Professional Christian

Have We Become Too Professional?

It’s happened again. The church has been appropriated by the professionals.

It’s one of the factors that is weakening the American church. The focus within the church has moved to the professional Christians, the people on stage on Sunday morning.

The public now believes that ministry is something that only paid professionals do. Most churchgoers assume it’s their job to go to church, sit passively, and watch the professionals on the stage perform ministry. Being salt and light in the community? That’s the pastor’s job. Introducing children to the God who loves them? That’s the children’s minister’s job. Helping teenagers navigate questions of faith? That’s the youth worker’s job. Out in the world, if the topic of faith comes up, churchgoers often say, “You really ought to talk to my pastor about that.”

Has the Body of Christ become convinced that it is deaf, dumb and deactivated?

An historical phenomenon

Some 2000 years ago the religious elite also controlled the scene. It was Jesus who democratized the faith and made it accessible to all. He encouraged and empowered everyday people to carry out his transformative message of love.

And again, about 500 years ago, the church was bound up in the notion that clerics held the reins to the Kingdom. It took a renegade priest, Martin Luther, to democratize the faith once again, encouraging everyday people to live out their faith.

Since then the church has again abdicated its work and thinking to the professionals. And the people’s lack of ownership is contributing to the current decline of the church. Fewer and fewer people want to be mere spectators to a faith journey articulated and practiced exclusively by paid spokespersons.

Some of these professionals, like those of past millennia, rather like this exclusive setup. They relish thoughts of being in charge, possessing superior knowledge, safeguarding doctrinal purity, controlling the shots, and basking in the admiration of the little people. And, the emergence of the celebrity pastor has also served to distance the people from a sense that “we’re all in this together.”

Perhaps it’s time for another spiritual awakening that re-engages all the faithful. Today’s church leaders could help this along with some intentional actions. Such as:

  • Remind the people that ministry is the work of all the people, not just a select few.
  • Share the microphone. Allow everyday people to tell their stories of faith. Every week.
  • Empower people to run with significant ministries–without “helicopter” professionals hovering over every decision.
  • Go beyond preaching at people to share their faith. Enable them to actually practice it. (This is one of Lifetree Cafe’s most important benefits–allowing members a weekly opportunity to talk about their faith in a safe environment.)
  • Encourage questions, give-and-take, and conversation during times that have been traditionally reserved for professional monologs.
  • At least sometimes, put the professional musicians out of sight. And encourage the people to spontaneously come forward and lead the house in worship.
  • Resist the temptation to always be the one who offers a professional prayer. Encourage everyday people to pray in worship, in meetings, at meals.
  • As a leader, be vulnerable and authentic. Admit–often–that you do not have all the answers. Act more like a fellow disciple than a messiah.

The time has come for another era of the priesthood of all believers.

17 Responses to “Have We Become Too Professional?”

  1. Great application hints at the end Thom. I am of the notion that anything worth doing is worth doing well. That said, we must include all members of the body as you mentioned. All the parts must be given permission and empowered to be what the Holy Spirit has asked them to be!

  2. Mike stadelmayer Reply April 22, 2014 at 8:37 am

    Honestly, most pastors I know are begging people to get more involved not hoping they let them do it themselves. The call to live a life of passion , sacrifice and significance will always be challenged by our sinful nature to think of ourselves first. Maybe an attraction all model is designed to get them there so they an hear there is a better more meaningful way than consumerism.

  3. I must say I do not see this, I actually see and hear just the opposite. I feel that churches today have taken a very large swing towards encouraging more participation and involvement whether small Bible churches or large Mega churches. Yes, you may see certain talent frequenting our stages, but that may be for a good reason! :-) I enjoy our gifted musicians, singers and speakers and believe if others in the church want a roll in these positions they would be more then welcome. It is getting people to take on these commitments that can be difficult. Our church has been promoting a new restructure to encourage 60% of the congregation to have an active roll in the church with hopes that it will eventually be 100%.

    In the Bible it states that in the end times all Christians will be persecuted. We see this happening now in all parts of the world. What is becoming extremely apparent to me is that in the US the devil is creeping in with Christians bashing Christians. I just read an article on Rick Warren led by a panel of Christian men who nit picking his books to death. We need to join together with other churches who may have different styles, music, preaching styles, etc. and building each other up. The gospel can reach people in many ways, it seems every one seems to think they have the secret method and other Christians are doing it wrong. I don’t think when we get to heaven Jesus is going to judge us on how we tore other Christians down in a world where it is His light that needed to shine to unbelievers. From what I continue to read and hear in conversations between fellow Christians, I truly believe the devil is using Christians to tear down fellow followers of Christ and this is now persecution is happening right now to Christians in the U.S.

    • I think I agree with pretty much everything you said. Yea, from what I’ve seen, churches are trying to get everyone engaged but there are a portion of people who don’t have the people skills and talents to do church things. This 100% thing is unrealistic. Talkers need listeners. Leaders need followers. Chiefs need Indians. Cooks need people to eat their stew. Think about kicking everyone out of your church who is not engaged. I bet the church would seem a bit empty. Performers need an audience. I think those who do nothing are actually an important something for those who do things. People who do things, need people (do-nothingers) to do those things for so those who do nothing are a necessary part of the church community. Just something to think about and talk over in your church.

      I see the Christians tearing other Christians apart going on all the time, especially web blog sites… like this. I literally have to watch myself cause it’s so easy to do. I wouldn’t blame the devil. It’s human nature and there are a lot of factors involved as to why people do this. I’ve been purposely trying to be more positive and encouraging lately but find it hard to do here in type. I’m an introvert and don’t have the best social skills and my bluntness really shows when I write.

  4. “The time has come for another era of the priesthood of all believers.” AMEN!

  5. Don’t tell that to the thousands of small churches who are continuing to thrive without a full time priest or pastor! And that’s the rule now rather than exception. The people are finally taking back their church!

  6. As a Pastor, I encourage the congregation to live out their faith within their community. I will confess I certainly do not have all of the answers and I encourage the flock to “study to show yourself approved” being able to handle the Word of God on their own. Good article but there are “some” Pastors that do the best they can.

  7. I have in very recent times been told by the “professional” that he was the head of the church (meaning the group we worshiped with) and if he said jump we were to jump and tried to use scripture to back himself up. Trouble was “we” could read and discern that all scripture references given either spoke of Christ as the head or elders (plural) making decisions about how it would go about the day to day nuts and bolts of putting hands, feet and heart into action. Sadly our little group no longer exist. The “professional” knows it was everybody else’s fault.

    • Will you be interested in starting a different kind of church? After attending evangelical churches in the USA for 16 years, I am disillusioned and cynical.
      Pastor-directed church models encourage exploitation and spiritual abuse of the people (congregation) by leaders. Furthermore, they tend to lead to pastor-centered churches. It is true that even the best model can be corrupted due to man’s corrupt nature. Yet God wants us to pick a model that has the principles of the body of Christ.
      Here, I describe My Dream Church from my study of the Bible.


  8. Amen and Amen! I preach this all the time to my congregation. We are all servants of Christ and ministers of His gospel!

  9. All great comments here. Fun to read about how traditionally lead churches are hyper-thinking these ideas through their current system. Coming from years of church leadership, to unwind 200 years of “the way we’ve always done it” ministry will be a monumental effort. The western church in it’s current form is spiritually and statistically dying. All the while, the church around the world has taken a “take no prisoners” approach to trusting God’s leadership to engage unbelievers around them, seeing spiritual and statistically growth and mass. I am so encouraged to see this same simple effort taking form in the US (another huge missions field). You should be encouraged too.

  10. Whenever an article like this comes out you will always get those who want to retain the status quo even though for most it is killing the church off.

    Then there are those who say “In my Church…” as though their churches ways of doing things makes everything OK.

    I have dialogued with the leaders of denominations and asked them where it says in scripture to get someone from outside of their fellowship to come and run the church and pay him a salary.

    They usually say the labourer is worthy of his hire.

    But I say where does the verse say bring someone in from outside and pay him a salary to run the church? All I can find is about 30 verses that talk about leadership and speaks of Apostles, Prophets and Elders who are chosen from within the fellowship. Not once does it mention pastors.

    Well, yes but…….In other words, we are not interested in scripture if is contravenes our denominations rules.

    In the USA I have been told that around 1,600 pastors are sacked or resign every month. If that is the case then something is obviously wrong, as you don’t get rid of someone who is called by God to lead the church.

    It says to me that the system is wrong and the “pastor” is not called by God. He is called by the denomination or himself.

  11. I have just come across your blog so my apologies for arriving to this conversation late.

    If I am reading this correctly I don’t think you are talking about what churches are doing for the outside world. You are talking about what churches are doing on a Sunday-by-Sunday basis in how the “produce” services. I find the point you are making very clear, and can’t understand how those that read it have turned that point in to all manner of issues with what their church is doing, a number of which in these comments have little if anything to do with the point of the article.

    Unless you are in a home church of 5-10 people you most likely show up every Sunday morning at a building. Someone with an instrument leads those in attendance in worship singing (or as Thom pointed out in another post in non-singing). Then at some point there is a brief moment where the music breaks and we are encouraged to say hello to those around us. Then there are some announcements about what is going on. There may or may not be some more music, but there is definitely a prayer led by someone in front of the group. Then there is a message provided by someone that has Pastor of “something” in his title. Unlike Thom’s suggestions I don’t know of any churches in my area that are currently bring someone from the attendees on stage every week or even once a month or more that once or twice a year (and usually through video) to share their faith story, good and bad.

    It is the same every week. Sure the songs change. The message topic moves on from one subject to the next. But much like everything else that American’s consume as “entertainment” it has a schedule and a pattern, that seems to be the way we have always done it.

    I love the suggestions at the end. I do have a small issue with the one about “Empower people to run with significant ministries–without “helicopter” professionals”. Empowering is good, but you still need to provide those people with resources or access to resources to make their ministry work. You can’t tell someone go build a men’s ministry and then not give them any tools to help do so. Yes they don’t need “helicoptering”, but they might need guidance and mentoring.

    Some really good stuff here and I am so happy I have found your blog!

    • I find the best resource is the Holy Spirit. if we are led by him, we get to do the right thing most of the time.

  12. Martin Luther was a cool cat. He had a bit of a mouth on him and in today’s vernacular he was quite happy to tell folk to get stuffed, he was politically incorrect. Great!!!
    He liked his pint of wine, played the mandolin and enjoyed a good old sing along.
    I can relate to old Marti on many levels.
    The church has lost individuals like him as they are too busy apologising for existing!!!
    Watch the Vicar of Dibley starring Dawn French; I think the script writers must be anointed as they really do see life as it is.
    Any way raise a glass for old Marti.


  1. A Job for Professionals? - November 20, 2014

    […] think with me a minute. Are we really any different? Is it possible that we too, rely on ‘professionals’? When we go to church without having spent much time in the Word on a regular basis, aren’t we […]

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