Asleep in the Pews

Tuesday Re-mix: This is an update of a popular post I ran last year.

asleep-on-the-couchDo you agree with me that, to a large extent, the American church has fallen asleep in the pews?  I don’t mean that literally (although there may be another post there).  I mean that we have grown fat and lazy as servants and have been lulled to a state of Spiritual incapacitation by our “entertain me, feed me, give me, minister to me” consumer mentality. I think if the apostle Paul came to America today, he would be appalled.

I believe in an active laity. I believe the Spirit of God Himself lives, moves and manifests Himself through every believer. I believe God’s calling on my life (as a layman) is no less significant than His calling on a pastor’s life. I believe God gives laity specific assignments in Body life with an expectation that they will be met with faithfulness and commitment. Put all these “belief” pieces together and it means that I am often accused of “blurring the line” between laity and clergy in the church. Of that charge I am completely guilty.

Please understand, I believe strongly in the notion of pastoral authority. I believe God gives a pastor an ability to see what He (God) is doing across the landscape of a congregation and therefore have a critical insight on vision and direction of that congregation. In that regard, then, I believe there is a difference between being a pastor and being a layman. But I’m not convinced God intended the differences to go much further than that.

It seems to me that the church (at least the various church cultures with which I am familiar) is guilty of maintaining two classes of “citizens”: the professional clergy (whom we pay to do all the ministry) and the laity (to whom the professional ministers minister). That paradigm annoys me. And I believe it has all but paralyzed the church on many levels today. We’ve got pastors who are burning out left and right trying to do all the ministry their church demands of them while half-committed laymen ignore the assignments God has for them–usually because they are waiting for someone to minister to them. I believe both “classes” have bought into the ruse. Laity simply don’t want to make the sacrifices being a Christ-follower often requires. Pastors, on the other hand, having been placed by laity on the pedestal of having the answer to every question, often come to believe it is true… a belief which the very laity who put them there begin to find irritating. Quite the quagmire, wouldn’t you say?

So, here is my solution. The leaders in the church (both pastoral and lay) must begin encouraging each member to find God’s assignment for himself/herself. As leaders, one of our foremost roles is to know our people and to help them identify their giftedness and to help move them into a place of ministry where they can begin pouring themselves into the lives of others. We must quit giving church members a “pass” on being productive ministers themselves. We must create a culture in our churches where it is simply unacceptable for my Christian walk to be lived out on “auto-pilot”. I should always have a testimony to share about what God is doing in my life today (as opposed to what He did in my life 30 years ago when I was a teenager).

I am making the case here for a much higher level of lay mobilization than what most of our churches are exploring. Oh, there are some churches who do a marvelous job of it, but they are few. Lay mobilization should be a fundamental objective of every church and we should be investing prayer, planning and resources into it until we achieve an integrated system of making it happen.

Well, I think that lays some important groundwork for more posts on this topic. This one is already long enough. I welcome your thoughts.

© Blake Coffee

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3 responses to “Asleep in the Pews”

  1. Amen to “Asleep in the Pews”! Our laity needs to be reeducated and empowered to go out and minister! Blake, are you familiar with the Walk to Emmaus program? They do an excellent job of this! But many of our church family especially the older members think if the Pastor doesn’t come and pray for them, it doesn’t “count”!
    Keep up the excellent work you are doing! We have much to unlearn and relearn.

  2. Amen too!!! I agree with both of you, and have been frustrated by this state myself. What I have found to help me, is to sit down with some of pastoral staff and voice my concern, my growth, my passions, and how we “together” can bring people to the next level. I know this has got to be extremely frustration for a pastor who week after week preaches his heart out, casting a vision, and receives blank stares back, or worse yet, unchanges hearts and lives. I have found that God has lead me to prayer in a few different ways; in my personal life, and as a new member of our church’s prayer team. Prayer is soo powerful, and I know tha when we listen and obey the spirit, He will move in mighty ways. I am praying for you and your church, may God bring people to surrender and rise them up to a higher level of know Him. Let us get all the excess Junk of this world out of our lives, and truly live sold out for our savior. May God grant you peace, and bring the hearts and minds of His body together for His glory. Amen. God Bless you my friend.

  3. Blake,

    I love your site. Just found it today. We have a ministry called “Mighty Men of Prayer.” It’s design is to bring men into a community of prayer for our church, our pastor, our families and brothers in Christ. Our goal is thru encouragement, prayer and deepened faith upon seeing God’s hand move with answered prayer that men grow to their fullness in Christ to become that servant warrior He designed us to be!

    Additionally, our church is in the process of starting a ministry called “Leadership Revolution.” It’s based on John Maxwell’s book called Contageous Leadership. The entire staff is going thru it first, a leadership team was put in place to present to lay ministry leaders as a starting point and then others who will be mentored on leadership. To your point, and I fully agree; the church has to find a new way of doing business. Our church, New Covenant Community Church, is out front as one of those revolutionary churhes.
    F.Y.I- Our pastor has a great website called “Theology for Dummies.” It’s one of the most visited christian sites on line.

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