The Sunday Sample, Episode 111

“Let’s lead worship in such a way as to edify the church.” Have you heard that phrase, or something similar? Sounds noble. It’s got a nice Biblical ring to it. But what does it mean? And how does it inform the way we lead corporate worship?

Let’s have a look today at what it means to lead worship to edify the church.

First, what does the word mean?
The Greek word translated ‘edification’ is, “oikodomeœ”, as in, “Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.” (Romans 14:19 NIV11)

Here are all uses of the word in the New Testament: Matthew 24:1; Mark 13:1–2; Romans 14:19; 15:2; 1 Corinthians 3:9; 14:3, 5, 12, 26; 2 Corinthians 5:1; 10:8; 12:19; 13:10; Ephesians 2:21; 4:12, 16, 29.

You’ll notice that the word is variously translated, ‘build’ = 2; ‘building’ = 6; ‘buildings’ = 3; ‘builds’ = 1; ‘built’ = 2; ‘edification’ = 1; ‘edified’ = 2; ‘strengthening’ = 2; ‘up’ = 8.

Second, what might this look like?
The IVP “Dictionary of Paul and His Letters” puts it like this, 

“When NT believers met with one another and shared a whole range of ministries of the word in the congregation, so that the body of Christ was edified, they met with Christ himself. As the members sang psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in their hearts, and thus fulfilled the apostolic injunction to let the word of Christ dwell among them richly (Col 3:16; cf. Eph 5:19–20), so Christ himself was present in their midst…The model of the NT assembly was the congregation (ekkleœsia) of Israel gathered at Mt. Sinai to hear the word of the Lord. Now, however, under the new covenant there is a significant difference. The Lord himself meets with his people wherever they gather in his name and under his authority.” 

“We learn from [1 Corinthians] chapter 14 that the purpose of this direction by the Spirit is for Christians to be “edified” (1 Cor 14:1–5, 26)—a term which literally means “built up,” as in the construction of a house. “To edify” pictures the Christians as those who learn, mature and are strengthened.”

Third, how can we lead corporate worship to this end?
Let’s take the two main thoughts above and ask how songs and the way we sing them might create the best possible conditions for their actioning:

  1. To meet with Christ. 
    • It’s not about you. It’s about Jesus. Have a time of quiet with God in the morning.
    • Pray with the worship team before the service asking God to help you be Christ-focussed during the service. 
    • Ensure a good number of the songs point to Christ or are about him.
    • Reference Jesus in scripture reading, prayer or other means of introducing or linking songs
  2. To grow in Christ – i.e. to learn, become more mature and strengthened in the faith
    • Include songs which teach unbelievers about the gospel
    • Include songs which challenge our faith – i.e. not just safe, comforting songs (though these have their place too)
    • Include songs which remind us that God cares and has a reward prepared for us
    • Include songs about God, about our response and about the vision God has for the salvation of humankind

What does it mean to lead worship for edification?

It means to lead people into a collective awareness of the presence of Jesus, and to sing/speak of him in such a way as to create awe, reverence, and love for him. In this way our hearts will be opened to learn from him, to be matured by him and to be strengthened by him.

Could there be any greater privilege?

Question for today: “How do you know when the way you are leading worship is edifying the congregation?”

Please add your comments on this week’s topic. We learn best when we learn in community. 

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“Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs.” (Psalms 100:2 NIV11)

God bless, Malcolm

PS: You might also be interested in my book: “An elephant’s swimming pool”, a devotional look at the Gospel of John