In our staff meeting the other day, my Administrative Assistant, Laurie and I were talking about when folks leave the church. She was reminiscing about conversations she has had over the years where folks who had been a part of our fellowship for a very long time were lamenting some parts of “church” they thought were missing. They would say things like, “Why don’t ‘they’ do such and such?” Or “When are ‘they’ going to start this or that ministry.” As opportunity presented itself, Laurie would remind them that they were in fact the “they” they were speaking of. Many who think this way are also the ones who end up leaving to find another church where the “they” will do whatever this person believes is lacking.
One of the assumptions of the westernized church that many elders/pastors are having to tackle in the minds of the local assembly is an overemphasis on the event-driven, staff-focused, programatic “they” of the past. When the church sees itself more as a building than as a body and sees the leadership as the sole content of “they” and the programs as the end rather than the means of ministry, we have a problem. The task before the leadership is to disciple people in their understanding that “we are they.”
Most of us are familiar with Ephesians 4:11-16. It’s the “go to” passage to show that God has given the church gifted individuals to help lead the church. But what we may miss out on is the point of these gifted individuals. They are given in order that the saints might be equipped for the work of ministry amongst themselves; that the body may build itself up in love. The implication is that the body is working together. Elder/pastor, deacon, Sunday School teacher, AWANA leaders, prayer warriors, parents, students, etc. are all a part of the body and need to realize that all are the “they” whom God is using to effectively see the gospel go forth and discipleship accomplished.
So the next time someone in your local assembly says to you, “When are ‘they’ going to do such and such,” you might want to remind them that we are “they!”