How accountable are we in the pew for what goes on in church? We hire people to do the work (alias a pastor and staff). All we need to do is show up on Sunday and sing along with them, listen to them teach, and financially support them; thus they wonder why the laity is lethargic. As long as we meet budget, everyone is happy. What would happen if the laity would be thrust into leadership instead of a professional staff? Seems like a novel, rebellious idea, but it isn’t. It already exists, and I was at a 100th Anniversary under this system just last week.
I grew up at New Fairview Church of the Brethren where they still practice a “free ministry” of pluralistic leadership of “elders”. They have as many as five to seven “elders” who get ordained and lead their congregation for the rest of their lives. By the way, they do not get paid, thus the “free” ministry; they do not have salaries. Who are these elders? They are magazine editors, publish school administrators, contractors, butchers, and farmers who worked their “day job” to support their family and minister in shared leadership.
How do they get these elders? They have a “calling”. During one of these “callings” the congregation meets, and a visiting minister goes to a back room. Each member of the congregation, one by one, goes into that room and tells him who they think would be the best man to lead them. Every man of God who has faithfully served that congregation is in fear and trembling, for the people of their church community, of their faith, may deem them as a candidate worthy of their trust in leadership.
It is a principle of raised leadership from within the congregation to lead that congregation as a lifetime commitment while sharing leadership and replenishing leadership as needed. You don’t have a change of clergy or pastors every so often, but have a thread of stability of existing leadership as well as new blood with young leaders or elders.
But can you imagine yourself one Sunday sitting in the pew during a church service, only to be placed in the chair of leadership next week? Because of your walk with Jesus, those around you who have seen Jesus exemplified in your life now want you to share your faith walk in leading them down the path, your Road to Emmaus, with them? Under the system of most churches this cannot happen because you would have to leave your congregation to go to college, and/or seminary for several years to be trained. The odds of coming back to your “old” congregation to be their pastor is minimal, at the least, and to be a “tent maker”, like Apostle Paul, rather than a salary is unthinkable.
But I do not have to worry: the offering plate just passed by, I sang the psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, and all I have to do is make it through the sermon now! As Alfred E. Newman of MAD magazine fame would probably say, “When little is required, little is given.”