Christians are members of the heavenly or ultimate assembly that Christ is gathering to himself (Matthew 16:18; Hebrews 12:22-4). From an earthly perspective, however, the church is still growing and being built (Ephesians 2:19-22; 1 Peter 2:4-5). This process of 'edification' involves growth in size and maturity, as we progress in our relationship with the Lord Jesus and with one another. In fact, Christian assemblies require further 'building' to prepare them to meet Christ on the last day (Colossians 1:28).

Reflection: Read Ephesian 4:11-16 and consider how edification takes place.


  • What is the role of the Lord Jesus? 
  • What is the role of leaders? 
  • How do members of the body contribute to the process?


Playing our part

Many gifts and ministries are given by God to believers, to enable this growth and development to take place (Romans 12:3-8; 1 Corinthians 12:1-31). Most importantly, these gifts and ministries are to be exercised in love. Believers meet together to be established and strengthened in faith, hope and love, encouraging one another to serve God in every sphere of life, as they await the day of Christ's return (Acts 2:42; Hebrews 10:24-5; 12:28-9). Everything that takes place in the assembly - praying, singing, exhorting, teaching, confessing, giving - must be for the edification of the church (1 Corinthians 14:1-19).

Intelligibility is an important issue here. People need to grasp the meaning of what is being said or sung, so that they can say 'Amen' and be wholeheartedly involved in the process of strengthening the church. What does this teach us about the content and style of our singing, praying and teaching? What might be a hindrance to edification?

Edification involves the growth of individuals, as well as the development of relationships and ministries, 'until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ' (Ephesians 4:13). As already noted, when we are ministering God's truth to one another in love, edification may also have an evangelistic outcome (1 Corinthians 14:24-5).

Order and discernment are also important factors in the edification of the church. Although many may wish to contribute, they should do this in a controlled manner, allowing opportunity for careful evaluation by others, and reflecting the fact that 'God is not a God of confusion but of peace' (1 Corinthians 14:26-40). Everything should be done 'decently and in order', so that all may be instructed and encouraged.

Learning from leaders

Christian assemblies are called into being and grow through the ministry of God's word and God's Spirit. As already noted, this means that the gospel and the Scriptures must be at the centre of everything we do together. Believers generally have a part to play in building the church through Spirit-directed ministries of the word, and through praying, praising or giving thanks to God.

At the same time, there is a vital role for teachers, overseers and elders, who are to 'hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught', so that they might be able to 'give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it' (Titus 1:9). In the post-apostolic age, those who shepherd the flock of God are guardians of the gospel (2 Timothy 1:13-14), solemnly charged with preaching, warning, and encouraging believers (2 Timothy 4:1-2; Titus 2:15; Hebrews 13:17). Such leadership is vital to the Christian assembly for its ongoing growth towards maturity and fidelity to the gospel.

Conclusion and summary: List the six most important things you have learned from reflecting on biblical teaching about the gathering of God's people.  Then consider:


  • What needs to change in the way you think and talk about 'church'?
  • What needs to change in the way you prepare and lead services?