Thursday, 19 December 2013

All-member Ministry

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a cleric in possession of a calling, must be in want of a church filled with people who are enthused, engaged, equipped and released.

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.


1 comment:

UKViewer said...

You have once addressed the key question for me and for many others is how can the Church address the issue of bringing about the "Ministry of all Believers", because in my view, it has failed in many instances.

My experience in my diocese is one of how NOT to empower people, or perhaps how to drive people out - and the diocese has now succeeded.

I'm off to pastures new, in a different diocese where I will be starting afresh with the vocations team and putting the past behind me.

I'm going in afresh to seek to discern a vocation with my new parish and diocese and just let God do the leading, and my conversation with someone already in the process with them today, affirms that I'm doing exactly the right thing.

First step is Vocations Day. Second is a Foundation for Ministry Course over a year. Scripture and theologically based to give you an insight into God's mission for the Church in the local diocesan/parish context. During the foundation course, you explore with advisors what will be the next step and there are a number of pathways open- and the person who spoke to me this morning, said "There are so many doors open - that it's exciting and a joyful place to be". I can't say that I've had that experience, but have great hopes of being part of it soon.

Perhaps this is where I should have been five years ago when I first stepped forward and offered to serve? Perhaps I'd have been spared a lot of heart ache, disappointment and rejection.

I can only say that the process has been one of growth in discipleship and an exercise in persistence and patience.

God is ultimately more patient than I and has demonstrated that if you haven't got a sense of humour, don't bother offering to serve in certain dioceses in the CofE, because you need it along with a strong stomach.

I look forward with a mixture of joyful excitement mixed with anticipation and eagerness to finally being given a reason to follow that call, wherever it takes me.

Thanks be to God.