Are We Equipping Our Saints?

Here’s how (and why) we must do so

Commissioning our lay leaders

By Neal Laybourne

I constantly tell our congregation that they are far more important to God’s work than I am. They are the ones on the front lines of what God is doing in our community. But they usually don’t believe me. Everything in my being wants them to wake every day and commit their lives (right where they are) to be used by God to reach the people around them.

Earlier in the 2000s, we tried getting people to step forward to be commissioned by the church to reach out to a specific group of people—the way we commission missionaries and pastors. Unfortunately, only about a dozen people came forward. But I want to tell you about one of them.

Frank definitely did not believe how valuable he was to God’s work. He quietly helped behind the scenes for many church ministries before moving into an assisted-living place as his body slowed down. When he was commissioned, it was if a light bulb went off. He believed Jesus had given him a special outreach opening where he lived, as he loved the hymns of the faith and could still play the piano.

So as a congregation, we enthusiastically and officially commissioned Frank to ministry to that small group of a dozen-plus, semi-shut-ins by having weekly hymn sings, where he taught people the stories behind the hymns and encouraged them in the message of the hymns they sang. For the next 10 years, Frank’s witness was strong in that home. And his later memorial service was triumphant for Jesus.

I want the Franks in our churches to be encouraged about how God will use them to reach people no one else can reach.

Neal Laybourne is senior pastor of Barre (Vt.) EFC.

For those older saints in your church body who are wondering what's next for them in ministry, discuss with them the recent blog post "Did Jeremiah While Away His Years in a Rocking Chair?"

Are we ready for messier ministry?

By Ranelle Woolrich

In order to get serious about the priesthood of believers really doing the work of ministry, we have to come to grips with a ministry model that will be messier and less polished. People will undoubtedly make mistakes, but hundreds of people making mistakes is better than a few people making mistakes, because in between the mistakes, the world will also see the light of Christ.

Ranelle Woolrich serves as women’s ministry director at Grace Bible Church (EFCA) in Houston, Texas.

Connect Sunday faith to Monday work

By Matt Rusten

If faith in Christ is meant to invade every nook and cranny of our lives, it follows that pastors who want to equip their people for ministry would spend a significant amount of time and energy considering how faith fleshes out at work. These pastors would . . .

  • . . . affirm and applaud people in their work and acknowledge its intrinsic value. Work itself is God’s idea (Genesis 2:2-3, 15), and doing excellent, careful, diligent work is a tangible way to show love to our neighbor.
  • . . . connect spiritual formation and the worship of God to work. God can use our daily work to cultivate our character, making us more like Christ. And as we submit to God in doing excellent, humble, consistent, generous work, our work itself becomes an offering of worship (Colossians 3:23-24).
  • . . . take time to reassess language, rituals and ministry structures that reinforce a sacred/secular and clergy/laity divide. They might publicly commission not only international missionaries but also teachers, lawyers, farmers and business people. After all, “calling” doesn’t only apply to ministry roles. Our individual callings flow from our common calling to know and love Christ, and serve Him with our lives.

Matt Rusten is executive director of Made to Flourish, a network of pastors integrating faith and work. He previously served as pastor of spiritual formation at Blackhawk Church (EFCA), in Madison, Wisconsin, from 2011 to 2015.

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