Have you ever wanted to have a Christian friend who really knew you? This friend would know and understand you at the deepest personal level. He or she would really listen to you. This friend would love you when you were unlovable. This friend could be trusted with your secrets and even your sins. He or she would extend grace to you if you shared your heart, your hopes and your faults. This friend would hold you accountable for habitually making the same mistake. He or she would tell you clearly and honestly when you were wrong or if your attitude was not the best. This friend would accept you as less than a perfect Christian.
Is it possible to have more than one friend who was this close to you? Is it possible to have a small group of friends such as this? These friends would be a lot like Jesus. These friends would be centered on Christ and would share your spiritual journey.
I have just described cell group edification. This spiritual “building up” of a Christian is what Paul describes: “Encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing” (1 Thessalonians 5:11).
Edification is one of the four intentional tasks of the cell model of ministry. Cell strategy requires believers to be willing to enter into covenant relationships with one another and to accept responsibility for one another. Spiritual building or edification does not come from social talk about the weather around the coffee pot at the monthly church potluck. This is real spiritual building of Christian life. It requires Christian commitment to community centered on Jesus Christ as Lord.
Edification occurs when Christ in me reaches out to connect with Christ in you. It happens when Jesus ministers through me to you, and through you to me. We do not do the fixing. Rather, we depend on Jesus to do the helping and the healing. Christ does the edification through Christians in relationships.
This quality of building up does not happen overnight. It takes time. It may require spiritual maturing through resolving conflict. It may require confession and repenting of spiritual strongholds. Cell group members will need to be committed to Jesus and then to one another. Trust and transparency are required. The presence and a relationship with Jesus is required of individuals forming the cell community.
Edification is not always warm, fuzzy and comfortable feelings of encouragement. Sometimes edifying happens when a Christian friend kindly tells you that you are wrong or mistaken.
Spiritual edification is an intentional and primary task of a cell group. It is interdependent ministry. Believers are released to use their spiritual gifts to edify. The priesthood of believers is empowered to build up the body. It requires Christ to be present. He is present with believers living in edifying relationships (Matthew 18:20).
This kind of edification is spiritually mature. It is not nominal Christianity, in name only. It requires commitment and time. A relationship with Jesus and walking with him is vital. A Christian needs to be willing to be vulnerable and correctable. For some, this is not easy.
In the bonded Christian community of a cell group, Jesus makes it easy. The Holy Spirit, the Comforter, reaches out and helps cell members to relate to each other. When Christ is central, trust and transparency can grow and flourish.
Praying together and for one another powerfully promotes edification. When believers pray together, the Holy Spirit bonds them together. It is from this bonded relationship and basic Christian community centered on Christ that spiritual edification springs forth naturally.
Edification is not something we do without Christ. It is not a program of the congregation. It is not a dependent ministry of the local church. It is the ministry of Jesus living in the lives of Christians who share their spiritual journey. Edification is Jesus working in the midst of a small group of believers who are centered on him and who are committed to spiritually sheltering and to building up one another.
Author: Charles A. Calahan