“‘I want to repent, on behalf of the 1%, for viewing the 99% of the church not in professional ministry as existing to support our ministry. This couldn’t be more wrong.’
These are the words of apology of Michael Oh, the Global Executive Director and CEO of the Lausanne Movement, published by Christianity Today.
He continues, ‘You don’t exist to help professional ministry leaders fulfill the Great Commission. We exist to help you do it.’ Later this month, the Lausanne Global Workplace Forum will seek to do just that by turning the church’s attention to empowering the 99%.”
The words of the Executive Director of the Lausanne Movement of which I have been a translator/interpreter for the last years are, to say the least, revolutionary. In the same article he raises four points of apology:
The Global Workplace Forum was held in June 25-29, 2019, in Manila, Philippines. The preliminary report says:
This gathering was the first of its kind in Lausanne’s history, where the majority of the participants, 65 percent of the near 900 participants from 110 countries were Christians whose primary place of work is outside of churches or ministry organizations. They represented a landscape of the global workforce, from manual laborers to CEOs, entrepreneurs and investors, blue-collar, white-collar, ‘pink-collar’, as well as ‘no-collar’ workers, those who work as homemakers or caregivers in the often unseen workplace called home. Included were 200 virtual participants interacting with the programme and each other online.
The aim here is to achieve a healthy balance that does not exist at present. When we think about it, the vast majority of Christian sermons, books, articles, biographies, audio and video recordings we hear come from people who hold leadership positions in Christian churches or institutions. And it is impossible to pretend that a person who has been on one side of the counter or who has been in a hierarchical relationship fully understands the person on the other side of the counter or relationship. Today nobody disputes that it is not the same for a man to talk about the situation of women as if a woman did. Or for an employer to comment on the situation of workers. Or for someone to speak about discrimination or a disability of any kind if they have not experienced it themselves.
On the other hand, as reflected in Oh's heartfelt apology, there are a lot of Christian conferences, meetings, seminars, etc. are aimed at leaders. Conferences on leadership, on the life of the leader, the training of leaders, etc. Conferences, meetings, seminars, etc. for and organised by led people are non-existent or rare. We have not even coined a word that expresses the sense of belonging to the group of led people that is equivalent to “leadership” for leaders. “Followship?”. What do we have to learn, how to be better led (as leaders suggest when they talk about us) or, for example, how to better control leaders?
The book “Pastor Pastor - Feed my Sheep' addresses this issue in a number of ways. The back cover, talking about the author, says:
His aim in writing this novel is to help provide answers to many of the issues that need to be addressed in order to have a healthier body and be a more positive influence in society. His perspective as a grassroots member of different churches is especially sensitive to the divide between leaders/institutions and followers/members in churches where there is much to be done in a collaborative way to reduce the number of disenchanted leavers and recover them fully for the Kingdom.
Any statistic of the huge and worrying number of people who have left Christian churches in recent years will show an overwhelming majority of ordinary members, many of whom have left because of mistakes or mistreatment of leaders. So why do we give so much more importance and significance to leaders who have left the faith than to the hundreds or thousands who have done the same as a consequence of those leaders? It doesn't seem to be what the Bible teaches us:
The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I don’t need you!’ And the head cannot say to the feet, ‘I don’t need you!’ On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honourable we treat with special honour. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honour to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. (1 Corinthians 12:21-25)
It is a profound passage, part of a deeper one and a whole letter centred on the unity of the church. There is much to analyse, but for now I would like to highlight just a few phrases: “those parts... that seem to be weaker”, “the parts that we think are less honourable,” “the parts that are unpresentable.”. Apparently, what seems to us does not seem to God. What is the purpose of treating everyone equally? “That there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other.”
Today, much of the Lord's church is focused on those who seem strongest, those who seem most honourable, and those who seem most presentable. I believe it is time that, not only in theory but in practice, each member should have equal concern for each other, because we are all equal before the Lord. Only then will we have a truly united body.