In the Old Testament, Jehovah gave Israel a number of instructions including the Tabernacle (and the various things inside of it), a Law to live by (including its various applications), as well as other things. Israel was to value these teachings and instructions, primarily because they came from their God. They were holy and were to be treated as such. In the New Testament, the Lord has also given to His people instructions that are holy such as His church (and everything His church is to abide by such as its assemblies and its teachings.) Another example is the principle of marriage as given by our Creator. For this reason, it is called “holy matrimony.”
With this as an introduction, consider the following: in my experience, I have found among the churches of Christ a number of congregations who practice what I call “mutual edification.” This is the principle in which it is the brothers’ responsibility to teach to the various congregations of the Lord’s people. Of these congregations, many are practicing this as a result of strong convictions. They are following the NT teachings in which this was practiced among the churches. These brethren recognize there are not any examples in the NT in which a congregation hired what today might be commonly called a “minister” to do the work of the average brothers in regard to teaching the congregations. The work of a man who is hired to do the work of the brothers is a modern invention among the churches.
There are also many congregations that are following this principle for various other reasons. Perhaps they cannot afford to hire a minister and they are doing the best they can. There are also cases in which a congregation may practice this principle in order to use funds for other works. I am finding more and more of these congregations scattered throughout, not only in the United States, but also throughout the world.
Of this latter group of congregations, it has been my experience to hear from them two very distinct responses. The first is very positive. I have heard brethren say how much they have learned to appreciate the great advantages of following this principle. They often point out that they are surprised and even pleased with the personal growth and maturity that being willing to teach the body has brought the individual brothers. Many will point out that they have been benefitted by this practice, and they are pleasantly surprised at the advantages of taking this responsibility themselves.
There is another response that is not so pleasant to hear, and they are a minority of congregations in my experience, but they do exist. I have heard brethren actually sound very apologetic that they do not have a professional speaker or minister. They often talk of how they “hope” to one day do “better” by having a professional to teach the congregation. They lament that they are in such a “bad position” that the average brothers are “forced” by circumstance to do the teaching. I do not think that this is a good attitude.
Just as with everything the Lord has given to His people, the God-approved principle of mutual edification is something holy and right. It is something that should be valued and appreciated by brethren. And it is certainly nothing to be ashamed of. Yes, because the brothers are not necessarily trained speakers, they may not be as eloquent as others. Because many of the brothers have other responsibilities such as family and work that they must give attention to, they may be forced to get up a bit earlier or go to bed a bit later in order to spend time preparing to teach the brethren. To be sure, teaching the body is not to be taken lightly.
It is worth noting the apostle Paul was not in any way apologetic when he wrote to the brethren at Rome in 15:14, “Now I myself am confident concerning you, my brethren, that you also are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another.” Paul did not write for the brethren to do this until they could hire a man to take their responsibilities from them. When Paul wrote to the brethren at Corinth, he said in 1 Corinthians 14:3, “But he who prophesies speaks edification and exhortation and comfort to men.” He was not addressing this to the Corinthian minister, for there is certainly no hint of such a man. He was writing to the saints as noted in 1:2. Paul was addressing the great good the brethren can do by speaking the word of the Lord to the church.
Paul was addressing these same saints in 1 Corinthians 14:26, “How is it then, brethren? Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification.” The brothers had important words for the congregation when it came together. These were words of value to the church, and they certainly should neither be ashamed nor apologetic of such! These words were given by the Lord and therefore were holy and right! Certainly, they were nothing to be apologetic of!
It is also worth noting when considering the value of these words there is the prophecy in Mal 3:16-18. This prophecy was specifically speaking of the words that jewels (Christians) in the coming church would speak to one another. These same words would help the jewels learn right and wrong and how to serve the Lord. Are these words to be ashamed of? Are these words to be apologized for? Absolutely NOT! These are words we should be thankful for and appreciate, for they ultimately come from the Lord!
To be sure, there are other passages in the Scriptures we could consider, but this article is somewhat restricted by time and space. The point is, we should never be apologetic nor ashamed of the average brothers who are willing to take time out of their lives to prepare lessons for the Lord’s people. Conversely, those brothers who are fortunate enough to take these responsibilities must also know they are speaking of the holy word of God to the holy body of Christ. They are to prepare lessons by putting sufficient time and effort to present words that are edifying and worthy of the Christians they are speaking to as well.
Thanks to the Lord for giving us this privilege. Thanks to Him for giving us things that are holy and right that we can share with one another as we work at walking in His ways.