Wednesday 18 January 2012

L. Gregory Jones on Asking More of Laypeople

L. Gregory Jones has a short article here, looking at how Christian leaders can nurture relationships with laypeople ‘by entering the worlds where laypeople live, think and work – not seeing them primarily as church volunteers and funders’.

Taking a Christian businessman as an example, Jones says:

‘The businessman wanted church leaders to make a claim on him to help him live more faithfully as a disciple of Jesus Christ in his daily life. Church leaders could be more thoughtful in seeing laypeople as disciples who yearn to connect more explicitly their faith with the ideas, insights and imagination they have developed in their vocations.’

He notes that while Christian leaders often empathise when laypeople come to them for spiritual direction or in a pastoral crisis, ‘we often forget the importance of inquiry in our day-to-day leadership of Christian institutions’.

In part, he suggests, leaders forget to ‘practice inquiry’ out of insecurity or defensiveness, or because they ‘believe and act, unwittingly and sometimes wittingly, as though the church and its institutions were the only arenas in which Christian discipleship can be faithfully lived’.

‘Rather than recognizing, rightly, that the church and its institutions are central contexts for worship and the formation of Christian identity, we turn them into idols where they are our exclusive focus.’

This leads to a situation where the border crossing goes only one way, which ‘can alienate the laypeople the church needs to bear faithful witness to God’s kingdom’.

He recommends careful and patient listening to the perspectives of others, and to develop and deepen two-way border-crossing.

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