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Priesthood of All Believers: From Spectators to Participants

By Joel Comiskey

Spring 2013

by Joel Comiskey

Sadly in today’s church, the official pastor or minister does most of the work while the laity sit and listen—and perhaps engage in specific programs. The situation is a lot like inactive fans at a football game who are cheering for the sweating players on the field. The players are doing all the work while the fans just observe and cheer. Elton Trueblood once said: “All of us suffer from a terrible sickness in our churches. It is called Spectatoritis. We speak of the congregation as the audience. We are not the audience; we are the actors. . . . If we sincerely believe the Gospel, we have to believe that God has a vocation for each of us. The secret is participation, participation, participation.”

I often tell those in my seminars that the best kept secret of ministry is that the pastor grows more than those in the congregation. Why? Because the pastor grows through dependence on God to preach, counsel, visit the sick, etc. Something happens in the process of ministry that matures the pastor, and it’s this very same involvement that cell ministry attempts to recapture.

This is one main reason why Jesus chose the small group atmosphere to impart knowledge to his own disciples. In other words, Christ wanted the information to be disseminated into the lives of his disciples. So as Christ journeyed with them each day for three years, he taught and then asked them to act out his teaching. Jesus not only practiced this participation with his disciples, but those same disciples formed house churches that continued the process of group participation. Effective cells and cell leaders make disciples in the same way Jesus made them. They expected everyone to get involved. The cell is small enough to mobilize each person and allow face to face involvement of each person.

Those same dynamics that mature pastors should be present in each cell group. Every member ministry requires it. The priesthood of all believers demands that we take the ministry from a select few and place it squarely in the hands of the lay people. And this should be the goal of each cell group. I often say that the best cell leaders are facilitators. They facilitate the participation of others. They unwrap the gifts and talents of those in the group. Facilitators don’t do all the talking or all of the ministry. In fact, the best facilitators only talk 30% of the time and encourage those in the group to talk the remaining 70%. Talking, of course, is only one aspect of cell life. Participation is far broader and involves active engagement in each part of the cell group.

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