In Layman's Terms: Clergy or laity, we all have a calling
When we hear the word “call” or “calling,” at least as it pertains to our faith or the church, we often make the leap to think the discussion is about ordained ministry. Many times, that is indeed the case. But not always. And not even in a majority of cases is that true.
All followers of Christ are called into His service. As my wife and I are fond of recounting time and time again, we believe Jesus gave us a three bullet-point job description – clergy or laity:
- Love God.
- Love our neighbors.
- Make disciples of Jesus Christ.
At no point that I'm aware of did Jesus say it was only the disciples – his ordained clergy, in a way – who were to make disciples. Sure, the Christian movement started with them and hit its stride with the apostle Paul. The disciples were the starting point. But the instruction made clear in Matthew 28:16-20 is considered widely to be aimed at all followers of Jesus – that we are to make disciples of all nations.
How do we do that? Well, not just with our limited number of ordained United Methodist elders and deacons. Not even with those two groups plus our dedicated local licensed pastors, certified lay ministers or even our district superintendent assigned pastors would we even put a dent in the third bullet point in that job description.
In my many travels for the Great Plains Conference, I visit numerous churches. Wherever I go, I often pick up a copy of the church’s bulletin. I always smile when I see the staff list and a church has listed next to “Ministers” the words “all in the church” or something to that effect. It’s a good weekly reminder that we who have not been called to ordained ministry have an important role to fill.
The good news is we can help serve by doing what we feel we have been called to do. While we can’t all be pastors, we have many among our laity serving as nurses, accountants, engineers, teachers, an electricians. Many of us serve in clerical roles, as support staff or others among the numerous duties that make our world’s economy go round and round each day.
How we serve in those roles and how we conduct ourselves while we’re in those roles serve as a witness. People note when we treat others with respect. They pay attention to whether we’re open to new ideas and if we act with integrity.
At the recent Orders and Fellowship meetings in Lincoln, Nebraska, our clergy discussed ways to foster a culture of call in our local churches. So don’t be surprised if you hear a sermon or two about involvement, finding what your passion is in ministry and then encouragement to follow that passion with action.
If you want to see what the clergy discussed, check out the Orders and Fellowship page to see videos shown at the event and speakers from the event. Not all of the speakers’ presentations are posted there yet, but they should be soon.
If I may, I suggest starting off by viewing a video about serving God despite your vocation. It’s titled “Clergy or Not, Everyone Has a Call.”
Consider what your church’s missions are. Consider the needs in your community. Think of the people you could invite to worship or to some event.
Pray about those things. Start acting on the things you feel the Holy Spirit is calling you to do. Help make a difference.
And do me a favor. If you have a ministry you're particularly passionate about, send me an email
and let me know what it is. I might be giving you a call or sending you a note for some future blog post.
Now, let's all go forth and answer God's calls in our lives!
Todd Seifert is communications director for the Great Plains Conference of the United Methodist Church. He can be reached via phone at 402-464-5994, ext. 113, or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Opinions expressed are the author's alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Great Plains Annual Conference or the United Methodist Church.