Ministry of the Masses – Emptying the Pews:
We’ve explained how “church” can mean different things. There is “church” (lower case) which describes a business that provides religious leaders and services. And “Church” (upper case) which is the whole body of Christians who act as the Body of Christ. This second definition has no institutional boundaries, business bylaws, formal leadership – it really doesn’t have much limitation at all. It can happen anytime with anyone. After all, Jesus promised: “Where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” (Matthew 18:20)
The church and Church overlap often, affecting each other frequently. A church business is often full of believers who, knowingly or not, continue to be the Church outside of regular scheduled functions, services, etc. Likewise, small gatherings of believers – meeting in homes and workplaces, grabbing lunch together or strolling the park – often also attend a church business in addition to being Church in their daily lives.
A recurring accusation we hear from Millennials is that church (lower case) is broken, sick, missing the point, failing its mission. As American church business has evolved to its current form, the Church Body of Christ has also been affected – largely negatively. Like a communicable disease, the church business and the Church people have caused each other to grow weaker. Our faith has noticeably slowed growth and lost influence in America. This makes us wonder:
- Are American Christians lazy and taking a cop out – paying pastors to do “ministry” for them and sitting back to enjoy the benefits?
- Or is it possible that the church business – with its bylaws, leadership, budgets and so on – enables a two-class system: paid ministers and then the rest of us? Has the church business become less Church and less family to become more business-like? People paying for religious services like customers?
We suspect there is blame on both sides. Many churches start out strong, with everyone involved. Over time, they often degrade to “just a building” where church members enjoy a few hours of churchy activities on a weekly basis. The Body gets more comfortable in its pews. As the Body adopts sitting in pews as their primary religious duty, paid pastors adopt ministry as their primary religious duty – instead of spurring the Body to ministry. It’s understandable, to a degree – after all, we might as well let the professionals do the hard work of ministry. But when we look at Scripture, it seems the present situation is upside down – completely the opposite of what we started with.
What if? What if we re-imagined church. What if people in the pews did ministry on a regular basis, every day, at their jobs and in their families and with their scout groups and sports teams and neighbors and teachers? And what if ministers spent the church’s time and resources to prepare its people to go out and change the world? What if? What if we the people in the pews, the masses of the Church, ministered all week long… and what if paid clergy and the business institution we attend served t0 train and encourage and teach and inspire us every week – we suspect we’d see a greater influence in our world, an influence to rival the days of Peter and Paul!
If you are a believer, you are already a minister – especially if you are not paid for it. And you have a lifetime to explore your role in the Kingdom, adMINISTERing love and grace and wisdom and Good News everywhere you find need. Are empty pews the worst case scenario for Christianity? Not if the Body, the Church, is out in the trenches doing God’s work!
Catch part 2 of 3 here: Reactivating the Body (part 2 of 3)
Chapel at Dollywood. Picture credit: Dollywood.com. While amazing work for the Kingdom has taken place in this building, the volume of ministry that occurs inside the amusement park but outside of this building is staggering. Ministry of the masses changes the world.