The Powerful, Inauspicious Laity
Your mentors, had mentors. The gentleman I meet with each week was mentored by a man named, Bill Garrison. Garrison left behind many writings, one of which my friend David Bertch preserved, called “A Theology of the Laity”.
So many in leadership and clergy in Christendom are looking for a big movement of God. They make their plans and ask God to do something big with their work. These statements in their prayers and writing make me laugh out loud. If you have ever read Henry Blackaby’s “Experiencing God” then you know why it makes me laugh.
First, God is doing big things. If you were up early for Easter morning you may have seen the sun rise. The world spun in perfect time within a cosmic system, the sun appeared on the horizon, its gasses warmed all the light touched and this exact moment was known to us with the availability of scientific measure. How incredible it is so perfectly predictable. Layman G.K. Chesterton saw this big work of God, whereas most in Christendom may never take note. He writes in his book Orthodoxy:
“Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, "Do it again"; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, "Do it again" to the sun; and every evening, "Do it again" to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.”
God worked in big ways today as someone’s arm was healed to the point the cast came off. He was present in a big way when a next door neighbor lent his car to a single mother in need while hers was in the shop. He fed thousands through homeless shelters across the country. God’s Spirit comforted a confused soul in the pews of a small rural church without a paid pastor. God did big things today.
Most of what God did today he did through what Bill Garrison calls, an “inauspicious” group of people. Most will never be known in the writings of history, nor will they receive special honors for their years of service on a church stage, nor will a building be named for them, nor will they receive any special ordination. We are known as the laity in Christendom. We were all given gifts to serve God and told to go into all the world.
The people who will make the greatest impact for the kingdom this week will wake up to get their children prepared for school. They will quietly ride the train downtown as they prepare for their first meeting. They will drive their pickup to the construction site and hope the first cup of coffee will get them motivated. They will teach a class of 32 first graders. They will sit at the kitchen table working on a budget to make plans for a summer vacation with their kids. They will be in a hospital bed recovering from a minor heart attack. They will be handing you a Big Mac and fries from the other side of a window.
These are the people who will today be a part of the big things of God. Big things like providing for their family and paying for their kids’ education. Big things like designing and constructing infrastructure to support a society. Big things like sharing their lunch money. Big things like listening to a depressed coworker. Big things like resisting sin amongst a rowdy group of sales people. Big things like telling someone their hope is in Jesus.
“…the man or women who really lives in the world, is at home in it, and familiar with its ways. He is neither afraid of the world as it is, nor resentful of it. However much it needs to be changed, it is still God’s world, and it is still man’s world.” (Bill Garrison, “A Theology of the Laity”, Pg.4)
The laity, the Christian masses, are needed in the everyday, what some might call mundane, we laymen know as the battlefields.
Clergy spends so much time trying to get us to attend their programs and to participate in their productions, they keep the God-fearing believer from the very places he is needed most: at their daughter’s soccer game, at the bar with work colleagues, on the couch with their spouse, at the neighborhood book club, or the plant a tree fund raiser. Institutional Christianity wants us to serve its purposes, none of which have the power of the inauspicious school teacher.
“They (the laity) desire to be ministered to, not used as a building block in someone else’s building program, but encouraged and equipped to meet their world effectively for Christ.” (Bill Garrison, “A Theology of the Laity”, Pg.4)
As laypeople, we know that most professional ministers, no matter their good hearts, have no business in professional ministry. There are those that have a gift for professional service and many that do not. We resent either pressuring us to be like them, or wanting us to make our lives centric to their institution.
Garrison lays out, as did the first century church, the duties of the church, and when I say church, I do not specifically mean an ordained clergy, but a group of believer’s in Jesus Christ in a geographical area, “The church is the home in which he receives inspiration and instruction for this service. But it is not the battlefield, the place where the victory of God is to be won.” (Bill Garrison, “A Theology of the Laity”, Pg.4)
“The spread of the gospel was accomplished by the whole body of believers in their day to day contact with the Roman world. Kenneth Scott Laterite, the great church historian says, ‘their work force’ was made up of ‘common people’.”
It must be remembered who is to serve who in the church. The clergy is to serve the laity.
“The church as an institution in whatever form it takes is the servant to the individual believer, the believer is the servant of Christ, not the church.” (Bill Garrison, “A Theology of the Laity”, Pg.14)
I encourage you to read Bill Garrison’s “A Theology of the Laity”. Contact me and I’ll provide a copy for us to discuss in detail.
Let me leave you with this:
As a layperson, the work of your daily life is a great calling, ordained by God. Do not think less of yourself, and use it to act as Christ and speak of Christ.
Encourage your clergy to prepare you for the Christian life in the everyday. Ask them to instruct and inspire you, but when they look for one more way to drag you into being with them at their building or in their planned programs multiple days a week, rebuke them.