The first step towards a lay-led church?

Today, I have some exciting news to share. The church board had a meeting on Monday night with the District Supervisor to decide the future of the church concerning who will be the pastor. Although the district had never heard of a church wanting to do a lay-led ministry, even to fill the gap between pastors, they were open to the idea for the time being. Officially, it is just for the interim, but I know there are many people down here with hopes that it goes well and lasts longer. I'm very happy the people in the denomination were sensitive to what God has called the local flock to do. It seems like a strange calling to anyone that hasn't received it. I am thankful that others have received the same calling allowing me to be a part of this exciting time. So not only will this blog be a discussion of mutual edification, team leadership, and lay-led ministry, we will also have glimpses at how it works itself out in a church that has been operated in the one-man pastoral system. Please keep us in your prayers. I think the only reason we have made it as far as we have is because of the prayers of those who are faithful. Please continue.

Austin hit on the most important point in his reply to yesterday's post. "beside resetting the defaults, one must reset the standard, the goals, the mindset. i think a lot of this goes hand in hand with simplifying, reducing, focusing, rather than trying to do everything (which i have the tendency to do)."

The structure of the church only matters when it helps us achieve or not achieve the call of God in the community the church resides in. If we have a structure that prohibits us from doing God's will in our community, then we need to change it to one that is more effective at doing that. However, a good structure cannot do the work of the Holy Spirit. God has to be moving in order for the church to be effective. But it also makes sense that God would try to mold the church that he is moving in to be the structure that would be most effective for his work. My belief on what the goal is will not make sense if you did not read my post on the Kingdom of God.

This brings me to the goal. What is God's work? What is the overarching theme? It is to be the Kingdom of God. It is the church's responsibility to be the Kingdom that was foretold in the Old Testament and established on Pentecost in the New Testament. There are many elements to being the Kingdom: evangelism, discipleship, meeting one another's needs, praying together, learning together, being under one king, etc. The problem is that most churches choose one of the elements of the Kingdom and emphasize that to the minimalization or exclusion of all of the others. When we focus on being the Kingdom, the others should all fall in their proper place.

I also do not believe that Christianity is a belief statement to be believed but a life to be lived. One of my favorite books of all-time deals with this, The Celtic Way of Evangelism: How Christianity Can Reach the West...Again by George Hunter. In this book he deals with the battle between the Christianity of St. Patrick versus the Christianity of Rome. Rome took the stance that Christianity is a belief statement to be accepted. If you are to evangelize, it is by telling them the message of Jesus and having them accept it. Then we have the Christianity of St. Patrick. He started monasteries that live on the outskirts of the community. They would love those in the community. They would allow anyone who wanted to be part of them to join them. Eventually, the new people realized they were Christians and believed. One takes the approach of presenting the Gospel in words above presenting it as a life.

It goes along with what my pastor said last Sunday at church. He had been reading a book. I can't figure out through searches what one it was. The concept was the same as The Celtic Way of Evangelism. They just phrased it differently. They said that the church has been backwards for so many years. The church has been teaching "Believe, Behave, Belong." We need to be teaching "Belong, Behave, Believe."

If believing is the most important element, then we will make preaching the benchmark of a good minister. If belonging is the most important, then we will really change things up and maybe even not have a paid pastor at all. Having a paid pastor is essential if believing is the key, not as much if belonging is they key. I've heard many pastors say they don't like being in close relationships with the members of the church. In that system, belonging isn't even an option. We are the Kingdom of God, so we have something great and life-changing for people to belong to.

With that in perspective, I come to the conclusion that being a lay-led church in Antwerp is what God is calling us to do. I can't explain what it feels like to be called to something, but when you are called it is pretty convincing. It's a burden you just can't get out of your mind. I've experienced it at least three concrete times in my pastoral life. One was to move to Lansing and plant the church. The other was to leave Solomon's Porch. And now this one. When I first heard that Tom had resigned, I posted about my frustration on what to do and asked for your prayers. I really felt an overwhelming burden to call someone. I tried to resist because I wanted to just sit back and let the leader's make the decision, but the pull was impossible to resist unless I wanted to be utterly miserable. So I called and found out that God was working on the leaders in the same way he was working on me. It was an amazing moment. I was reaffirmed that the Holy Spirit is at work among his believers and guiding us to fulfill his will.

This town has many churches screaming from the rooftops telling people to believe. I want to be part of the church that allows people to belong.