Ten Words to Remember for a Fruitful Lay Ministry: Jesus, Mission, Pastor, Field, Connect, Read, Simple, Discipline, Fruit, Spirit
What does the word “Field” have to do with lay ministry? Well, maybe the image of an empty field isn’t what we’re after. But perhaps a field crowded with people isn’t far off.
Our Methodist roots are in the field – literally. In 1739 John Wesley found that very few people were in the church building, so he began to preach outside – in a field near Bristol, England. The result? About three thousand people heard the Gospel message of grace that day! And after that first submission to go against tradition and “be more vile,” as he wrote, Wesley’s greatest preaching impact was outside where the people were.
In America, the Methodist movement grew largely because leaders also went where the people were. They didn’t stay in the church building waiting for folks to come. They went outside, meeting in homes or public meeting houses, going west as the nation grew.
Jesus’ Great Commission, and thus our mission, is to “Go” with his authority and presence, and “make disciples of all nations” (Matt. 28:19). He didn’t say to wait for them to come but to go out – into the streets, the restaurants, the workplaces, the lakeshore, even the field. Wherever the people are. The message of God’s love and grace in Jesus Christ is transformational, able to change the world one person at a time. But we have to get out of our comfortable pews, to “be more vile” as Wesley did, and take the message to them. Wherever they are. Ourselves. Laity and clergy alike.
What is your congregation’s mission “field”? Where is God calling you to “go” with the message of Jesus Christ? Where are the people that you can reach? That’s your “field”? Some of the tools we use in HCI consultations, such as MissionInsight, can provide surprising demographic information about who is there. And as you venture into that field, you discover that God is there already with those people, simply needing you to help a little in producing abundant fruit.
The concept of an expanded “field”, including younger people and more diverse people, is vitally important if we are to be part of a renewed Methodist movement – God’s “new thing”. May God bless and guide you as you go out into your field in the name of Jesus.
Thanks again for your leadership!
Brian Hammons, Mo. Conference Lay Leader