This month we continue with the next two of my “10 Words for a Fruitful Lay Ministry.” As you recall, the ten are: Jesus, Mission, Pastor, Field, Connect, Read, Simple, Discipline, Fruit, and Spirit. Last month we noted that Jesus is “THE Word.” Now we turn to “Mission” and “Pastor.”
Leaders in the church absolutely must have a clear focus upon their “Mission,” or purpose, if they want to be successful in ministry. We’re very different from other organizations, as our purpose involves a focus upon following Jesus Christ – loving God as he did, and loving others as he said.
Jesus’ last words to his followers on earth are known as the Great Commission: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them . . . and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:19-20).
From this we get the purpose, or “Mission” of the church: “to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world” (Book of Discipline par. 120).
Make disciples of Jesus Christ. That’s it! Our purpose. That’s what we’re supposed to do – the “main thing”. It’s not to maintain the building or institution. The church exists in order to make disciples – followers – of Jesus Christ. Not just for Sunday morning, but for all of life. As more people genuinely follow Jesus, as they experience their lives being changed through living with other believers in the way Jesus taught, then transformation can occur in families, communities, even our world.
That’s really the point – God transforms the world into something better through people who truly follow Jesus Christ.
If we really believe that, then we reach out – we evangelize – to our friends, neighbors, and everyone we meet. We spread the Good News that God in Jesus Christ is still doing a “new thing” in the world and in each person. We live as disciples together, learning and growing to more closely follow Jesus. And, most importantly, inviting others to be part of the movement.
If we as leaders renew our focus upon our Mission, and align all our church’s actions to it – reaching out and making disciples of Jesus Christ – then we’ll begin to see the fruit of changed lives and a new vibrancy, even growth, in our church. That’s why our primary responsibility is to focus upon the Mission, with a specific vision for our congregation’s unique setting. I’m thankful that Bishop Schnase and many leaders here in Missouri are providing practical ideas and inspiration for this vital leadership task.
The next important word is “Pastor”. Why is that so important to fruitfulness in lay ministry?” Well, if the church is to grow and be successful in its mission, pastors have to lead. Not just shepherd, but really lead – with excellence. Laity in a congregation provide leadership too, but in a different way. For a fruitful lay ministry, we have to support the primary leadership role of our pastors.
We must work along with the pastor, not separate from (and certainly not in conflict with) the pastor’s vision and leadership. The book Winning on Purpose by John Kaiser describes ministry as a “team sport” where the pastor leads, the staff manages, and the congregation (laity) does ministry.
This is the basis for the “accountability leadership model” with a single board that many of our congregations are implementing.
Effective pastoral leadership is essential if a congregation is to be fruitful. Pastors are now held accountable for the congregation’s effectiveness and growth. That can be tough, but we’re recognizing now that somebody has to be in charge and responsible for the results of the church’s ministries. That’s why the Missouri Conference has a whole center for “pastoral excellence” and offers many opportunities for continuing learning. So, what can we as lay leaders do to help?
First, pray. Pray for your pastor. Pray with your pastor. Meet with him or her regularly to discuss God’s vision for the congregation, along with ideas and plans for moving forward.
Encourage your pastor, providing honest insight privately. And support your pastor, both privately and publicly, so that God’s transformative mission for the church can be advanced. The best lay leadership is in partnership with pastoral leadership. So develop that prayerful, supportive partnership.
Finally, participate in Learning programs with your pastor, such as Compass, or those recommended by your pastor such as Lay Servant Ministry courses.
Our pastors are continually learning new ways to lead in reaching people, making disciples of Jesus Christ. It’s a tough job. Our most effective ministry as lay leaders begins with supporting and encouraging our pastors as they lead the congregation. And encouraging other laity to do the same.
As we lead toward fruitfulness in ministry, let’s embrace the Mission and support our Pastors in leading to accomplish it – assured of Jesus’ spiritual presence and power to accomplish even more than we can ask or imagine.