This is, I'm sure, how any manual of church leadership written by Jane Austen would have begun - with a simple undeniable truth. So why do I find myself musing over the situation whereby those who, having offered themselves, been accepted, trained and released to engage in that Church ministry, called 'Lay', find themselves ignored and largely unused?
William Temple, one of my many heroes, once said that we, the Church, 'Were the only organisation that exists primarily for the benefit of those who are not its members.' This summation of the missional role of the Church, its donning of the mantle called 'servanthood', when combined with doing evangelism and living collegially becomes, in my view, complete.
Jesus came to earth to fulfil the expectations of those who were the then Church's members - the Jews, expectations. He also came to earth for those who were not members. servant to all of creation those inside and out. Temple's quote calls us to look outside of ourselves and the body called 'Church' and the problem is that some of us have taken this so much to heart that we have forgotten perhaps to look inside and treasure those we have within.
It is easy for some of us to become so taken up with ourselves, 'Our ministry' and 'Our Church' that we draw everything to us - seeing the church we are part of as ours as a possessive rather than participative. Collaborative ministry is the only way in which Temple's words can be truly fulfilled. If we do not seek out and encourage callings in others then we are destined to be managers of decline rather than ministers of love, life and acceptance.
Can I encourage those who might read this to stop for a moment and consider those who stand with you in your churches and celebrate the fact that they are there - pray for them and talk to them.
Might I further encourage you to work at developing the callings of those alongside and within your church - it's dangerous and painful at times - but I reckon that's no different to the ministry of Jesus.
Finally, can I encourage you to look at the many roles and responsibilities within the church you inhabit and, prayerfully, seek to discern what might be done by others and, that done, work at enabling, encouraging and supporting the members of the church to make them theirs.
As for me - I need to understand how to utilise those who have offered themselves in ways that fulfil and bless and help then to develop their ministries and deepen their joy.