We want our people involved in meaningful ministry and to embrace ministry for Christ as a lifestyle. Too often it does not happen. Why? I want to suggest that we inadvertently create barriers to seeing this happen. Our motives are right but nevertheless, we create barriers by our own actions.
We have professionalized ministry rather than equipping His people. We hire professionals in the church who usually have advanced theological education. But, rather than equipping people we tend to expect those staff members to carry their particular ministry out. This has two consequences. One, it sends a message that we need professionals to do "real" ministry and two that "formal" training is necessary to be successful in ministry.
We convey the message that "ministry" is all about what happens in church "programming." Our programming is important but it is only a small piece of what God intends for his people to be involved in. His intention is to penetrate and influence a sinful and broken world and to bring small bits of His perfect will to dark and needy places. Ministry is about God's people being God's people wherever they are and with whoever they have influence.
We have so stressed "being at church" that we have not left people the time they need to develop relationships where they live, work and play and with the very people who need the love of Christ.
We have complicated spiritual gifts. God created us to do "good works" (Ephesians 2:10). If we encourage people to do "good works" with the people they have influence with and in the places God put them they will do those good works in ways that are consistent with their wiring. They will do things that they are comfortable doing - which will be in sync with how God wired and gifted them.
We have sought to get people involved in ministry by creating programs rather than encouraging them to figure out how they can make a difference for God where they live and work. Programmatic ministry trains people to let the church create ministry opportunities for them rather than looking for those opportunities themselves. Organic ministry wins out over programmatic ministry each time
God has an amazing and unique call on every single life. The best thing we can do on His behalf is to unleash God's people on a sinful and needy world rather than to corral them for our programs inside the church. The latter makes us look good. The former makes God look good. Which is better?