Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Vocation, Vocation, Vocation - Part 2 (Lay preaching and stuff)

This is going to hack some people off.

If our labour in the Lord is not in vain, if our daily work pleases the Lord and if the church is about announcing God's kingdom through word and sacrament, then this has implications.

Firstly, there is no such thing as 'spiritual' work and 'nonspiritual' work. The school teacher, the police officer and the office clerk are all doing God's work inasmuch as they do their work unto Christ.

Secondly, there is no need to be involved in lay ministry, (be it preaching, running youth clubs, etc) in order to be about God's work. There are many in evangelical church's who have a nagging suspicion that they need to get involved in some church programme, the worship team or lay preaching in order to justify their existence. If they 'only do their job' nine to five through the week and neglect to do something 'spiritual' the rest of the time, they are burying their talents and God will be sooo mad. Sorry, but this is works/righteousness coming through the hole caused by a defective theology of the two kingdoms.

The result of such an approach to church, and I've been the victim of it as well as seeing it around me, is burned out men and women in the pews. In the past I've found myself, after a punishing day at work and putting kids to bed, sitting down to prepare a sermon at 8.30pm. I then preach a substandard message on the Sunday, feel crappy about it and then go back to work for a rest. Surely lay ministry in Scripture is the exception rather than the norm? Surely Christ's precious blood-bought church deserves better than the scraps of one's day?

Third, the word/sacrament ministry is a peculiar vocation. Not everyone should do it. Only those who are first men, second who are apt to teach and third who exhibit the fruit of the Holy Spirit should be considering it. Those who enter the Word ministry are the exception, they are freaks who should not be held up as the examples of how to please the Lord in your work.

Fourth, churches should be clear as to the purpose of church. Why is the Lord's Day the most draining day of the week? Why is it packed with 'stuff' that is not related to word and sacrament? The purpose of church is to feed the flock with Christ. It is a spiritual meal, a refreshing supper that takes hold of God's righteousness in Christ through word and sacrament. The flock attends to feed and graze. Imagine a sheep going to graze and the shepherd saying, "I know you've been busy having lambs and growing your coat, and I know that you're famished. But grazing isn't what you get out of it, it's what you put in. Go and plant some grass seed for your fellow sheep." Sounds ridiculous, yet I fear we evangelicals are guilty of a similar folly.


Fiona said...

I agree with parts 1, 3 and 4, in particular that the 2 Andys are freaks. But I'm not sure about 2, the 'no need to be involved in any ministry' part. Is that across the board or for particular phases in life? At what point are we grieving the Holy Spirit because we’re not doing what God has given us to do? How do we serve the church? Or do we leave it all to the elders who get paid because that’s their job? Just wondering what you think.

Your blog is great, btw (she quickly added).


Nick Mackison said...

Fiona, thanks for the questions. You asked:

"At what point are we grieving the Holy Spirit because we're not doing what God has given us to do."

I suppose I'm arguing that what God has given us to do is our vocation, be it in full-time Word ministry or in our secular work.

So by doing our daily 9-5's, we are serving the Lord and that is his priority for us. I reckon all other voluntary acts should be subordinate to this. If we decide we have time to serve the church in a particular capacity, then good.

Yet if this impacts negatively on our daily grind in any way, we should bin it.

I believe tht we serve the church primarily by being served by the church through the word/sacrament ministry. Too often we view church as "what we put into it" rather than a refreshing spiritual meal. We can be church-programmed up to the eyeballs with very few things of lasting significance.

Subordinate to being served by the church is building one another up in love. I think we serve by pastoring, encouraging and supporting one another. I see service as a more informal act than a church programme oriented thing.

That's not to say that Christians, with time to do it, shouldn't get together and decide that it's a good thing to serve the community by opening a cafe with cheap coffee and cakes!

Good questions!