In our staff meeting the other day, my administrative assistant Laurie and I were talking about when folks leave the church. She was reminiscing about conversations she has had over the years where folks who had been a part of our fellowship for a very long time lamented some part of “church” they thought was missing. They would say things like, “Why don’t ‘they’ do such and such?” Or “When are ‘they’ going to start this or that ministry.” As opportunity presented itself, Laurie would remind them that they were in fact the “they” of which they spoke. Many who thought this way were also the ones who left to find another church where the “they” envisioned will do whatever this person believes is lacking.
One of the assumptions of the westernized church that many elders/pastors have to tackle in the minds of the local assembly, is an overemphasis on the event-driven, staff-focused, programatic “they” of the past. When the church sees itself more as a building than as a body, sees the leadership as the sole content of “they” and the programs as the end rather than the means of ministry, we have a problem. The task before the leadership is to disciple these dear people in their understanding that in fact, “we are they.”
Most of us are familiar with Ephesians 4:11-16. It’s the “go to” passage to see that God has given the church gifted individuals to help lead the church. But what we may sometimes miss is the point of these gifted individuals. They are given in order that the saints might be equipped for the work of ministry amongst themselves; that the body may build itself up in love. The implication is that the body is working together. Elder/pastor, deacon, Sunday School teacher, AWANA leaders, prayer warriors, parents, students, etc. are all a part of the body and need to realize that all are the “they” whom God is using to effectively see the gospel go forth and discipleship accomplished.
So the next time someone in your local assembly says to you, “When are ‘they’ going to do such and such,” you should lovingly and gently remind them, “We are ‘they!’"
How are we going to serve the body?