What is church? What does it mean to be a follower of Christ and a part of His church? I wrestled with these questions and others last year as I pondered my role in the local church as well as my role in the global church. I ran across a very interesting article that continued this path of pondering in a magazine called Mission Frontiers (we got a free year subscription for taking Perspectives, how cool is that!). The whole January/February issue was focused on the topic of discipleship. I want to start out with a quote from the editorial article by Rick Wood.
“Our churches in the West seem to be succeeding at lesser things while failing at Jesus’ core strategy for world evangelization. We are succeeding in collecting tens of billions of dollars each year to gather large crowds into beautiful and expensive church buildings on Sunday. We have succeeded in putting on a great show and developing programs that attract people to our churches. In the process we have put an unbearable burden on our pastors to do nearly all the ministry while failing to activate the laity. As a result many pastors are skating on the edge of burnout, while the majority of church members do not see that God has any other role for them except as spectators. In short, we are largely failing to develop mature followers of Jesus who are able to make disciples who can make disciples” (p. 4).
I am sometimes too critical of the church and I don’t want this to be a complaining session. But I do very much agree with what Wood is saying. Pastors are put on a pedestal as the only ones who can present the Gospel, baptize, give communion and teach others about the Bible. As far as I know, the Bible doesn’t say we need a seminary degree or to be ordained in order to help coach someone in their spiritual journey. This has become the precedent, however, in many of our churches.
Do I think that churches should do away with the role of the pastor? No, of course not. The pastor is to be the “shepherd of the flock”. Every group needs a leader, and churches need a guide as well. Yet, all of the work should not be left to one person. We can each teach each other, helping younger believers to grow in their faith and in obedience, and then teaching them to do the same. In this way, the movement is not held to one person, but keeps growing.
Rick Wood finished his article with this thought:
“We will never bring the gospel to every tribe and tongue if we continue to rely on professional clergy to do ‘discipling’ as a transfer of knowledge. As followers of Jesus, we must all aim to become disciples who can follow Jesus’ example in making disciples. None of us is excused from active duty in the service of our King” (p.5).
I think my point is that as a part of the church, both the local and global, we need to be active as individuals and as part of the group in sharing our faith, taking care of the widows and orphans, feeding the hungry and caring for the sick, and helping others to grow in their faith. This should not be left to the pastor, but we can each contribute by sharing what God has taught us and the wisdom He has given each of us.