This is a further follow up on my article about serving, believing and belonging. The decisions we make here tell us something about how we regard ministry and gifts. Thinking back, I’m more likely to have been pressurised to include someone who isn’t a member or not yet a Christian to either help with children’s work or be part of the music team. I don’t think there’s been much demand to get a new person involved in welcoming, setting up or serving tea and coffee. The last two are peculiar because that’s often where the stretch is and probably has the least impact on witness. At the same time, you’ll no doubt be relieved to hear that I’ve never been asked to let an unbeliever have a go at preaching.
When we decide that non-Christians or non-members should be given specific jobs we both send out a message that we over-value a particular gift/ministry and that we under-value it. We over-value it because we give a message that we really want to attract and hold on to people with natural abilities in those areas. This makes it seem that being a musician for example is something to aspire to whereas if your gifts are in hospitality, heavy lifting or even speaking then you are less valued.
At the same time, it shows that we undervalue those ministries. We are happy to have anyone take part. Why do you think that I haven’t been asked to let an unbeliever preach (incidentally I’ve been asked to include non-members on a preaching team). It’s probably so obvious that we don’t need to ask. We don’t get unbelievers to preach because we know that this would involve them speaking for a God that they do not yet know. We want our teaching to be truthful and right. Yet, what is someone doing who helps in Sunday School with the kids? They are bringing God’s word to precious people. What is the person doing in the worship group? They are leading the church as it brings its praise and worship to God in song. They are leading in the very thing that they are not able to do themselves. We tell the church that sung worship and children’s work isn’t really that important, anyone can have a go.
Who we involve in what sends out messages. Let’s make sure we are communicating the right ones.