So for the last several years we’ve been learning, along with North Korean Christians, how to do lay church—and it’s been beyond exciting to watch the results. In the time it takes American Christians to come to understand even the basic principles of the gospel, “amateur” North Korean Christians are teaching others, planting churches and literally laying down their lives for the gospel.
With that in mind, earlier this year we decided to plant our own “church of the fourth order,” or lay church, in the west. Or, perhaps I should say we planted a couple such churches—because literally before we had even planted the one—we call it .W (or Doers of the Word) Lay Church, in Colorado Springs—it had already spread to Korea, to interested “amateur” believers there.
Now that we’ve been underway in .W for a little while, we’re seeing the same things we’ve seen among North Koreans—the same things that Christians in lay churches have seen throughout history all the way back to the New Testament: believers growing to fullness in Christ, surprisingly quickly, without external accoutrements like buildings, paid clergy, or study Bibles for everybody.
In that spirit, we felt there might be interest in the lay church concept among other amateur Christians in the west–people who, upon encountering Jesus, ask, “How can I live like that?”
People, in other words, whose primary interest in being a Christian is growing to be like Christ.
That’s a thought that many Christians dismiss out of hand—growing to be like Christ. But it’s maybe the most common question in the New Testament and across Christian history, so maybe our not wanting our discomfort in asking the question says more about the impotency of our professional church model than it does about the inappropriateness of the question.
Really, “How can I live like Christ?” is the most natural and appropriate question for the Christian. It’s why the world called us Christians (“little Christs”) in the first place: Because, as Jesus said in Luke 6:40, “Everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher.” Church is (or is designed to be) the place where the Holy Spirit makes good on that promise.
In the last few years we’ve formulated twelve principles that are necessary and sufficient to enable “fourth order Christian ministers”—laity—to launch lay churches that help members to grow to fullness in Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit. We’ll be devoting one upcoming post in this blog to each principle. If you put these principles into practice, you should have a fledgling lay church underway before all the posts are complete a few weeks from now.
(A few weeks, by the way, is about how long the lay church in Thessalonica had with the apostle Paul before they were completely on their own. Most of the other churches Paul writes to in the Bible didn’t have much more initial training than that, either.)
So gather your kids, neighbors, co-workers, and strangers in your sphere of influence. It’s time to turn Christianity and church in the west back over to the Ministers of the Fourth Order so that we can return to the task of growing people to full maturity in Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Just for the love of it.
Because church is for amateurs.