In Defense of the Word “Laity”

By Lee Taylor. It never fails! Just at the moment when the world adopts something from the church arena, we back away from it!

Today we back away from the word “laity.” Today the world is using it more and more. My field is data processing. When speaking in terms of that industry, it is not uncommon to refer to data processing laity. These are people who tinker with their PCs on the weekend. Or perhaps they can make a software package they use as accountants jump through hoops. Some are “hackers.”

Some of these people are very, very good and very, very knowledgeable. But they do not make their living in the industry. The logical extension of that is that these people do not invest themselves much in the institutions of the industry.

The church is the Body of Christ. It is many other theological things. In terms of the everyday work-a-day world, the church/parachurch world is also an “industry.” From that perspective, it is not inappropriate for us to be termed laity. We do not make our living in the church/parachurch industry.

That implies that we do not invest ourselves in the visible institutions of the industry, at least not in the sense that clergy does. Like lay people in any field, we have little time for the nuances of “how things are done” in the industry, little patience with the style of politics practiced in church institutions.

Like the computer “hacker,” we are fascinated with what is at the heart of the industry, that central vision. In the church/parachurch industry, that is a vision of Jesus Christ Himself. When we are as obsessed with Him as “hackers” are with their machines, it may make little difference in the institutional church. But what a difference in the world!

“Hackers” have threatened every computer-using institution with computer “viruses.” The laity are out there in the world in every institution spreading Christ-viruses of Gospel, of Sabbath shalom, of godly character, of ethics, of love. We are the laity! May our viruses grow strong for Him!

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