Two Reasons for Failing Ministry

I found this to be quite insightful, from Bp. Bill Atwood, an African Anglican bishop ministering the USA:

In parish ministry there are two major factors that keep congregations from fulfilling their potential in the Kingdom of God. One factor is the clergy and the other is the laity. Clergy often have a hard time letting go and really allowing substantive ministry to emerge from the people. The baptized are often eager to minister, but they are also often not eager to receive ministry from another lay person. Many would like to be accepted in ministry by the clergy and the other members of the church, but when it comes to their own needs, they want to receive ministry from the rector!

Even when clergy get a vision of releasing others for ministry, while the people are learning and developing, there will be painful mistakes. Sometimes the rector will hear parishioners complain, "You let me down. You weren't there for me." It is at that point that the temptation is strong to fall back into a priest-centered ministry and do it ourselves. Perhaps the ministry that is developing, learning, and growing will not be at the same level as that of the "professional" clergy. We have to get past that, though, because the ministry will eventually be broader, greater, and more powerful when many people are discipled, released, and are working together.


Sarah Scott said…
This is very interesting...thank you! For me it is timely because of some ministry difficulty going on. Blessings!
Steve Scott said…

FYI - Although I do have a relative named Sarah Scott, I'm not related to the first commenter on this post.

Anyway, my experience reflects this gentleman's experience almost identically. Clergy tend to not realize that growth involves stumbling (like a child learning to walk) and take over-protective measures at all costs to insure spiritual toddlers never fall. Stunted growth results, and many sheep never mature. So they stumble all the time because they never learned to walk, which makes the clergy's job that much tougher.

Another problem is that people view being ministered to as a doctor/patient type of scenario. Diagnosis, prescription, cure. But being part of a body, the body has built-in devices to fight illness, and quite often does this without us even knowing about it. Ministry can have its own silent effect, which, if we only realized this, we wouldn't be so frightened by being ministered to by "lay" people.

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