Of course they are!
The problem is that we have unwittingly created a wall between pastors and lay leaders that is sometimes defined by the use of “theological bonafides.” What can be an impenetrable barrier keeps a believer’s calling and suitability to serve at bay.
Throughout my 20 years as a Christian leader and Marketplace CEO, I repeatedly heard about believers from the marketplace being stymied at the wall when they sought to apply their personal passion to ministry in and through the church. In all cases they did not crash the church gates and attempt to tear down the wall. They simply backed up and found another way to serve God with their gifts outside the church. And, unfortunately, in many cases they did nothing and the world’s pain continued.
That is why most marketplace ministries today have formed outside the church. Once outside, there is rarely an integration pathway back. When pastors and church leaders fail to affirm the value of marketplace vocations, the church’s laity will inevitably consider themselves a form of second-class servants and their contributions to God’s kingdom as comparatively less important. How can they view it any other way?
Many church leaders, especially those in so-called vocational ministries, do not regard secular work and employment as a significant part of one’s kingdom service. They may not realize it, but they pass on the message that they do not consider business managers, lawyers, engineers, health workers, stockbrokers, factory workers, information technology professionals, and carpenters (how ironic) as “real” servant leaders in today’s church, or at least as real as they should be in an ideal world. People with those jobs and other “day jobs” may become ministry leaders, but it is less frequent that they become true leaders of the church.
This state of affairs doesn’t make any sense to me.
JESUS, THE CARPENTER
Jesus spent the majority of his working life as a carpenter, and Paul, the primary apostolic missionary of the early church, also spent a significant amount of his time as a tentmaker. His profession was essential to providing shelter for many of the nomadic people of his day. Despite his desire to “preach the gospel where Christ was not known,” Paul worked hard and often to generate income to fund his missionary work. We know that he continued to develop his trade as a tentmaker after his conversion and during his missionary journeys. Neither he nor others saw his work as a distraction to his godly purpose. In fact, it was a necessity.
Today’s church has seemingly lost connection to that biblical foundation. Even in churches committed to the “priesthood of believers,” there is a sense that the paid staff should handle the “true ministry” and leave the laity to support the “true ministers.”
The Bible tells us the opposite is true. The church’s lay leaders are to do good works and the clergy are there to prepare them for that work. Author Howard Snyder puts it well: “The unbiblical use of the terms ‘ministry’ and ‘laity’ is the most extensive and oppressive form of exclusive language in the church.”
That’s PART TWO “Tear Down This Wall.” Look for additional stories coming soon! To receive a free copy of my ebook “Tear Down This Wall,” go to http://q7w.a52.myftpupload.com/.
PHOTO BY MICHAEL MORRISON: