This is the seventh question to think about as our church is called to think and pray about the future.
I’m reading a book by Stuart Murray – Church After Christendom.
It has some really helpful things to say about what healthy churches might look like in a Post Christendom world.
The thing that struck me in relation to the above question is a passage from Paul’s letter to the early church in Ephesus.
“So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up ….. “
The passage does not mention leaders, but gifts. it is clear that these are ‘leadership’ gifts, but we have identified gifts almost exclusively with officially recognised and often paid leadership roles in the church, requiring years of training. In my context, it is clear that the vicar/minister is the main pastor. A Lay Reader would usually be one of the main teachers. I’m not sure where the other three gifts mentioned here appear.
There are several passages in the New Testament that talk about the gifts that are needed for a healthy church. In Christendom, the gifts that were prominent were Pastors and Teachers. In Post Christendom, we can no longer rely on people being familiar in any way with the Christian story. Gifts that take the faith beyond the bounds of the Christian community become vital. That means that our very structures need to change to allow this to happen.
“Ephesians 4 focuses not on church leaders, but on a harmonious church.It is the empowered community that engages in works of service.Its multidimensional activities result in the church functioning properly and becoming mature. It is a long way from this to the clerical (i.e. top down – my addition) models in which the laity support gifted clergy who perfom the worls of service. These models exalt or exhaust those designated as leaders and disempower community” Murray p. 189.
When thinking about the ‘How’ questions, like the one I’m thinking about today, it might be easy to draw up a list of actions a local church might take to reach out to their community. That’s fine, but there might be other ‘how’ questions that precede these very practical ideas – questions that are more fundamental to enabling long term change.
How can the church be less hierarchical, and promote and encourage a much wider participation, as envisioned by Ephesians 4.
How can churches be better at exploring difference, and resolving conflict, and so be the kind of communities that people want to join ?
How can funds be redistributed so that reaching out becomes a major item of expenditure in a church’s budget ?
…. perhaps you might make up a question …