“I’m not interested in being on somebody’s B team,” my friend said.
He was talking about churches that distinguish ministry work and responsibility based on whether a person receives a salary from the church. Those on the A team (pastors and ministry staff) call all the shots, closely control all the work of the church, and lead all initiatives. The B team is expected to pay the salary of those on the A team, follow orders, and be quiet.
My friend is a highly capable, extremely successful guy in the real world. He has lots of ministry ideas and the leadership talents to make big things happen. But he’s been told to conform to the status quo of the A team. Now he’s become frustrated enough that he’s given up completely on the organized church.
Though rarely referred to as such, the A and B team distinction is widely evident. It is one of the significant factors causing the decline of the American church today. Unfortunately, the majority now perceives that ministry–and being a disciple–is something that paid professionals do. The role of the people is to attend a presentation once a week, watch the rehearsed show, pay the performers, go home and resume life as usual.
This A/B distinction is not only disempowering the disciples, it’s discouraging our most capable, highest capacity people. They’ve somehow construed that they’re just members, second-rate Christians because they lack a theological degree, and cannot truly lead without being on the church payroll.
What’s more, members and attendees sometimes gather the impression that the clergy have attained higher favor with God.
A MESSAGE OF HIERARCHY
How are the people getting this sense of hierarchy? It often comes across in subtle and unintended ways. Some examples:
— The church’s website illustrates its ministry with dominant pictures of the pastor.
— The church attributes its success (Sunday attendance) to the work of the professionals on stage.
— The staff describes ministry fruit in terms of the number of members who have gone on to pursue full-time ministry (paid).
This concept of ministry and discipleship is not what Jesus advocated. I do think he wants all of us to be engaged in full-time ministry–right where we are, all the time, in our vocations, at school, on the bus, at home, and even at church. But his end game was not to convert everyone into paid A-team church employees.
Paid staff play a crucial role. They set the tone for ministry. And most would love to see more and more of their people move from being mere pew sitters to become full partners in ministry.
THE PRIESTHOOD OF ALL BELIEVERS
So, how might we promote everybody onto the ministry A team? Some ideas:
1. Listen to people. Suppress the temptation to do all the talking. Respectful listening telegraphs that others have something important to contribute.
2. Devote time for people to share their God stories, which often can be more powerful and authentic than typical sermon illustrations.
3. Let capable people run with significant ministries–without bridling them with the urge to control.
4. Act more like a coach than a guru. Equip people to flourish on the real ministry field–where they live every day.
5. Spend ample time out on the ministry field–helping and cheerleading (not lording over) the people on the field.
6. Celebrate the wins on the field. Dedicate time every week to highlight how God is working through your people in remarkable ways.
7. Remind people–every week–that they are the ministers, the disciples, carrying out real ministry in ways for which they are uniquely qualified.
The church is the Body of Christ. Every part is important. We’re all in this together.
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I think this article is spot on. I have observed it and experienced it first hand. God’s Holy Spirit ability and god’s Love is much bigger than anything humanly possible. We need to open our ministry to people lead by God Himself. We cannot limit God.
I actually see a lot of problems with what you write,even though your suggestions would certainly make an improvement to most churches. You say “I do think he wants all of us to be engaged in full time ministry -right where we are all the time,in our vocations,at school ,on the bus ,at home ,and even at church.But his end game was not to convert everyone into paid A-team church employees.” I don’t believe his end game was to convert ANYONE to paid church employee.By far, ministry by occupation,would be the exception -rather than the rule according to the scriptures…yet in the organized church ,it is the rule. This “norm”,which was not God’s idea,is responsible for many of the problems,or maybe I should say the perceived problems you feel exist..(pew-sitting,leaving the organized church). You say that paid staff sets the tone for ministry…yet don’t see how much paid staff hinders and limits ministry that God actually cares about. when you say that most of the paid staff would love to see more and more of their people move from being mere pew-sitters to become full partners in ministry,you are not being completely truthful and ignorant to the fact that those “mere” pew-sitters ALREADY ARE full partners with you in ministry,by their being in Christ..His Body.They are not the “paid staffs people”,but Christs’. I also believe the term “pew-sitter”implies many things that are just plain false,and it is often used in manipulative,arrogant<almost always negative way…normally by paid staff trying to compel church attendees to serve and get busy at "their"church.The paid staff should thank their lucky stars and be grateful that many people take precious time that the Lord has given them,from the day He has made,to come and join with them,honored that they would listen to what the Lord had laid on their heart to share that day.Many of the "mere" pew sitters do incredible ministry every day,through their willingness to help others at work,time with their family,generous spirits and selflessness,prayers for others ,gratitude to God….but if they are not involved with the "ministry"on the paid staffs agenda…they are just ya know,apathetic,not really spiritual…pew-sitters. I guess i feel that getting Pew-sitters to get on the local church's A -team isn't even really something we should care about.Thank God for them and pray that they might live pleasing to the Lord in our world,realizing they already are fellow-ministers.
I think you make some really good points and your ideas would make an improvement to most of the organized church,yet in many ways, completely misses the mark,perpetuating the very problems you want to fix.I completely dis agree with your view that the majority percieves ministry and being a disciple is something the paid professionals do,and their role is to attend,watch,pay,and go home.(By the way,as long as the organized church continues to operate the way it does,led by those who have “ministry” as their occupation,people are justified in feeling that the ministry of the church is mostly that of the paid staff). In scripture,you would have to completely twist or distort it,to come to the conclusion that ministry should be full-time paid occupation.It would be the exception not the rule,yet in the organized church,it is the rule. You wrote that Jesus’ end game was not to convert everyone to paid A-team church employee. I don’t believe it was to convert ANYONE to paid A-team church employee. You also wrote that paid staff set the tone for ministry(God,i would certainly hope so!It’s their occupation) Then you say that most,would love to see more and more of “their” people move from being mere pew sitters,to become full partners in ministry. This is wrong in so many ways.First,they are not “their” people (which wrong thinking only perpetuates hierarchy).Also,it fails to recognize others already ARE full partners by virtue of being in Christ,His Body.The things they do at and for a church,a church building do not make them any more or less a partner as far as God is concerned.Last,the term “mere pew-sitters”has so many wrong implications.Basically it’s a derogatory word that church hierarchy or those feeling spiritually superior use to describe those people who attend but never get involved,are lazy,apathetic,luke-warm,really don’t love God,etc, …all because they don’t see them helping THEM,”their” church,and their agenda(which of course must be Gods’also). Church leaders should be grateful and honored that many of these people would take time that the Lord had given them,to come and listen to something they had to say and just be with others.Also they are blind to the fact that many of the so-called mere pew sitters,are doing incredible ministry in Gods’ eyes by their love for their spouse,time they spend with their kids,helpfulness and generosity to others at work and school even though they are going through struggles and difficulty,prayers for others,etc, They shine like stars,,,,but if their not doing anything to help out the paid professionals agenda they’re just mere pew sitters. Unlike your friend who has had it with the organized church because it seems he was not allowed to be involved,or do something,…I think more are leaving because of the constant pressure to do something,the false obligations that the paid professionals put on them,and many just want to enjoy being with some other believers,not take up another part time job.The greatest way the paid professionals could set the tone for ministry ,would be to become unpaid professionals and go to work like the rest us.I guarantee it would change their view of ministry.They would know if God genuinely called them. They might get the urge to sit in a pew.