There are nearly sixty New Testament verses which are about what are to do for ‘one-another’. That’s sixty verses we cannot obey if we don’t do church properly.
Our problem has often been in seeing church as an event, which runs for an hour and a half with precious little room for most people present to do anything other than be spectators – and occasionally sing. It might be a liturgical event or a preaching event or even a singing event – but it’s largely the actions of a few being watched and consumed by the many, with occasionally people doing things altogether. There’s a little bit of room for four people to hand out stuff and another six to serve coffee.
Obviously a church like that is clergy-dominated. In some cases, it is actually expressed by the minister and echoed by the church that it is the minister’s duty to lead the service, do the prayers and the reading, preach the sermon and welcome the newcomers. Or that it is the band which runs things for everybody else, apart from the preacher.
Obviously too, that cannot be right – that is a misshapen view of the body. The one-anothers’ have disappeared. We are only seeing part of the spectrum.
Now I, as a minister, do not know the pressures of being a Christian banker, or a Christian nurse. I can only imagine. But other people in the church do know, because they are in the same, or similar positions. So encouraging people to teach and admonish each other, for instance, will have a much greater chance of God’s word driving deeply and specifically into issues of life. God’s word does more work when we allow it to work between church members.
What’s more, I must remember, as a minister, that I also should be taught and admonished. I need people around me who will ‘one-another’ me. I am not aloof from this process like an umpire dispassionately overseeing a tennis match between two fierce opponents.
There’s a risk in stressing this, of course. We might become so focussed on the need to meet each other, that we forget that it is God who has called the meeting. But I don’t think that is our most clear and present danger.
- What practices do you have on Sundays which help or hinder mutual ministry?
- What structures do you have during the week to achieve this? Do they actually work (be honest)?
- Who takes you on one side and ‘one-another’s you? Are you receiving as well as giving? Are you being taught by other members of the church, or are you always the teacher?
- Are you a member of a small group in which you are not the leader and not deferred to?
- Who prays for you, and how do you give them things to pray for?