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Mark D. Roberts

Part 5 of series: Sharing Laity Lodge
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greg-ogden-laity-lodgeThis past weekend Greg Ogden spoke at Laity Lodge, at a retreat for Westlake Hills Presbyterian Church of Austin, Texas. Greg is currently the Executive Pastor of Discipleship at Christ Church of Oak Brook, Illinois. Before going to Christ Church, Greg served as a pastor in several churches, mostly in California. He was also the Director of the Doctor of Ministry Program at Fuller Theological Seminary. Greg has written several books, including Unfinished Business: Returning the Ministry to the People of God (Zondervan, 2003), Discipleship Essentials: A Guide to Build Your Life in Christ (InterVarsity Press, 1998). Next month his new book, co-written with Dan Meyer, will be released: Leadership Essentials: Shaping Vision, Multiplying Influence, Defining Character (InterVarsity Press, 2007). (Photo: Greg Ogden speaking at Laity Lodge)
I had not met Greg before this weekend, which is a bit strange, as I’ll explain below. I was familiar with him mostly because he and I share many friends in common, and because of his writings. Greg’s books, especially Unfinished Business (which was published in an earlier version in 1990 as The New Reformation) and Discipleship Essentials have become popular classics because of their clarity and biblical faithfulness.
ogden-unfinished-businessGreg’s speaking is much like his writing: engaging, lucid, based on Scripture, and relevant to the challenges facing every Christian today. During the retreat he focused on “Returning the Ministry to the People of God,” using material from Unfinished Business. His first message had the intriguing title, “Jesus is Not Enough.” Don’t worry about Greg’s orthodoxy. He believes that salvation comes only through Christ. But what Greg pointed out was that the Christian life is more than simply a personal, individualistic relationship with Jesus. It necessarily includes relationship with our fellowship disciples as we serve Jesus in the world.
In his second message Greg explored the tricky issue of how to help churches move from a sub-biblical model in which pastors do all the ministry to a biblical one in which all members are also ministers. He asked many challenging questions, including one that really got me thinking:

How do we help people have expectations that ministry received from fellow gifted members is equal to ministry received from the pastor?

In my experience as a pastor, this question is not easy to answer in principle, but not in fact. If people grow up in the church with an understanding that the pastor is the professional caregiver, and if they tend to view pastors as somehow more spiritual than other members, then they are reticent to give up their expectations for pastors. If a church member is in the hospital and gets ten wonderful visits from other members trained by the pastor, but not one from the pastor himself or herself, chances are that this person will be unhappy with the pastor. It’s very, very hard to help people’s expectations for ministry change once they have experienced a traditional, pastor-centered model of church.
silver-creek-road-laity-lodgeGreg is asking the right questions and addressing the right issues, in my opinion. If you’re not already familiar with his writings, let me recommend them to you. They are readable, well-informed, and solidly-based on Scripture. Unfinished Business is one of the finest recent books on the ministry of all of God’s people. It’s a great resource for church leaders and adult educational classes. (Photo: A scene from Laity Lodge in the late autumn.)
On a personal note, I mentioned above that I had not met Greg before this weekend, though I had known of him for years. He works with Dan Meyer, the Senior Pastor of Christ Church of Oakbrook, who is an old friend. Moreover, as it turns out, our lives are even more intertwined than I had expected. Greg and I are both graduates of Glendale High School, though I came along a few years after he did. His wife’s brother, Sam, was a classmate of mine at GHS and a good friend. Sometimes the world seems very small.

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