By Lee Taylor. Godly men and women are complex resources. They are definitely underutilized! But we must be careful with that term or we quickly buy into the prevailing world view. The secular world considers people as meaningful only for their usefulness, their utility (as in under-utilized). People become inter-changeable commodities designed to fit rigid job-descriptions. It is the task and the vacant job slot that is important. Any old body will do, just so they have willing hands.
These job slots are all too often created without regard for the people available to fill them, both in industry and in the church. The church can become an assembly line for nursery attendants, Sunday school teachers, choir members … and pew sitters. Moreover, these assembly line positions can be set up based on the visions of only a few. Where is the best thinking of the best minds in the congregation?
Godly lay people have minds.
Once a church staff personwas trying valiantly to bring in guest speakers for a series of talks on the LausanneCovenant. That city had a wealth of theologians who could have handled the topics. But they were all busy. With deadlines around the corner, this staff person expressed frustration to a lay person. “What in the world can I do?”
“Is that rhetorical question, or are you really asking for an answer?” came the cautious reply.
With a startled look the staff person indicated she would, in fact, be open to suggestions.
“Well, why don’t you approach the lessons from the point of view of the heart, instead of the head. Get someone who has met Christ in a unique way to talk about the awesome uniqueness of Jesus Christ.”
It worked and became a dynamic series of lessons. The first speaker was a black pastor from the inner-city who told how he first met his Savior. Drunk and angry at a man, he broke down the man’s front door to kill him. With murder in his heart, he crashed a prayer meeting! After trying to run away, he later let those praying women be used by the Holy Spirit to introduce him to Jesus Christ that same night! He knows just how special Christ is! Yes, godly lay people are resources for ideas.
They are also good resources in crises.
In a series of tragic events, a deacon ran off with the organist’s wife and with a good chunk of the building fund. Construction had begun, but the building was a long way from being “under roof.” With no funds to continue, that church ran the risk of losing its investment through months of water damage until fresh funds could be raised.
Enter a godly man, a stranger to town. He was both an architect and an engineer, brought to that town to build a factory for a multi-national company. But was that really a transfer from the Lord? He put that church under roof with minimal cost and the congregation had time to heal its deep wounds, worshipping in half-finished, but useable quarters for the next year or two.
This crisis had been faced numerous times by that engineer. While serious, it was not the overwhelming disaster that it seemed to the congregation. While the leaders of that church might have huddled for months debating, he had things moving in no time.
Godly lay people have problem-solving skills.
One church has been helping one inner-city parachurch ministry with its heating bill. That is a worthwhile thing to have done. But now we have a new resource.
The Lord has brought a couple who have joint business ventures. One of their businesses is the installation of special storm windows that are very inexpensive, easily installed and seal the building tight. Presto! Heating problem solved, not for one winter, but for years.
Now what shall we do with the money that used to go toward heating? Somehow, I don’t think there will be a problem answering that question!
Godly lay people have a unique vision of God and His works.
Is the coming week’s sermon on a text that references the building trade? Visit a church member on a construction site. It may shed some interesting light on the passage.
I recently heard a pastor try to explain how the Holy Spirit is the “earnest” money of our inheritance. It would have helped to have had a chat with someone in investments before he preached the sermon.
Suppose it is a healing miracle of Christ, a lame man, for example. What might an orthopedic surgeon say about that story? How would he see the God of the universe dealing with one lame man on a mat by the pool?
Godly lay people bring rich and diverse backgrounds to bear on the life of the congregation.
Many of us from white backgrounds struggle with dualism. Church, Sunday, the Bible and faith are always separate from jobs, cars, risk and reason. Not so with black Americans. They find our struggles with this split a bit juvenile in spiritual terms. But they are usually politely silent, until we ask. Then the least sophisticated black member of our congregation can be far ahead of our best theologians.
God’s people are richly endowed by their Creator with both “natural” and “spiritual” gifts. They are rich resources. They are not just pairs of hands and feet. .Sometimes they come in strange and unexpected packages. Sometimes their skills may not seem to fit the current definition of the congregation’s direction.
Then why has God sent them our way? That is a question well worth asking. It is much easier just to plug them like pegs into predefined holes. It is easier to utilize them like inter-changeable machine-tooled parts. But what might we be missing of the riches God pours out on us as a congregation?