Monday, February 16, 2009

The Church’s Vocation through the Ministry of the Laity

The people of God are set apart in order to be sent back into the world. What does the gathered people of God need in order to carry out their vocations in society? How will they be the transformed, equipped, empowered people of God serving in the world through their ministries in daily life? How are their skills for ministry and leadership in the congregation being strengthened?

And as we move beyond the church doors, do we know the ministries in daily life to which each other is being called? How will we walk with one another in those varied arenas, any and all of which are places for potential ministry and for working toward a more just and peaceable world? And what about the people whose lives the congregation members touch? What does daily transformation of the body of Christ mean in the lives of those people? How can we really make a difference in the world?

To believe in the communion of saints is to believe that God is the Creator of the whole world, that Christ is and continues to be incarnate in that world, and to claim the Spirit’s power. As leaders walk with the laity, listen to and engage the theological questions people raise from being involved in the world, ministerial leadership becomes more interesting, more vital, more theologically challenging and alive. And ministry is multiplied.

Those who have been called to faith in Jesus Christ have been faithfully ministering in the world in each generation. Full recognition of this ministry and these ministers by the church is the issue. In that regard we have a transformation waiting to happen, an unfinished reformation.

For an article that discusses these issues in full, click on the title of this post. I prepared this article for a Lutheran World Federation conference, “Theology in the Life of Lutheran Churches,” March 25-31 in Augsburg, Germany.


Rob G. said...

It seems to me the bigger question is something like, "How do we recognize this ministry and these ministers without minimizing or forgetting those which might not immediately come to mind?" If we begin to list thing for example, we invariably leave others out. But we cannot simply say that whatever someone does is necessarily mission or ministry because a lot of bad things have been carried out in the name of Christ. So how do we go about making this reformation happen in a fruitful, life-giving, meaningful, true-to-the-Gospel way?

Anonymous said...

"Those who have been called to faith in Jesus Christ have been faithfully ministering in the world in each generation." -- Norma

May God's Blessings Keep you always...May you stay forever young...Every generation refreshes the world. -- Pepsi superbowl ad

Maybe people would feel fully recognized if we gave them pepsi.
(just kidding :)

The transformation will never be completed, because God is never done bringing us to completion in Jesus Christ. In the meantime though, we preach, we administer the sacraments, we teach, we love. People listen and notice.

If this generation is to be recognized for their ministry, we have to teach/remind them there is something to recognize - and that something isn't pepsi.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for that article, Norma and for your posts thus far. I've found the topic of vocation to be immensely helpful already in parish life. People think that "ministry" or "evangelism" have to be such huge events or difficult things to do that they often fail to see simple ways that those things can take place (or are already taking place) in their daily life and work.

One other thought from a leadership perspective: I think the mission of our church has been limited in many places by the prevailing "pastor as CEO" model for ordained ministry. I think it has only served to widen the gap between the clergy and laity of our church. Based on the unique blend of your posts, Norma, perhaps "pastor as community organizer" is a more helpful model for the 21st century American pastor.

Bryant Kaden

Anonymous said...

You touched on the idea of acknowledging the vocational work which is already going on outside the church... "Full recognition of this ministry and these ministers by the church is the issue." This is a great thought. The need for us to continually expand our notions of vocation is one that should never be satisfied. I think you have made that wonderfully clear.

It really calls to mind at one time the work of civil rights and human rights activists and the service of our military. These are recognized and typified by different segments of society in different ways. Individuals who may identify as "liberal" would likely praise the former and challenge the latter. Likewise, the converse might be true for a self-identified "conservative."

However, the truth is that both vocations are seeking to establish safety and security for people. The means are very different and our valuations of them are typically generated out of those means. However, their vocational function is arguably closer that we may want to believe!

Adam Barnhart