Mobilising our Front-Line
In his address to Diocesan Synod in December, Matthew Frost asked us what one thing we might do as a diocese to best equip Christians to be disciples in every sphere of life, not just in church life.
My instinctive response was to inscribe a tattoo on the forearm of every church member - lay on the arms of the ordained, priest on everyone else! You may think this is crazy but the reality is that we have struggled for decades to overcome the sacred/secular compartmentalisation of most Christian discipleship.
The need for Christians to see themselves as priests in the workplace was spelled out 70 years ago, in Towards the Conversion of England. Dorothy Sayers, the novelist and playwright, flagged up the importance of all Christians recognising their vocation within secular life. She argued that if Christians behaved as though 90% of their life was irrelevant to their faith, why would anyone be interested in belonging to a church?!
The Archbishops’ Task Force on Lay Leadership, of which Matthew Frost is a member, has recently identified four obstacles to the whole people of God finding their vocation as disciples and Christian leaders in the whole of life. There is inadequate theology and vision, a weak lay voice which is not being heard or acted upon, unhealthy relationships between clergy and lay people and, lastly, a lack of resources and support. It may be that the Archbishops’ Task Force will prove the catalyst for change that previous reports failed to be but history suggests this requires the long haul of changing our culture.
There is no proverbial silver bullet for the Church of England in general, or the Diocese of Bristol in particular. However, this cultural change fully coheres with our vision for Creating Connections and aims of Making Disciples, Growing Leaders and Engaging Younger Generations. Matthew Frost highlighted two critical shifts needed to release the ministry of the whole people of God. The first is for lay and ordained people to work together so that lay people are confident to follow Jesus and live out the gospel in every sphere of life. The second shift is for lay and ordained people to be convinced they are equal partners in mission – complementary in gifting and vocation, mutually accountable in discipleship, and of equal worth and status. The theological basis for both shifts is grounded, and flows from, our primary status of as baptised members of the body of Christ.
So many words – what might churches do now to begin to clothe them with flesh? How about a 7 minute slot in every service where a member of the congregation shares what it means for them to give a lead as a follower of Jesus from Monday to Saturday. God on Monday has a nice ring to it. I have suggested this several times over the past decade…