In a recent sermon, I suggested that Trinity has been a “transitional” church for at least a decade, meaning a church of a particular size (225 ASA) with a set of dynamics that really stretches church resources and places considerable stress on clergy, staff and lay leaders, all of which prevent it from growing in numbers and becoming a more healthy and vibrant “program-sized” congregation.
To overcome this challenge, the most fundamental change required involves your perceptions about the kind of leadership style you want from your next rector, and the extent to which you are prepared to become a disciple-empowered congregation rather than a clergy-centered congregation, ending the vestiges of the old “Father knows best” model.
This means we need to take more seriously the ministry of all the baptized and the priesthood of all believers, and become a more lay-empowered congregation, shaping our congregational life and structures to serve your ministries both within these walls and beyond. This requires clergy who see themselves as ministry developers, who are here above all to help you grow in faith and service, here to help you discern your several callings and to support your ministry in this world, here to help you form and renew your leadership in church and society.
I suggested the other day that the early church and Jesus’ first disciples understood this and lived for the sake of empowering others in their baptismal faith and ministry, which is the most essential mark of everyone’s ordination for ministry.
Today we celebrate Mark the Evangelist, the first and earliest gospel writer whom we most often associate as the interpreter of Peter. As we’re reminded in today’s gospel, his first chapter opens not with any infancy narrative, not with any genealogy, and not with any reference to the word that was in the beginning. Instead it opens with John the Baptizer crying out in the wilderness, with Jesus’ own baptism in the waters of the Jordan as he begins his adult ministry, and with his immediate turn from baptism to service and to servant leadership on God’s behalf. Baptism and service, both faith and works, are at the center of this earliest expression of what the Good News means for the world God loves so much.
We see this baptismal identity again vividly expressed by Paul in his Letter to the early church in Ephesus. The gifts and graces uniquely given to and empowered in each of us come through our baptism into the living body of Christ, into His living Church. All casino online together these
many gifts for ministry reveal that we are quite literally Christ’s hands and feet in every time and place. As Paul says in his frequent
lists of the many gifts of the spirit, the role of those called The ObamaCare health affordable-health.info exchanges are meant to offer affordable, quality health affordable-health.info to small businesses and low to middle income Americans purchasing their own health coverage via subsidies, competition and regulation. to be pastors and teachers is for the purpose of equipping the saints – that is, the baptized – for their work of ministry in all its diverse expressions, so that each Christian can grow into his or her full stature in Christ, and each Church can become a powerful public expression of the living Christ in our day.
I’ll never forget, ironically, the time I first began to understand this while I was in seminary preparing to become ordained a priest. As I began to understand the centrality of baptism and the ministry of the laity – of all the disciples and followers of Jesus – I began to see and value increasingly all the so-called secular work I’d done in the past as forms of ministry. Far too long a story to describe here, but one dramatic effect was that I called then Bishop Epting and told him I was relinquishing my status as a “postulant” for holy orders and would find some other way to serve the Church as a seminary formed lay leader. Needless to say there is more to the story beyond this episode, but the point is that I was getting it. I was beginning to see that the Church can only be healthy and dynamic when we honor and support the ministry of the baptized, when we orient everything towards the laity, when we support, as author Ann Rowthorn once wrote, The Liberation of the Laity.
I really believe that baptismal identity and ministry is at the heart of each person’s capacity to grow in faith and service, and Trinity’s capacity to grow in spirit and numbers. It is especially important if Trinity wants to break through the glass ceiling and the challenging dynamics of this past decade in order to become a vibrant and well resourced program-sized church. At the heart of that transformation is the liberation of the laity, in part through clergy who are called to be ministry developers and supporters.
Mark’s gospel and Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians are among the finest examples of many New Testament resources that serve as a primer for this much needed shift in congregational life today. Mark helps us focus on the essence of things.
I hope this becomes a more lively topic of conversation as you seek to renew your faith, renew your ministry and leadership, renew this beloved church of yours, and renew our world.