In football, one person (the quarterback) passes the ball to everyone else. One person is responsible for the direction the ball goes. The others do not, except on rare occasions, throw the ball back to the quarterback.
In basketball, all the players pass the ball to all the other players. In fact, on a good team there will be much passing among all team members. Good passing teams are usually very successful teams.
Let's take this sports analogy and apply it to church gatherings. In some churches, the gatherings seem like football. One person (the pastor) does the vast majority of the speaking. The communication flows in one direction, from the pastor to the people. The majority of the people can only receive from the pastor, but cannot give back to him. The mass of folks sits silently for 20-60 minutes, constantly receiving.
Other church gatherings function more like basketball. In these gatherings, everyone sees it as his or her responsibility and privilege to communicate with everyone else. Everyone is giving and receiving. Communication flows in all directions. There is dialog as opposed to monologue. All teach and are taught, exhort and are exhorted, encourage and are encouraged.
In reading the New Testament, we can see that the gatherings of the early church were participatory in nature. We read in I Corinthians 14:26, "What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up."
We see that there is a connection between participatory gatherings and edification. When each member of the body is involved, the whole body is built up in Christ. Every part of the body is necessary for proper edification to take place (see I Cor. 12:14-25). When one member of the body does the majority of the communicating, the others become passive and the body does not grow in as nearly a healthy manner.
As we gather, let us all strive to both give and receive. Let's think basketball. Let's expect to actively build others up and be built up.