Each week, Donna Sprague works on the Sunday morning bulletin. It looks wonderful each week, yet Donna sometimes needs a medal (or a trip to somewhere tropical) after getting through the numerous little details. Is the sermon title available? Is this the hymn first or last in the service order? Is the usher schedule accurate? Did the typo about the event next week get fixed? You see…it’s sometimes wicked crazy to get that bulletin ready for Sunday morning. (And Donna is a saint!)
One part of the bulletin that does not change EVER in the bulletin is on the back page, and perhaps you have gotten so used to seeing this bit that you have forgotten. The line reads, “Ministers…..Everyone”
In 1982, a remarkable thing happened. Christians from various denominations around the world sat down together and completed a document about the Church. Now, you might think that sounds like a fairly stale sounding meeting. (Indeed, whether local or national, sometimes the yawns are merited as Christian folk gather and still make talking about religion as fun as watching paint dry!) Actually, this meeting was a fairly energetic experience as various Christian movements worked together to talk about core issues of talking about matters of faith. Entitled “Baptism, Eucharist, and Ministry” (a.k.a. “BEM”), the document is one of many published by the World Council of Churches, and BEM continues to serve as excellent material for Christians to sit down and talk about their particular religious convictions while reading the collected wisdom of the WCC participants trying to work with their differences.
The Holy Spirit bestows on the community [i.e. the Church] diverse and complementary gifts. These are for the common good of the whole people and are manifested in acts of service within the community and to the world. They may be gifts of communicating the Gospel in word and deed, gifts of healing, gifts of praying, gifts of teaching and learning, gifts of serving, gifts of guiding and following, gifts of inspiration and vision. All members are called to discover, with the help of the community, the gifts they have received and to use them for the building up of the Church and for the service of the world to which the Church is sent. (BEM, “Ministry”, paragraph five).(BEM, “Ministry”, paragraph five).
Each person who is part of First Baptist is a minister. The work of the Church (local, regional, national, global) is about the whole people of God. We Baptists would say a hearty AMEN to this section of BEM (even while we fuss at the language regarding baptism and eucharist on some points). The Baptist tradition would call this being “the priesthood of all believers”. Every Christian is called to the work of the Church. Certainly, we call forth individuals to the work of ordained ministry, thus a pastor serves this congregation, and in the broader American Baptist movement, you have chaplains, educators, home and international missionaries, pastoral care counselors, and the list goes on. Nonetheless, these clergy are called to minister just like the person sitting in the pews or swinging a hammer at a Habitat build, or cooking in the kitchen, or
participating in music or educational ministry, or board work.
As part of the transitional journey of First Baptist, you are engaged in asking a number of big picture questions about the ministry of the congregation. One of the critical questions, however, must be “how does First Baptist empower the whole people of God to the work of ministry?”
You can have one person in the pulpit preaching and teaching and caring, but if you do not ask yourselves “what about the rest of us? How does God call me to the work of ministry?”, you will find that not much will get done, and a lot of potential will go untapped. No one person or handful of people can accomplish “communicating the Gospel in word and deep, gifts of serving, gifts of guiding and following, gifts of inspiration and vision.” That takes everybody to see things come about!
First Baptist is thriving due to its people, not any one person (especially not any one parson). Each person indeed is gifted with “diverse and complementary gifts” kindled by the Holy Spirit. As a contemporary hymn puts it, “Let us bring the gifts that differ in splendid, varied ways!”
If you would like some one-on-one time with the pastor to talk about how YOU can discern, identify, and share your gifts as a Christian and as a minister of First Baptist, this is a great time!
On Sunday, October 14, we will celebrate YOUR work as a congregant at First Baptist by hosting a blessing of the lay ministry of the congregation. You are invited to prepare for this worship service by thinking about what your gifts for ministry are and how you put them to use in service to First Baptist. Then look for something that symbolizes your gifts. It could be a hammer for the gift of helps, a quill pen or a computer keyboard for your gift of writing, a stuffed toy for your work in the nursery, and the list can go on and on and on. During the service, we will ask you to bring this gift to the altar and we will bless the assembled people and your gifts that you bring to strengthen and further the ministry and mission of First Baptist.
First Baptist has come a great distance in the past two years, thanks to persons living out “ministers….everyone”. Let the whole people say, “AMEN!”, which means, “Let it be so!”
The Rev. Jerrod Hugenot