What I wanted to add to this, too was the question of ordination. Is it a help or a hindrance to lay involvement?
I think: not helpful.
Even when churches give a lot of emphasis to lay ministry, having ordination enforces the idea that there are some activities which are restricted to a certain group of people. While that was certainly the case in the OT, I don't think that is how the NT church worked. Taking together the many passages about the Holy Spirit's work in us, spiritual gifts, and church discipline, I think that in the NT church not only was all ministry open to all, but there was the real expectation that everyone would be pulling their weight.
Rather than the qualification-based system most churches have, we should instead have a disqualification system. Having the Spirit and the gifts he gives should be the only qualification needed to serve in ministry. Instead, church discipline should be used to disqualify (hopefully only temporarily) those who should not be serving.
This may make ministry appear less professional. I think that's ok!
Here's my question for you (and the internets):
What is the difference between training and discipleship?
My current thinking is that the most important thing we could be doing better in the church is discipleship - it is through discipleship that people will come to know their Bibles better and love God more, will be challenged and equipped to serve God faithfully, and will in general grow in Christian maturity. I have also called this training before, although most people probably use training to refer to only a small part of this, formal education courses on systematics/BT/history etc. Is there any great difference between training and discipleship other than one being in an education institution?
And a second question:
What is the role of paid staff?
From my understanding of the NT, in the ideal church everyone will be involved with ministry. Eldership is another thing entirely, and concerns who is responsible for ensuring that the church keeps its doctrine straight. It's not about who does the majority of the ministry work. So then, considering that most of our churches do employ people, what should we be employing them to do?
I think that if we want to push our churches towards that ideal, our churches should be aiming to employ gifted disciplers, not gifted teachers or pastors etc. If a church's disciplers are freed up to disciple others full time, then the Spirit will be working and the other things will get done by the laity, and will be done to a high quality. Even preaching.
I think my non-Anglican stripes are showing :P
I'm inclined to say that ordination is generally neither a help nor a hindrance to lay involvement, but rather forms a fairly neutral constant except in those contexts where novel policies concerning it scandalises people. There is also, I suppose, a question of implicit clericalisation for those laity who are on the inside-track.
Thanks Michael. Some of your points really rang true for me. Particularly about ministers having few non-Christian friends (I think this is true for too many ministers in training as well).
As a lay person I want and help to do evangelism (I feel like I'm working it out on my own - and I honestly don't know what I'm doing!). Though rather than go to college, I think my church is responsible to help me in this. But ministers at church could be so much more effective at this training if they had ongoing, personal relationships with non-Christians themselves. Maybe some of them do, but they never talk about them.
Your point about ministers giving permission is a really good one. But I bet most ministers would say to themselves "Of course they can start a cafe church! Bob and Jane know that!" Meanwhile Bob and Jane are left wondering how they can implement their idea and whether their church will help.
Permission needs to be explicit.
Lay involvement in ministry has been close to my heart for 30 years...In my student ministries I came to appreciate it...As a Youth/Young Adult Minister in a Parish with 4 distinct buildings and congregations, over 500 in membership, and 7 worship services in affluent Brighton, it was essential but wrestled somewhat with it. Then as Team Leader of over 1,000 volunteers that became 2,500 volunteers as the budget of the largest Parish and Church in Australia, Wesley Mission grew from $31M to $50M to $80M to $100M, and 7 years ago was $150M, the breathtaking impact and need for volunteers and laity involvement in many worship services and hundreds of Caring Centres, Services+Ministries, is one of the clearest examples of any Parish of what can happen and the difference volunteers and laity can make...I have run training courses for volunteer/laity involvement...Paid ministers are to "equip the saints for works of service." However, many slip into the ministry or hit the ground running, but don't set aside time for regular recruitment, deployment and training, for it becomes another thing to do, rather than see it as one of the most worhtwhile investments of time that can happen, so that laity who want to be part of the ministry, the Great Commission and the Great Commandment, are using their Spiritual Gifts and abilities "to make a difference!" It all starts with our attitude and the decision to bite the bullet and do this better for the sake of your Parish and the Kingdom of God, plus what we teach Ministers in Training Colleges. If this is not part of our ethos or soul, it may never translate and become part of our ministries!
Greg ClarkeJohn DicksonMichael JensenAndrew KatayAlan LukabyoJustin MoffattAndrew Nixon