Writings by Cole Huffman

An Aspirant to Easy Edification

A mature Christian is easily edified. Harold Best said that, former dean of the Conservatory of Music at Wheaton College. In describing mature Christians one hundred ways I don’t think that angle would have occurred to me and yet it’s so obviously true, isn’t it? A mature Christian is easily edified. Put another way, an experienced Christ-follower isn’t hard to encourage. Put another way still, the cruciformed person will extract minerals from even the most overcooked truth (clichés and platitudes).

I envy such maturity precisely because I resist easy edification. Perhaps it’s because I’m a contrarian at heart, perhaps it’s because I’m just that arrogant. “He who walks in the way that is blameless”—meaning the one with the rare word, the superlative insight, the exceptional gifting—“shall minister to me” (Psalm 101:6 in the Revised Huffman Standard).

A few months back I attended a speech in which the speaker said—pitching it as if no one ever heard this—“No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care.” And then a guy seated close to me clicked his pen and wrote it down, grunting and nodding agreement. Well I was done with the speech at that moment, tuned out the speaker for the rest of the time to ponder Vanderbilt’s bowl prospects. How dare that speaker offer such a tired old cliché without so much as hint of rhetorical embarrassment!

My response to that speaker reveals how much I still lack formation in Christ’s fullness. When I was in London back in July I had the pleasure of spending a morning with octogenarian Richard Bewes of All Souls Church, Langham Place. John Stott pastored All Souls many decades; Bewes was his long-time neighbor and friend and pastored the church after Stott. Billy Graham and Stott were good friends, so Graham worshipped at All Souls whenever he went to London. Bewes told a fragrant story about Graham that impacted me deeply.

On a visit to London twenty years ago or so (Bewes reckoned Graham was around 70 at the time), Graham phoned the church to let them know he was coming to their service. Stott wasn’t there but Graham was coming anyway. I don’t recall if it was a midweek service or a Sunday night, but I believe Graham announced his visit day-of which meant he would participate in whatever service they had planned.

The scheduled speaker was a young associate on staff whose message was on singleness. Billy Graham not only listened to the nervous man’s message (mercilessly they told him Graham would be in attendance), he took copious notes. More than that, back in the States a couple weeks later he phoned the church again to ask if he might receive a recording of the greenhorn’s message—yes, the one on singleness—as it had edified him. He wanted to hear it again.

Stories like that make me an aspirant to easy edification. The weaker sermon full of everything I’ve heard before nevertheless gets through and prayed back to God because it’s still Jesus’ Word and I haven’t arrived at perfect knowledge or application of it. The weaker brother’s attempt to build me up through challenging my freedom or indifference is not dismissed but contemplated, stoking repentance if need be but refusing to hide myself in I-don’t-like-the-way-he-handled-that-ism. That I don’t deduct style points from what I consider haltering or awkward attempts at encouraging, teaching, exhorting, or reproving me, but receive them with gratitude to God.

Being easily edified doesn’t pretend everything is equal and all is fine. That’s easygoing falsity. If I think the speaker was bad I can say so. But can’t I learn even one thing from him if the teaching was otherwise faithfully attempted? Easy edification is nurturing receptivity to the variety of ways God builds us through His people, ways surprising and expected, anticipated and not, initially refused but later received. That’s growth and if one is growing one is maturing. And a mature—and maturing—Christian is easily edified.

I look forward to hearing the next speech or sermon I realize I want to check out on for what I perceive to be the speaker’s dullness, inexperience, or platitudinous pearls of wisdom. I’ll be the guy taking extensive notes. I need the edification. I want the maturity.
Posted by Cole Huffman at 10:52 AM
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