I have been reading a lot lately about church planting movements that changed the world and have found some ideas very interesting. For example, in 1850 the Methodists had 4,000 itinerant preachers, 8,000 local preachers, and more than one million members, which made them the largest religious body in the nation and second largest national institution behind the government.
Steve Addison, on this movement, said, "This achievement would have been impossible without the mobilization of ordinary people-white and black, young and old, men and women-and the removal of artificial barriers to their engagement in significant leadership as class leaders, local workers, and itinerant preachers."
Addison is getting at something here that many of our churches miss. In many churches and denominations, it has become all about the "professional" Christian doing the work of ministry. Even in many of our local churches we will hear the pastors say, "You guys need to be involved with this, do ministry, etc." Then what is communicated through their actions is the attitude of, "I am the seminary trained one here, so allow me to be the face of everything in regards to ministry." It is also communicated through who serves the family meal (communion) and who baptizes, which neither has to be "professional ministers."
This kind of attitude communicated to the church is what has stifled its growth at many times and in many ways. During the surge of growth in the Methodist denomination they had no college-educated people in ministry, sounds slightly similar to Jesus day to me. The decline of the Methodists church came during the time when the amateur people in ministry were replaced with the seminary educated professionals.
Now, let me clarify that I am not against seminary if you take that route as part of your equipping. Many of our leaders are seminary trained. However, I do believe that there has been too much emphasis put on seminary education and not enough on the local church equipping and training their members to go out to be ministers in their everyday lives. Until we as a church get back to the place where the Methodist were in 1850, we in many ways are the cause of stifling a movement that could change the world by not equipping every follower of Christ to take the message of freedom and family to those around them.
I leave you with this, if you are a pastor or professionally trained in ministry, what are you doing in order to equip and mobilize your people to go out into their everyday spheres of life? By the way, a one-hour sermon a week is not going to cut it. If you are an "ordinary person" in the church, what is it that you are doing to realize that the work of making disciples is just as important for you as your pastor? In the words of Charles Spurgeon, “Every Christian is either a missionary or an imposter.” Which one are you?