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Asleep in the Pews

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

Do 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.

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