To establish a
spiritual growth process in local congregations in which:
Laity awaken to the
Biblical vision that all Christians (not just the ordained) are
MINISTERS of God, each in their own way.
Laity discover their
immense value and purpose as they serve God in their daily life and
Laity and clergy empower
each other to discern their God-given gifts and use them in ministries
in the home, workplace, church, and world.
Ordinary Christians learn
from each other, share their faith, pray for each other, affirm each
other's gifts, support each other's ministries.
"A community of ministers"
comprised of laity and clergy share true companionship and teamwork.
What is Laity Empowerment?
The English word "laity" is
derived from the Greek "laos" which means "the people of God." Before the
early church evolved into a formal, stratified institution, there was
little hierarchical separation between clergy and laity. Early Christians
were taught to see themselves as one unified community, "the people of
God." Each Christian was seen as a minister in his or her own right, each
an essential part of the Body of Christ upon which all the other parts
depended (I Cor 12:4-13). Some had the gift of leadership, others the gift
of hospitality, or teaching, or generosity, and so on (Rom 12:3-8), and
every gift was considered equally important in God's eyes.
This is what Jesus taught as
well. He believed in the gifts of each follower. He told them, "You are
the light of the world" (Mt 5:14). He taught them not to lord it over each
other. "You are not t be called 'Rabbi," for you have only one Master and
you are all brothers (and sisters)" (Mt 23:8); "Now that I, your Lord and
Teacher, have washed your feet, so you also should wash one another's
feet" (Jn 13:14). Jesus welded the disciples together into a community of
mutuality, equality, and ministry in which each person was deeply loved
and valued for who he or she was and for what he or she could uniquely
Unfortunately, this spirit of
mutuality among the "people of God" was fragile and easily lost. The
church soon became hierarchically structured like government or military
institutions. Clergy were given an elevated status. In most churches
today, the tasks clergy carry out are touted as "THE ministry" of the
church, whereas what laity do is considered to be merely "volunteer work."
Usually laity do not think of
themselves as full-fledged ministers of Christ in their daily life and
work. They generally assume clergy are "closer to God" than they are, and
expect more from the clergy spiritually than they do of themselves.
Clergy, on the other hand, commonly do not know how to find true spiritual
companions among the laity and feel they must "escape" the church be
spiritually nurtured. The result of such views is passivity and boredom in
the laity, and isolation and burnout in the clergy. Everyone losses.
Laity empowerment is about
helping ordinary Christians claim their own relationships with God and
discover their immense value and purpose as ministers of Christ in their
daily life and work. Laity empowerment is about recognizing , valuing and
igniting into full flame the spiritual lives and ministries of not just
the clergy, but EVERY member of the congregation.
Laity empowerment is also
about building Christian community in which there is true companionship
and teamwork between clergy and laity, in which each person in the
congregation actively ministers to everyone else in the church. Laity
empowerment is MUTUAL EMPOWERMENT where Christians do not look primarily
to "experts" for their inspiration, spiritual nourishment, and support,
but instead receive these things from EVERYONE in the group as they share
their faith with each other, love and listen to each other, pray for each
other, discern one another's gifts, and support each other's ministries.
The Laity Empowerment Project
seeks to provide a catalytic program for local churches wishing to spur on
this kind of congregational transformation!