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Equipping lay people for significant ministry is a great idea. But if my experience has taught me anything, it's that there are at least five good reasons not to do it.
If I had a choice between getting all the people in my city to an evangelistic crusade or having a lay person with an infectious love for Jesus work beside each of them at their jobs for one week, I'd certainly choose the latter. The same goes for our church's gatherings: Rather than have a few professionals participate while most watch, I'd choose to see every member actively involved.
At least, that's a more accurate picture of ministry as the New Testament paints it. As with many things, however, great ideas don't readily translate into reality. Consider the following difficulties.
1. They aren't as competent. I've heard some of the advice well-meaning lay people have passed on to others under the guise of counseling. It's scary. So is sitting through a worship service led by someone who has never done it before. It's safer to leave it in the hands of trained professionals.
After helping lead a troubled young mother to Jesus, I introduced her to a member of our leadership team for further counsel and encouragement.
A few months later, I got a call from the young mother. Things weren't going so well, and she told me how lonely she was. I asked if she had been getting help from the woman I'd introduced her to. "We got together a few times," the woman said, "but she didn't know how to help me, so we dropped it."
I cringe when that happens. I can't stand to see someone make a mistake with someone else's life. My training and experience are rich resources I bring into every ministry experience. I value them, realizing few in our fellowships come close to my preparation level. Although I've made my share of mistakes, my "batting average" is much higher than that of most lay people.
How can I really care about people and hand them off to others who don't carry the same qualifications ...