Missions, Outreach

The Laity and Its Place in The Church

A disciple is one who responds to Jesus’ call to follow Him. Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23). The challenge is for all who are called by God to take their faith seriously, grow as disciples of Christ, and not be content to be merely pew warmers but true believers who know and serve the will of God.

There is a divine blueprint for each and every one of God’s people, which is suited to our personalities, talents, needs, potentialities and environment. God has ordained certain specific tasks and works for each individual believer (Eph 2:1). We are to “run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Heb 12:1), and there is a different race for each one of us. Paul “finished [his] course” (2 Tim 4:7, KJV) when he fulfilled his ministry by completing his work.

The obvious difference between the work and fruit of the Holy Spirit in each believer’s life: the work of the Spirit is the direct result of the Spirit’s active ministry; the fruit of the Spirit is the outcome of His indwelling and our yielding to Him. Galatians 5:17–23 tells of the sharp contrast between the works of the flesh and fruit of the Spirit. The fruit of the Spirit (nine of them) is spoken of in the singular, signifying the oneness of the fruit. The believer is not complete until he manifests all nine graces—a journey of sanctification. For every believer, sanctification is the will of God (1 Th 4:3, KJV), a subject so important that it (and holiness) is mentioned 1066 times in the Bible.

At conversion, the believer receives the justified life­—he is made righteous. This is followed by a consecrated life, during which we acknowledge the Lord’s ownership of our lives: “Ye are not your own… bought with a price” (1 Cor 6:19­–20, KJV). At the altar of consecration, we yield our lives and our wills to the Lord but we cannot live in a vacuum. Our lives must be filled with the Holy Spirit (Eph 5:18), who is our teacher and counsellor, and He will anoint us with power and for understanding God’s truth.

The layman’s place in the Church

One reason for the failure of some new covenant churches is that they become one-man affairs or are run by pastoral central teams. The pew-sitter leaves the work of evangelism, preaching, worship, teaching and visitation of members to the pastors. But God’s order has always been that every believer should be a witness: “you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8). John Wesley said of evangelism, that “we are all at it and at it always”, a perspective that drove the Moravian and Wesleyan revivals.

Stephen and Philip were the first two deacons elected in the early Church, and their influence over the Church was perhaps more than that of any others besides Peter and Paul. Stephen was just a layman, and he did great wonders because he was “full of faith and power” (Acts 6:8, KJV). Stephen’s life and death had an incalculable effect upon the history of the world in his influence upon Saul of Tarsus. The leaders in the synagogue “could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking” (Acts 6:10). Their anger flared into murderous hatred. Stephen was the first martyr of the Christian Church.

A layman is not of the clergy but the laity—an ordinary member of the church. Revival and church spiritual growth are necessary to get the ordinary church member to do personal evangelism and church ministry work. The reason that we find personal involvement not forthcoming is that we are spiritually cold. Therefore, it is fitting and necessary for each church member to be active for Christ. The Lord asks us to use the talents that He has given us. As we use our talents, they and others will develop—the man with five talents gained five more (Matt 25:15).

In the mission fields of the Methodist Missions Society (MMS), many indigenous churches are run by the pastor alone, with a handful of untrained and unskilled helpers. In the past two years, MMS has intentionally implemented and intensified the equipping and training of our laity in the various fields. However, the process can be better reinforced with the participation of our Methodist churches in Singapore. The active participation of the laity in the churches and church planting (evangelism) is critical in helping churches experience healthy and balanced church growth. We will then be able to see the realisation of more and more Great Commission churches that are self-sustainable in due course, similar to what the Methodist churches experienced 200 years ago.

Effective ways for laity to be involved in the Church

Christ is the Head of the body and we are members of His body. “The Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God.” (Col 2:19; Eph 1:22­–23). As members of the body, we are created to worship God and to glorify Him on the earth (Eph 1:4–6); to evangelise the world with the Gospel (Matt 28:19–20); to teach and instruct Christians (Ephesians 4:11–15); and to witness constantly (Acts 1:8).

There are many ways the layman can participate in and contribute to the Church as His workman created to do good works. Besides keeping fellowship with God, we must also keep fellowship with other believers and make constant contacts with the unsaved, wait for opportunities to witness to them and invite them to be saved. One effective way of maintaining fellowship with other Christians is through small group ministry. Here are some ways we can be effective layman in our respective churches:

  • Encourage your pastors so that they may keep on fighting the battle actively as they too may become discouraged.
  • Organise Bible study classes or book studies in your church or at home for new converts.
  • Be actively involved in mission work at home or abroad to bring God’s love and blessing to the unsaved, poor, and needy.
  • Teach in Sunday School.
  • Invite others to Christian campaigns, rallies or evangelistic events like the Alpha Course. Don’t be discouraged if they don’t come. Be cheerful and keep inviting them again.
  • Equip yourself to share with a pre-believer and bring them to Christ.
  • Be a counsellor or helper. Be willing to share your testimony.
  • Stand in the gap to pray for the church, pastors and church leaders. Join the intercessory prayer group.
  • Give food to the hungry, water to the thirsty, clothes to the naked, and visit the sick and prisoners. (Matt 25:34–36)
  • Finally, do what we can, as best as we can, all the time.

Col (Ret) Quek Koh Eng is the Field & Church Engagement Director in MMS, and the MMS Area Director for Thailand and Vietnam. He worships at Charis Methodist Church.