other part of the church. It doesn’t mean that everyone speaks, but it does mean that everyone has the opportunity to speak. “Edification” refers to our purpose in speaking together and/or serving together, which is to help one another grow (“edification” = “build up”) in maturity in Jesus Christ, which includes knowing Jesus and being united with one another.

This is exactly what Dan (from “Cerulean Sanctum“) is talking about in his post “Why I Didn’t Go to Church on Sunday.”

In the post, Dan explains why he didn’t gather with the church last Sunday. While he pointed out the specific topic of the sermon that day in the beginning of the post, by the end of the post he gets to the real problem: a lack of mutual edification. Dan writes:

Your story of Jesus has value to me. Not just the pastor’s story, but yours. Mine has value to you too. Wouldn’t it be great if we could hear those stories? Wouldn’t it be wonderful to see your story and mine fit within that greater Story?

Yes, I think they would be so excellent to hear. Now if only we could find some time in church on Sunday to squeeze them in.

You see, it has been decided by “the powers that be” that “mutual edification” is not as important or as expedient as one person given a great speech (sermon). (Many times – perhaps most often – this decision has already been made by tradition that is rarely, if ever, questioned.) That’s not a decision that can be supported by Scripture – unless, of course, you take certain passages out of context and completely leave out huge chunks of Scripture.

I sympathize with Dan and many, many others like him who have decided it’s just not beneficial to “attend church” anymore, And, in many cases, they’re probably right. It would probably be much more beneficial for them as followers of Jesus Christ for them to share lunch and their stories with a few brothers and sisters in Christ.

Oh, trust me, if people started doing that they would miss the great singing and the well-crafted and -studied sermons. But, they would get much, much more out of their time spent together.


6 Comments

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  1. 6-11-2013

    I believe that one of the unspoken reasons for the steadfast resistance to “mutual edification’ on Sunday mornings is that we all can instinctively grasp that it is simply not possible in a gathering of several hundred members of the Body (or more!). The mind then races ahead to begin to understand that the so-called economies of scale would not quite work so well. We’d either need a lot more Pastors or we’d need more leaders and/or we’d need a lot more $$$ to pay them too!

    Consequently, many churches look to small groups as the substitute where community can happen. However, the majority of Sunday morning attenders never get into small groups. Additionally, (speaking as one who has overseen small groups and even trained SG leaders), the majority of small groups don’t even know how to do open and mutual edification with Christ at the center. Some DO know some form of Bible study management or video ‘study’ meeting but the groups are too often stunted by political (spiritual?) correctness and unwillingness or inability to be real and genuine amongst themselves. Often, it’s just a less formal version of Sunday. Why? Because that’s all that has ever been modeled!!!

    All too often I think that churches lie to themselves by calling a 10 minute (maybe) conversation in the foyer ‘fellowship’ or even staring at the back of another’s head, fellowship.

    However, we seem only to be able to apply worldly standards to our assembling together– I.e. lots of people = good! Meetings = good. Paying a ‘speaker’ = good! How many times can we hear the message of God’s heart that it’s the heart and the inside that counts, not the form and appearances?

  2. 6-11-2013

    Alan,

    I’m not leaving my church permanently! I just may sit out this sermon series.

    That said, there seems to be less and less holding me to my church. :-(

    I believe this: Those people most enamored of leaving church to be adventurous Christians on their own end up dashed on the rocks. The theory is always better than the reality. Most people who walk away from church end up walking away from Jesus. It may take time, but it happens nonetheless. I’ve seen it happen too many times.

    Yes, there’s always this initial burst of energy from being “free” of institutional church craziness, but then you come back a couple years later and those free people are living exactly like their worldly counterparts. That promise of getting together regularly with other saints outside of a formal “churchianity” started off OK, but the next thing you know, those informal meetings and chats over lunch have dwindled away to nothing.

    A lot of people leave church because of conflicts. I think the Church exists in part for us to grow up and learn how to make peace with other people. People who leave over conflict are just taking their inability to make peace with them to another church. They’ll likely leave that one when conflict arises there. Seen it again and again.

    Some people leave church because of teachings. Either they don’t like the teachings or they are “not being fed.” I never know what to make of that, whether those people are justified in their leaving or not.

    Some people leave churches because their gifts are being squandered. More often than not, those people need to have a lesser view of their giftings, but for some it’s a legitimate complaint. Heck, I’ve been told myself at one church that my gifts were not appreciated because I was formally trained in ministry. Of course, I got formally trained in ministry because I was told at a different church that my gifts were not appreciated because I was NOT formally trained in ministry. And yeah, I can’t make sense of any of that either.

    Some people leave church because whatever held them there in the first place has slowly evaporated. These are the hard cases, because it’s tough to know just what happened. Maybe a favorite staff member left (or died). Maybe there’s been a lot of attendee turnover and all the old, familiar faces are MIA (and suddenly you feel like you’ve lost part of the ownership and history of the church). Maybe it’s God tapping you on the shoulder and saying it’s time to leave.

    Some people leave church because theirs got caught up in some silly trend with no legs and the string of trends the church will soon adopt to replace the one that is doomed to fail will stretch on forever. Then you leave one church only to find the new place you landed will soon be adopting the same nonsense that killed your previous church experience. This seems to be a growing trend itself.

    For some, it’s a combination of reasons.

    I think the biggest problem is that too many churches today and their leaders simply are not listening to the Holy Spirit. They aren’t doing what Jesus did: Only doing what He saw the Father doing. I think too many of our leaders are more attuned to cultural shifts than they are to the Holy Spirit’s leading.

    And the same goes for non-leaders.

    Now, if only someone would be humble enough to accept that, maybe then we could make some progress.

  3. 6-11-2013

    We just did this last night and there is not a lot that’s more encouraging than gathering together to hear the stories of other brothers and sisters!

  4. 6-11-2013

    Heartspeak,

    I think you said something extremely important: “Because that’s all that has ever been modeled!!!” I’ve talked with many people who have that same hunger for something else, but they have no idea what that is. So, we can model it for them… and with them.

    Dan,

    Yes, I understood that your absence was temporary, and I would not encourage you to stay away from your brothers and sisters in Christ. What you said about leaders and non-leaders is very true. It takes both changing together for the church (as a whole) to begin shifting to what you describe at the end of your post. Otherwise, everyone ends up frustrated and “leaving” for the wrong reasons.

    Tony,

    I agree! Thank you for sharing with us!

    -Alan

  5. 6-12-2013

    Very well said Alan. Yesterday I was discouraged and feeling all sorry for myself because yet once more a church I was trying to be a part of hasn’t worked out.

    The story of my Christian life.

    And why has that been the story of my life? Because the essence of how church is done today is simply not biblical. The Lord has opened my eyes to realize that church is way different than He intended it to be and for me there is simply no going back.

    I know too much of His heart on the matter. The very burden of my heart undermines and calls into question how church is done today and the very pastoral role and function itself (as it is commonly understood).

    I have decided to accept that fact that I will NEVER fit into present day church practices and to set my sites on whatever the Lord has for me next. Outside traditional church.

    And in that I have found a new found joy and peace.

    No more trying to fit into an institution that I simply cannot fit into.

    Carlos

  6. 6-15-2013

    Carlos,

    I hope you continue to discover God’s heart, and that you’re able to help others follow him as well.

    -Alan