The Lay Ministry DynamicAugust 2011
by Tim Keller
The growth of a big passive ‘middle’ happens to all churches as they grow larger. This growth in passivity weakens what I will call the “lay ministry dynamic.” That dynamic happens when a significant percentage of Christians engage in lay ministry “behaviors” because they are trained and coached—informally and personally—by the pastors and staff of the church. These lay ministry behaviors result in many new people, including many people without faith, being brought by Christian friends into the services and life of the church community.
I believe that it is in the collegiate model, in which congregations are led by lead pastors and their pastoral teams, that Redeemer has an opportunity to renew and strengthen that lay ministry dynamic. The highest priority is to again draw a significant percentage of church members into active ministry of the gospel with their relationships in the city. At the heart of the RENEW Campaign, we said that we were sending our lay people out into their neighborhoods to serve and reach their friends for Christ. We are reorganizing Redeemer into a network of neighborhood-based, generative congregations. Outreach and evangelism is on the front burner in this model, as is lay-driven ministry and evangelism. Redeemer began more as a “go and share” church, but evolved into more of a “come and see” church—come and hear the music, come see the masses of people, come listen to the teaching, come profit from the programs. Now we are going back from “come and see” to “go and share.”
Here are some examples of the kind of ‘lay ministry’ we want our people to be doing:
Notice that not all of these examples are directly evangelistic. Some are instances of the encouragement and building up of new believers, some are ways of spurring Christians on to greater growth in Christ, and others are cases of helping believers address particular problems in their lives. Nevertheless, each example is every-member-gospel ministry. That is, each example is a) organic—it is ministry that happens spontaneously, outside the organized programs of the church (even when making use of formal programs). b) Relational—it is ministry using informal, personal relationships. c) Word deploying—it is ministry of prayerfully bringing the Bible and gospel into connection with people’s lives. d) Active, not passive. Each person in these examples assumes personal responsibility for being a producer rather than only a consumer of ministry. For example, even though Fred continues to come to the small group as he always has, his mindset changed and he transformed from being a passive consumer of ministry to an active producer of ministry. Yes, direct evangelistic ministry is only one piece of this, but it will grow as every member Word ministry grows.
Lay Ministry Behaviors
Above is a set of brief case studies. Here is a more distilled set of what we will call “lay ministry behaviors.” This is not the same as ‘lay leadership’ in which your leaders have a job or responsibility in the church. It’s possible to have a duty as a volunteer but not contribute to every-member-gospel ministry. That consists of behaviors like the following. Notice that seven out of ten do not require as much knowledge as courage and compassion. Your lay people will carry them out if they feel empowered to do so through pastoral contact.
When 15-30% of a congregation’s lay people are engaged in this kind of ‘lay ministry,’ this organic, relational, lay gospel ministry, it creates a powerful dynamism that infuses the whole church. Encouraging and supporting lay ministry of this nature is crucial for us as we launch the four Redeemers.
The Catalyst event below is a great way to equip yourself for every-member-gospel ministry I encourage every Redeemer attender to participate.
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