From the Equipping Ministry Center
“What’s in a name?
The names we are given and that we choose to accept tend to shape us and form us, for better or worse. Last week in worship we were reminded of our baptisms (or encouraged to look forward to being baptized) and that, like Jesus, we are called “beloved” by God. One name that we are given as faithful followers of Jesus Christ is the name “minister.” Yes, we are all in the ministry together, the ongoing ministry of Jesus, gifted and called to do the things Jesus does: loving, teaching, healing, feeding, welcoming, offering refreshment, clothing and visiting. What if we added this statement to our congregation-joining service, “As a disciple of Jesus Christ I understand that I am part of the priesthood of all believers and the ministry of all Christians. I am a minister among ministers of the Gospel, partners with Christ and this congregation in discerning needs, initiating and doing the ministries to which I am being called according to my spiritual gifts, and in supporting the ministries of others, our congregation, and our denomination."
You may notice some changes in the way we identify our staff, those people we look to for guidance and support as we discover and live into our calling as ministers and find ways of serving according to our gifts and the needs around us. Instead of a “title” the paid staff is identified in the bulletin, the newsletter, and the website by the areas of ministry they help shepherd. It’s one step in lowering the lay/clergy divide and move us beyond the staff/volunteer designations that perpetuate a hierarchy of ministry. We are all in this together, and we are all ministers.
The word “laity” comes from the Greek word “laos” which means “all of the people,” in our case as the church, “all the people of God” and “all the followers of Jesus.” So, clergy (folk with “Rev.” in front of their name) and paid staff are part of the laity.
Old habits are hard to break. It will take us awhile for all of us to both see ourselves as ministers and accept that role from each other. But we are on the way. Embrace the name and the role. When I was an editor at the United Methodist Publishing House we’d host an annual writers conference to develop new writers for curriculum and magazine articles. These folks were not professional writers. They were experienced in some area of ministry who were willing to become writers. From the minute we welcomed them to the conference we called the “writer.” Their nametags designated them as a “writer.” Their training materials designated them as “writers.” They were listed as writers in published magazines and study books. So many of them told us that they grew into their name and actually became what we consistently called them, writers.
Embrace the name and the role of minister. And let’s continue to be about the works of ministry to which we are all being called and equipped.