Edifice or Edifiers... What is our focus as disciples?
There comes a time in every synagogue or congregation when we must take a look at our fellowship and honestly see where we are at and where we are going. This is a time to compare our purpose with the outline found in Torah of what a body of believers should be.
The main question we need to ask ourselves is “Are we an edifice (building) or are we edifiers (builders)?” What is the true focus of our time, talents, and treasures?
Let’s look at the concepts of a edifice and an edifier and see where we fit in.
If our focus is a structure, we think about how it should look and what it should have in it. The term edifice means a building of large or imposing appearance. True to that definition, we debate over how many windows, what color carpet, and other features it should have. We plan the programs and the events that will be held there. We construct a place where people will feel comfortable. And, of course, it has to have accommodations for meals and banquets.
The concept of the building can then carry over into the ministry. The fellowship is built around trying to compete with the world and draw the outsider into the fellowship. The governing board thinks about what will attract people to the building and what will make them want to return. Numbers become an indication of how well the ministry is doing.
The goal of this organization is to get people in the door. Elaborate programs are then developed to keep them there. As people come into the fellowship, they are channeled into service to the organization. What happens then? The focus of the fellowship is not on the individual members, it is on the programs. People are hurt in the process and they may leave.
The leader of the “edifice organization” is molded into the role of either superstar or employee. As a star attraction, his charisma and talents are seen as the major draw to attract people into the fellowship. When the new people stop coming, that means his star has fizzled out, and a new “bright and shining star” is sought.
The other role, that the leader can be squeezed into, is that of an employee of the governing board. As an employee, he is called upon to keep everyone happy and keep the ministry going. This type of role also causes burnout, for the leader feels the weight of the ministry resting upon his shoulders.
As time passes, the excitement and newness of the fellowship diminishes. People become bored and fall into a routine. Some leave, looking for new buildings filled
with exciting programs. Others stay, but they become a closed community. They begin to look alike, they act alike, and they even sound alike. They develop a commune attitude. The world is thought of as “outsiders” and the members carefully scrutinize each visitor that comes through the door, to see if they meet the proper criteria to join their group.
The edifice mentality can start strong, be very “successful,” and seem like a growing ministry for many years. But the attraction and glamour will fade in time.
Now let’s look at what an Edifier fellowship means. The term “edifier” means one who works to build up or increase the faith, morality, etc. of those around him. He is to instruct, morally benefit, or uplift his fellow man. The focus of this fellowship is people! This means those who are a part of the fellowship group and those who are out in the world. The focus becomes building up people and establishing relationships, not creating a structure.
The goal of this body of believers is found in 1 Thessalonians 5:11: “Therefore, encourage each other, and build each other up—just as you are doing.” Each member is to be encouraged to grow in Messiah and instructed to find and use the talents the L-rd gave them. Those talents are then used to equip the body to serve. This body serves the lost and dying of the world. They reach out to those who are forgotten, hurt, and unloved.
A characteristic of this fellowship is that the leader is not a superstar or a Lone Ranger. He has a G-d given authority to lead the flock, but all the members serve together. The elders help to shoulder the spiritual responsibility of the fellowship, as found in I Thessalonians 5:12. They are “...working hard among you, those who are guiding you in the L-rd and confronting you in order to help you change.”
The worship services are not designed for entertainment. They provide rest, restoration, worship, celebration, and fellowship—so the disciples can go forth into the world the rest of the week and serve.
The work of the edifiers cannot be contained by a structure. Programs cannot compete with what the Spirit of G-d has in store as they live yielded lives for Him. And the effectiveness of the ministry may not be measured until each disciple stands before G-d and hears “Well done, my good and faithful servant!”
This group becomes salt to a tasteless world. They provide a distinct flavor. They allow the light of HaShem to shine through them and illuminate a dark world.
Messiah did not teach us how to build a structure for G-d. He doesn’t need our buildings, our designs, or even our programs. He already has a dwelling place—He lives within our hearts, if we are His disciples. What He did teach us was how we are to live Torah in our day-to-day relationships. Rabbi Shaul summed it up in 1 Thessalonians 5: 13-18:
“Live at peace among yourselves; but we urge you, brothers, to confront those who are lazy, your aim being to help them change, to encourage the timid, to assist the weak, and to be patient with everyone. See that no one repays evil for evil; on the contrary, always try to do good to each other, indeed, to everyone. Always be joyful. Pray regularly. In everything give thanks, for this is what G-d wants from you who are united with the Messiah Yeshua.”
It’s time to edify!