Thursday, June 27, 2013

Things for United Methodist Laity to Unlearn - From a Layperson's P.O.V.

Sky McCracken wrote a piece on the things the clergy needs to unlearn to help return the church to vitality.  In response it seems appropriate to make the same observations for the laity.

To all of my fellow laity: We have been highly critical of the clergy for a number of years now.  We have been very vocal about issues with those who serve our local congregations, many valid concerns, and some unrealistic demands.  Though the Church has been slow to respond to the frustration, in recent years there has been a move on the part of the leadership to look at education, pastoral care and the lack of vision that has disconnected the local church from the community.  The lack of discipleship in the local church is reaching critical mass, and the lack of leadership from the clergy is being discussed on every level.

That’s all great news, and important for a move to health and vitality.  It is just half of the picture.  It is time we do our own inventory and look at the things we need to unlearn.  This is my short list:
1.  While our church leaders, Pastor, church staff, are responsible to give vision, direction and guidance, they are not charged with keeping us happy.  We are equally called to service in the Body of Christ, not only to be served.  We are partner in ministry, not consumers.  The staff cannot fulfill their responsibilities in outreach to the community if they are forever holding our hands, listening to our laundry lists of complaints about temperature, sermon topic and new hymns we have never sung before.  It’s time we grow up, take responsibility for our own part of the Kingdom and go to work alongside our church leaders, as we are gifted and called to do.  We were ordained in our baptism after all, not to every role, but to a role.  
2.  The church building does not belong to us; it is an asset for ministry.  Our functions are important, and fellowship as believers is essential, but they are not the sole purpose of the building.  Inviting the community to see the building as a great meeting place will connect us with people who would never cross the threshold for a Bible study or a worship service.  Groups who find a home in one of our classrooms may find a home in our church family, particularly if we happen to be in the building when they come and extend hospitality.  We cannot lock the doors during the week in order to keep the building in outstanding condition and the expenses down and think this is a good decision for the life of our church.   It will work for as long as we are here to pay the bills, then one day one of us will be the last one to turn out the light. 
3.  Worship on Sunday is not entertainment, and we are not the audience.   Worship is a time for us to gather, hear God’s word, get filled up, and go in the power of the Spirit to change the world.   If you go home and nothing changes, in you or in your world, it’s time to stop and consider where you are disconnecting.    Where there is life, there is growth.  If all of your God stories are from years ago, it might be time to take your spiritual pulse. 
4.  There are a lot more of us (laity) than there are of them (clergy).  Why did we ever decide sharing the Gospel was only for the ‘professionals’?   Who has the greatest opportunity to share the love of God with the community?  We do!  What is the best way to share your faith with others?  Live it, all the time, in all of the places you go.  Be the love of God the world is hungry for, offer grace and mercy, be the disciple you would like others to become.   In football terminology, most plays work better if the team huddles up, hears the call and plays their position.  We like to huddle up, hear the call and go sit in the stand to see how it goes.  Let’s get on the field, people.
Real change, deep change, begins one person at a time.  We have to do the hard work of moving from consumer to partner, give up rights and pick up our responsibilities, desire that others develop deep relationships with Jesus Christ enough to surrender being the center of the church.  Growing up in grace means we are so secure in our identities as children of God and people of immeasurable worth that we can afford to sacrifice for the sake of others.  What will we get if we choose to be faithful?   I believe we will begin to see the God’s Kingdom come, and God’s will done.  That’s a legacy for our children and grandchildren that will be worth the discomfort change brings.  It’s time brothers and sisters; let’s be the change we are ready to see.

Susan Engle
Paducah District Lay Resource Leader
Memphis Conference


Robert B. Turk said...

This lay person agrees with Kyrie's article but I'm not sure what I was supposed to unlearn. There's plenty here to learn though.

Gran Jan said...

Preach it, Sister!! Amen and amen!!

Unknown said...

Robert -- the article points out that we are to unlearn our habits of being consumers of "church", our attitudes of "ownership entitlement" as members of a congregation, and our concepts of the work of being Christian being left up to the "paid professionals." I like that the article not only pointed out what to change, but give positive direction for future habits, attitudes and concepts. :)

Alice said...

In 1954 then Senator Lyndon Johnson attached an amendment to an IRS bill that did not allow any 501 (c) 3 to endorse or oppose any political party or candidate. This was the first time in American history that the church could not be involved in the political arena. One of the most popular sermons for well over 150 years was What A Christian Should Know About The Presidential Election. When this bill was passed, no pastors stood their ground and a piece of our freedom was taken away. Gone were the days when pastors were asking their parishioners knew if the person they were voting for was a Godly man who would best represent the Constitution and the people. Most pastors of today have no grounding in this type of teaching. They stay away from anything that looks political and have come to believe that these issues are political and no longer moral issues.

In Syria, men, women and children are slaughtered simply because they are Christian but our current gov’t administration just sent Syria $815 million in aid and weapons. Where are the outraged Christians? Where are the pastors?? Our pastors used to fight for what is right, now they fight for what is popular. Pastors used to teach godly morals and principles but now they sway to and fro with the winds of public opinion. Ephesians 4:14

The pastors ("paid professionals") of America must not lose zeal for the things of God and tragically they are. We are allowing the government to tell us what we can and cannot do. This is a sign of a church with no backbone. And it goes on because we have allowed it to. Quiet people accept injustice. No one should apologize for being Christian. It takes the activism of citizens to fight for our God given rights and we as laity have this responsibility as well.

Discipleship is not just done through tithing or attending church each Sunday. Discipleship is being willing to take on many roles not just for your personal church but for the Christian faith itself. And sometimes that’s not easy, especially with so much pressure to compromise your character in today’s society.

We are adopted into God’s family. We are citizens of Heaven. But we are citizens of earth as well and we have duties in both arenas. Sermons need to once again nourish the American people rather than lull them to sleep. Perhaps if 'we the people' were given the strength from the pulpit that we are starving for, the pews would once again be full.

It is time for Laity to step up to the plate. I applaud that this article has addressed such an important issue.

Unknown said...


This came just in the right time. A few of us laity are meeting tomorrow to discuss some of these issues. We hope that the Holy Spirit will guide us.


Anonymous said...

I recently joined the Manhattan UMC and find my self becoming more and more involved with the church. I was a lost soul for awhile but the Pastor and people of this church made me feel so welcome that the choice to become a member and to get involved was easy. I agree that as Christians we all need to be involved in the outreach to the community. We all need to get back to the basic teachings Of Christ and live by his examples.

Unknown said...

As a former local licensed pastor in the Missouri UMC and now an ordained pastor in the SBC, I agree wholeheartedly with what Kyrie is speaking of; too oftentimes the laity just warms pews and lets the clergy lead without understanding that the Great Commission is for ALL who profess Christ as Lord and Savior. All of us have gifts and graces that can be used in ministry, and it's about time for everyone to do their part in Kingdom building. ALL denominations can learn from this article!!