Christian Living

Spiritual Life

General Bible Courses > Living by the Book > Career by the Book

Chapter 14: Relating to Your Church


IN THIS CHAPTER, you will discover:

·   The biblical roles of the clergy and the laity.

·   The benefits of accountability to others.  

AS A RESULT, you will be able to:

·   Assume your role as a member of the new clergy.

·   Become accountable to others in a small group.

Relating to Your Church

Key Scripture: "And on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. 16:18-19). The church is where we worship the Lord and fellowship with other Christians. It also plays a strategic role in determining our approach to life. Today, more than ever, the church must speak to the issue of work. It is well suited to be the training ground to equip workers for not only surviving, but succeeding in the workplace. As individual believers we can impact our local churches, and therefore our communities, by helping to address the problems that Christians face daily. To do this we must first understand the roles of the church and the individual Christian within the community.

Roles of the Church and the Worker

Workers have always held important jobs within the church - singing in the choir, teaching Sunday school, and serving as ushers. But the workplace is also a part of God's work. Considering work in this light, we realize that the major part of the church's work is done outside its four walls. The laity, which far outnumbers the clergy, interacts daily with countless non-Christians in the marketplace.

The local church is important because it provides one setting in which believers can serve God unhindered. However, many workers, especially business and professional people, spend the majority of their time at work. For this reason, the church should consider its role to be an effective training center for the laity. There the "new clergy" can be prepared for witnessing. Then, in the familiar environment of the workplace, believers can develop into full-time vocational servants with the same responsibilities as pastors in the pulpit or missionaries on the field.

Pursuing the Ideal

The relationship between the clergy and the laity in the contemporary church is far from ideal. Many congregations expect their minister to be a superstar who preaches inspiring sermons and takes care of all the spiritual business. This leaves the laity free to become spectators in the sport of Christianity. Furthermore, they become privileged critics as well as recipients of pastoral care - all according to a prearranged agreement.

A tendency to look at the local church as an end in itself is another problem that often arises in churches. The church becomes a kingdom that its members are building for God. This results in equating Christ with the local church. To determine if this is happening to you, ask yourself, "If Christ were to dismantle my church, would my Christian life end?" If your answer is yes, your faith has been misplaced. Now is the time to rededicate your life both inside and outside the church to Jesus Christ. Restore Him to His rightful place as Lord of the church.

Equipping Workers

Once Christ has been restored to His rightful place, the church must take up its job of equipping workers. One of the crucial ways the church can accomplish this is by speaking to practical issues such as stress, priorities, relationships, ambition, and compromise. But even more important than addressing these issues is implementing them. The emphasis must be on educating workers in the practical issues that affect their everyday lives. Since not every church addresses these issues, it is your responsibility to extract biblical truth for yourself and then to apply it to your own situation. Several suggestions for doing this are:

Define the issue. As you determine the details of a situation, look further into the specifics of what happened, what was said and by whom, and the likely consequences of the decisions made. Clarify the underlying issues you face in a given situation. After you have done this, turn to the Scriptures for answers.

"Where do I start in the Scriptures?" you may ask. An exhaustive concordance is probably your best tool for understanding the Bible. It lists all the words of the Bible, telling you where they may be found and the context in which they are used. The abridged Concordance and the Topical Index in the NIV Topical Study Bible contain a wealth of information to get you started in Bible study. The New International Dictionary of the Bible and the International Bible Commentary are other excellent resources that will assist you in interpreting the Bible.

As you read specific Bible passages, look for principles either explicitly stated or strongly implied. Once you have extracted a principle, appropriate it as your own and act on it. Part of applying the gospel to your own life is being able to articulate your faith to coworkers. To do this with confidence, you should take some training in apologetics and evangelism.

Cultivate personal holiness. The greatest strategy for living a holy life is to cultivate an intimacy with God. You will become more intimate with God as you open yourself up to Him. Study of the Bible and meditation on His word will help you to understand God and His will. Such spiritual disciplines as prayer and fasting will continually nourish your relationship with Him.

The Bible plainly declares that you are living in the light of eternity. As a result of this revelation, you should do several things: (1) develop a healthy fear of the Lord; (2) take positive action to clean up your life; (3) be motivated to do excellent work; and (4) fight the enemy through prayer.

As a result of living a holy life, you will enjoy many benefits. You will:

  • Receive honor from God (Ps. 84:11).
  • Enjoy intimacy with God (Ps. 25:14).
  • Feel His love and concern (Ps. 33:18).
  • Experience His protection (Ps. 34:7).
  • Lack none of your needs (Ps. 34:9-10).
  • Obtain true wisdom (Ps. 111:10).
  • Live a prolonged life (Prov. 10:27).
  • Avoid sin and evil (Prov. 16:6).

Be accountable to a small group. The goal of cultivating personal holiness is facilitated through accountability. A small group is an excellent way to become accountable to others. The author of Hebrews emphasized the importance of regular fellowship: "Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together but let us encourage one another" (10:24-25).

Small groups work best if led by laypeople, but they need the strong support of the pastoral staff. Such groups lend themselves to discussion rather than lecture. And group members who have similar occupations tend to participate more readily in the discussions. In order for the group to promote life changes, however, accountability must be encouraged.

Being accountable to others will stimulate your own faithfulness. And you will be more likely to follow through on goals, problem-solving, and the like. Accountability is always voluntary, involving a commitment on your part. Furthermore, it produces a standard for performance and, ultimately, a review of your personal performance.

On the other hand, certain precautions should be noted. The persons in the group should be completely loyal keeping all information confidential. As you share, beware of revealing too little, which results in superficiality. You must also be careful of revealing too much, which can result in the breaking of a confidence. Above all, listen compassionately and avoid being legalistic in your responses. 

Lay Heroes

Church leaders may often give the impression that God's first team consists of preachers, Bible scholars, evangelists, and missionaries. The truth, however, is that laypeople are the front-line troops in the cause for Christ. As such, the laity must provide heroes for those in the workforce. Often personal testimonies of God's unmerited grace can encourage others who are facing similar problems. Pastors should be encouraged to use illustrations of workers in the congregation who exemplify biblical truth. Lay heroes who are "down in the trenches" at the workplace are effectively serving as the new clergy.

The following acrostic sums up the concept of the new clergy:

Negate any silent contracts between laity and clergy.

Evaluate how you can best serve God.

Witness with confidence on the job.

Cultivate personal holiness.

Learn through consistent Bible study.

Express your service to God inside and outside the church.

Rout the enemy with fervent prayer.

Give yourself to worshiping Christ, not the church.

Yield fruit in the marketplace by your silent testimony.

Life Applications:

A. As you attempt to discover where and how you should serve, answer the following questions:

1. Do you feel frustrated that your abilities and skills are not expressed through the programs of your church?  

2. Do you easily and eagerly find ways to serve at church?  

3. Is the church the primary way you express your service to Christ? Why?

4. Do few of the church's service opportunities appeal to you? Why?

5. Do you serve God almost totally within the programs of your church? Almost totally outside its programs? In both contexts?      


B. Accountability is the willing decision to abide by certain agreed-upon standards. It is also the voluntary submission to a review by others in which one's performance is evaluated in light of those standards.

1. In what ways do you agree or disagree with this definition of accountability?

2. Operating with this understanding of accountability, what might be some of the benefits of holding yourself accountable to others?

3. List the names of some people to whom you might be willing to hold yourself accountable for reaching your goals.


C. Discuss the concept of accountability with someone who knows you well, such as your spouse or a close friend. Consider the following questions:

1. Are you someone who finds it easy or difficult to stay accountable to someone? Why?

2. What changes would accountability bring to your life?

3. How would it happen, and who would be involved?  


Test your knowledge on this chapter by taking the quiz at the end of chapter 16.   

Take the quiz

Quiz Instructions

Please see the Review Questions at the end of Chapter 16.

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