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What prudent pastors can do to free the faithful.

Every pastor I know affirms the priesthood of all believers and preaches that every Christian is called to minister. But most also admit there's a big gap between the actual level of lay ministry and the desirable level.

One reason for this, I believe, is that releasing people to minister involves risks, both for pastor and people. For the pastor, it means giving up control, shedding the "I can handle it" image. For lay people, it means taking on responsibilities bigger than they've ever imagined, tackling situations where they might not have all the answers. And that's scary.

I once had the chance to ask the Swiss physician Paul Tournier, "How do you help your patients get rid of their fears?"

"I don't," he said. "Everything that's worthwhile in life is scary. Choosing a school, choosing a career, getting married, having kids-all those things are scary. If it is not fearful, it is not worthwhile."

If we are ever to close the lay-ministry gap, the gap between what is and what should be, we'll ...

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