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FIRST-PERSON: 4 pillars of lay ministry

LAKE FOREST, Calif. (BP)–I was talking with some people after a service once and mentioned that we really needed someone to create a multimedia videotape for an event. The person I was talking to asked, “Why don’t you get her?” — and pointed to a woman standing a few feet away. I walked over to the woman, found out her name and asked what she did. She replied, “I’m the chief video production director for Walt Disney.”

Another time, I mentioned that we needed a flower designer to decorate our tent for Mother’s Day. Someone pointed out a person in the crowd and said, “He designs many of the prize-winning floats for the Rose Parade!”

It scares me when I think that talent like that could go unused.

Your church needs an intentional, well-planned system for uncovering, mobilizing and supporting the giftedness of its members. You must set up a process to move your members into your core of lay ministers. Your church will never be any stronger than its core of lay ministers who carry out the various ministries of the church.

Most Baptist churches believe in the concept that every member is a minister. Many even give it a major emphasis in their preaching and teaching. Still, most members do nothing but attend and give.

What does it take to turn an audience into an army?

How do you transform spectators into participators?

Your people must be given a simple process that they can follow which will lead them to deeper commitment and greater service for Christ. They need a track on which they can move forward.

At Saddleback Valley Community Church, we call this our Life Development Process. This is the system we use to equip, empower and release our members for ministry.

Based on Romans 12:1-8, we believe there are four pillars of lay ministry that the church is built on:

Pillar #1: Every believer is a minister

To be a Christian means being like Jesus. He said, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many”(Mark 10:45). We believe these two activities — service and giving — are the defining characteristics of the Christlike lifestyle expected of every believer.

We teach that every Christian is created for ministry (Ephesians 2:10), saved for ministry (2 Timothy 1:9), called into ministry (1 Peter 2:9-10), gifted for ministry (1 Peter 4:10), authorized for ministry (Matthew 28:18-20), commanded to minister (Matthew 20:26-28), to be prepared for ministry (Ephesians 4:11-12), needed for ministry (1 Corinthians 12:27), accountable for ministry, and will be rewarded according to his or her ministry (Colossians 3:23-24).

Pillar #2: Every ministry is important

There are no “little people” in the body of Christ and there are no “insignificant” ministries either. Every ministry is important.

“The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I don’t need you!’ And the head cannot say to the feet, ‘I don’t need you!’ On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable” (1 Corinthians 12:18-22).

Small ministries often make the greatest difference. The most important light in my home is not the large chandelier in our dining room but the little night light that keeps me from stubbing my toe when I get up to use the bathroom at night. It’s small, but it’s more useful to me than the show-off light. (My wife Kay says that my favorite light is the one that comes on when I open the refrigerator!)

Pillar #3: We are dependent on each other

Not only is every ministry important, every ministry is intertwined with all the others. Since no single ministry can accomplish all the church is called to do, we must depend on and cooperate with each other.

Like a jigsaw puzzle, every piece is required to complete the picture. When one part of your body malfunctions, the other parts don’t work as well.

One of the missing components in the contemporary church is this understanding of interdependence. Our culture’s preoccupation with individualism and independence must be replaced with the biblical concepts of interdependence and mutuality.

Pillar #4: Ministry is the expression of my S.H.A.P.E.

S.H.A.P.E. is an acronym I developed years ago to explain the five elements that determine a person’s ministry. Those five elements are:

— Spiritual gifts

— Heart

— Abilities

— Personality

— Experience

Each of us is uniquely designed — or “shaped” — by God to do certain things. If you don’t understand your S.H.A.P.E., you end up doing things that God never designed you to do.

When your gifts don’t match the role you play in life, you feel like a square peg in a round hole. This is frustrating, both to you and to others. It is also an enormous waste of your talent, time and energy.

Napoleon once pointed to a map of China and said, “There lies a sleeping giant. If it ever wakes up, it will be unstoppable.”

Today the American church is a sleeping giant. Our pews are filled with members doing nothing with their faith except “keeping” it.

If we can ever awaken and unleash the massive talent, creativity and energy found in those pews — if we can mobilize the ministers in our midst — Christianity will explode with growth.

“For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10).
Warren is pastor of Saddleback Valley Community Church in Lake Forest, Calif., and author of “The Purpose-Drive Life” and “The Purpose-Driven Church.”

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  • Rick Warren