Are the laity of our churches ready to be released for Kingdom work?
The other day I was interacting with a number of other “professional” clergy, and as we talked, we eventually made it around to the topic of outreach, or Kingdom extension ministry. After a few good insights and stories, the group landed on the question above, which continues to roll around in my head.
So, are the laity of our churches ready to be released for Kingdom work?
Now, if you’re a part of a pioneering community or a church that is working towards a fresh expression of church, your initial answer is most likely yes. But before we jump in feet first, I think a couple of thoughts need to be considered as we attempt to answer the question for ourselves, our churches, and our ministries.
Are “professional” clergy ready for the laity to be released?
As a member of a pastoral staff team at a church heavily invested in fresh expression ministries, I’ve often been asked (and have asked others) this question. The fact is, Fresh Expression type ministries can be intimidating and possibly threatening. Questions of job security, church health, giving away our best leaders, and other concerns loom. No lead pastor wants to stand before their elders and explain that some of the best leaders of the church may not be in church anymore. But as leaders, our duty is to see the potential in others and release them to use the gifts that God has given them. Are we ready to release our best?
Are our laity equipped and supported?
If the laity of our churches are going to be set free to start and develop kingdom-focused ministries, they must be equipped and supported by the inherited church. The days of commissioning leaders and then waving as they go off to minister are over. The only way that both the inherited church and the fresh expression ministry can succeed is by working together to equip and support the laity of our churches for ministry. Resources must be provided to those who are ready to step out in faith—for coaching, publications, staff positions made available, and, yes, even finances to help fund the growing ministry. Are we ready to equip and support?
Are we ready for the hard decisions?
People ask me all the time how I’m doing, and without fail I comment on my life of busyness. Maybe you don’t struggle with balancing life and priorities, but for many people, this is a daily struggle. And the struggle is real! But in all seriousness, one of the hardest choices that will need to be made is whether we are ready to intentionally slow down and make time for the stuff that matters.
The hard part about this is it might cause us to cut out some really good things. We may have to stop leading a committee at church or step away from a volunteer position that we’ve been a part of for years in order to make time for the people that need Jesus. Are we willing to make hard decisions?
I really believe that the longing of every Christ follower is to do something for the growth of the Kingdom and the Church. But as this longing has grown in my heart, I’ve also agonized over some of these questions.
Maybe you’re at the same place I am and will continue to be. My prayer is that we’ll struggle through these questions as we strive to follow our Savior and accomplish God’s work in our daily context and culture.
Matt Hill currently serves as the associate pastor of missional ministry at Community Evangelical Church in Sinking Spring, Pennsylvania, where he oversees multiple fresh expressions of church. He is married to Emily and has three kids: Addison, Aaron, and Aubree.