Teaching and admonishing in the church is not a duty of the elders and teachers alone. It is also not to be restricted to the Lord’s Day gathering. Paul paints a lucid picture of his desire for the saints at the church in Colossae by giving them several “one another” instructions. In the third chapter, he adds a one-another instruction that we so often neglect in the church: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom” (Col. 3:16). Although instruction from biblically qualified elders is primary in our discipleship, the church is not meant to experience teaching only once a week from only one man. The picture we have is that of a congregation, where members are regularly discipling and admonishing one another. This may be done over coffee, in homes, on the phone, with new believers, among the old, with struggling saints, or with couples trying to grow in their marriage.
Echoes of God’s Word are to resound in His church long after the sun has set on the Lord’s Day, long after we have departed from the place of assembly. And though not every church member will teach and admonish like a George Whitefield or other noted preacher, Romans 15:14 makes it clear that we can expect members to be competent at this task. Great gifts in teaching residing in only one or two members cannot sustain churches as they grow. For the body to remain nourished, teaching must characterize how we relate as members generally to one another. In our assembly, we have decided to allow the providence of not being able to gather to serve as an impetus for members to disciple each other. Even though there are good reasons to supplement the Sunday gathering with an online service (which we did for several weeks), we decided it would be better for husbands to embrace the burden to dive into the Scriptures and prepare lessons for their families and for the unmarried to gather in homes to disciple each other.
Training is a core part of what every pastor is called to do. Our preaching and teaching is not designed to spoon feed the saints but to train the saints. Therefore, the best preaching and teaching is not only that which helps members get the point of the passage but that which also helps them see how the teacher arrived at the conclusions to which he is calling them to respond. The vision for ministry in Ephesians 4 has pastors equipping the saints for the work of the ministry.
It has obviously been very intimidating for many of our members to prepare passages for teaching and discipleship among themselves. However, one of our elders prepared resources that we continue to send to the church to help them with a step-by-step process of how to progress from the text to a lesson. Zoom calls that have served like mini-hermeneutics classes have also greatly helped those looking for more help. We do not by any measure think that the quality or clarity of teaching going on is as clear as what would be received in the Lord’s Day services, where we have those whom God has particularly gifted for teaching opening up His Word for us. But we are convinced that we will be stronger if we have a higher percentage of our people trained to teach one another as we have been commanded. It might be messier, but we pray that it will make us healthier.
We can be sure that each member of God’s church is well equipped to fulfill their mandate in the church. In a season when providence has denied us a key grace, leaning on the other graces—to which He has called us in His church—is a sure way of modeling trust in Him. We are doing what we can to help each member of God’s church become well equipped to fulfill their mandate in the church. May the Lord allow us to see much fruit from this trying time.