Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Priesthood of Believers

The International Coalition of Workplace Ministries in the USA has posted an article by Eric Swanson, which proposes ten paradigm shifts for the Church (see An interesting observation (paradigm shift no. 3) is that, if churchgoers are not given the opportunity to minister, they drop off in time. I think this is true. But there’s an interesting twist. Swanson writes: “In the typical church, lay people are asked to serve in five or six capacities: Teach a Sunday School class / Work in the nursery / Lead a home Bible study or small group / Sing in the choir / Be an usher or greeter / Serve on a board or committee.” These “five or six capacities” go unquestioned by Swanson, except that he notes an important need to add “ministering to ... the needs of a community”. This is good -- yet why such a short list of “five or six capacities”? There would seem to be a big gap here. There’s a multiplicity of things that churchgoers can do besides: leading the prayers, giving spiritual messages, welcoming guest speakers, preaching the sermon, and so on. We ourselves do this within a fairly “traditional” context. Not to speak of what people can do in groups. QUESTION: Why is it that Swanson’s list is as short as “five or six capacities”? Why, apparently, does he not see so many more?


Steve Hayes said...

But isn't that Swanson's very point -- that many churches do not see beyond those five or six ministries?

I remember one church where i was a student, and while I was home for the vac there was a new minister, and when I arrived back at university I was old by someone else that the new minister was complaining that the church members were not doing things like those 5 or 6, and the person who told me said that the minister did not seem to see that many members of the congregation were active in Christian service working for NGOs and various other things, and that there were many more ministries than flower arranging.

Thomas Scarborough said...

Swanson refers to “five or six capacities” of lay people (which he lists) as being inadequate, then adds “ministering to the community” (apparently to complete the list). Yet it seems to me like a game of hopscotch where one jumps on 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and over the top of 6, 7, 8, 9 (which one shouldn’t), then lands on 10: “ministering to the needs of the community”. Why jump over the top of 6, 7, 8, 9, which I call “a multiplicity of things besides”? If Swanson is saying that many Churches do not see beyond 5 or 6, why does he only add 10? Does he have an inadequate view of lay ministry? Is he caricaturing a particular kind of Church?