“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.
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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:
- Listen to people. Suppress the temptation to do all the talking. Respectful listening telegraphs that others have something important to contribute.
- Devote time for people to share their God stories, which often can be more powerful and authentic than typical sermon illustrations.
- Let capable people run with significant ministries–without bridling them with the urge to control.
- Act more like a coach than a guru. Equip people to flourish on the real ministry field–where they live every day.
- Spend ample time out on the ministry field–helping and cheerleading (not lording over) the people on the field.
- Celebrate the wins on the field. Dedicate time every week to highlight how God is working through your people in remarkable ways.
- 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.