“The Church is not a store that provides consumer religious goods.”
On June 7, the opening day of the Anglican Church in North America’s Assembly meeting, keynote speaker Dr. Ed Stetzer called attendees to ensure the Church is the “engine of disciple-making and sending that God intends it to be,” not a “store that provides consumer religious goods.” Stetzer is President of Research and Ministry Development for LifeWay Christian Resources and has extensive experience planting, revitalizing, and pastoring churches.
Dr. Stetzer first identified a central struggle by citing a study of 7,000 protestant churches in North America that revealed “the majority of people in the majority of churches are unengaged in meaningful ministry.” Stetzer said that if the Church is to be the primary vehicle for discipleship, we cannot have “congregations filled with spectators who haven’t been transformed by the Gospel.” We need a deep and abiding love for the bride of Christ, His Church, in order to recognize where she is and help her become what God has called her to be.
Teaching from 1 Peter 4:10, Stetzer pointed out that everyone has gifts and based on the gifts they have received, everyone should use them to serve others. He also cited John 20:21, “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” Stetzer said there is no doubt, “All of God’s people are called to ministry. All of God’s people are sent on mission. The only question is where and among whom.”
Stetzer noted that people are attracted to Anglicanism and to the beauty of the liturgy and worship, but cautioned there’s a danger of ending up with “a room full of people who love how you do church and want to watch you do it.” We cannot pastor churches filled with consumers of religious goods and services rather than disciple co-laborers who are engaged in God’s mission, said Stetzer.
Another issue he cited was the fact that laity in churches are being told to pray and stay out of the clergy’s way. He joked that some think the job of the lay is to simply “lay” around. “We have made it acceptable to sit in church week after week and do nothing, yet still call yourself a follower of Christ,” Stetzer said. However, 1 Peter 4:10 affirms that if you have been redeemed by the power of the Gospel, you have been called to ministry and mission. We are also called to be good stewards of the very grace of God, said Stetzer.
In 1 Peter 4:11, we find that we do these things so that in everything God might be glorified through Jesus Christ, Stetzer explained. “When the Church is seeing transformed lives that are agents of God’s mission, that’s when we’re glorifying God.”
Dr. Stetzer concluded his call to the Church to be the engine of disciple-making, transformed lives and people engaged in faithful mission with a prayer for “the genuine work of God” that the Anglican Church in North America has become and will be.