By Joel Comiskey
by Joel Comiskey
Since the Holy Spirit indwells each believer, he can be trusted to complete his work through each Christian (1 John 2:27). Yes, there is risk in encouraging lay involvement. Yet, I believe there’s far more risk in not doing so. The risk of not releasing the lay people to do the work of the ministry is stagnation. Risk taking is normal, and it’s the way people mature and grow. Henry Cloud and John Townsend write in their bestselling book, Boundaries, “The sin God rebukes is not trying and failing, but failing to try. Trying, failing, and trying again is called learning. Failing to try will have no good result; evil will triumph. God expresses his opinion toward passivity in Hebrews 10:38–39: ‘But my righteous one will live by faith. And if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him.’ Passive shrinking back is intolerable to God, and when we understand how destructive it is to the soul, we can see why God does not tolerate it” (pp. 99-100).
Trying and failing is how we learn and grow and become mature. The fear of error has caused many churches to smother the work of the laity through endless requirements and layers of organization. Churches and mission agencies have done this for years. Roland Allen (1868-1947), an Anglican minister and missionary to China, noticed God’s work was often hindered through not trusting the Holy Spirit to work through ordinary people. Allen wrote the book, The Spontaneous Expansion of the Church, in which he said, “Christ trained his leaders by taking them with Him as he went about teaching and healing, doing the work which they, as missionaries, would do; we train in institutions. He trained a very few with whom He was in the closest personal relation; we train many who simply pass through our schools with a view to an examination and an appointment” (p. 27).
If we fail to allow the Holy Spirit to energize people, we do them a grave disservice. We are actually hindering people from being all God wants them to be. Allowing people to participate actively in God’s work is risky, and yes, we will not always be able to control what happens. Yet, we need to be like Christ and prepare our lay people to become ministers, disciples, co-workers and change the world in the process. Yes, it might be risky, but there’s a much greater risk in not doing so.