There are some terms that need to be eradicated from our speech. I believe that “laity” is one of those words and on this trip to Asia, we are passing that message on. There is lots of support for this by different theologians and authors:
Eugene Peterson, in his book The Jesus Way, says “Within the Christian community, there are few words that are more disabling than ‘layperson’ and ‘laity.’ The words convey the impression – an impression that quickly solidifies into a lie – that there is a two-level hierarchy among the men and women who follow Jesus…It is a lie because it misleads a huge company of Christians into assuming that their workplace severely limits their usefulness in the cause of Christ, that it necessarily confines them to part-time work for Jesus as they help out on the margins of Kingdom work.“
John Stott said that laity is often a synonym for “amateur as opposed to professional” or “unqualified as opposed to expert.”
Author Paul Stevens says that the words “only a layperson” is a phrase that should never be found on our lips as it is irreverent and demeaning.
The main objection to the word “laity” is what it does to the identity of the majority of believers in the Global Church, leading to a huge crippling effect in the body of Christ.
What is the history of this word “laity”? Theologian and author Larry Peabody tells us that typically people have thought it comes from the Greek word “laos” which simply means “people” and this word occurs 142 times in the Greek New Testament. But this word shows no distinction between people – it refers to all people. In contrast, the Greek word “laikos” was first used by Clement of Rome in 96 AD and this word referred to the “common people.” The “uncommon people” were the high priests, priests, and Levites, and eventually this group was called the “clergy.” Clement wrote that the “laikos” or laymen were bound by laws that pertained to them.
From here, it’s not such a far leap to hear the familiar disqualifying sentence, “I’m just a layperson.” We see this in churches around the world.
This is not a small problem. It is a significant problem.
But the good news is that there is a huge opportunity to refute this lie and release the potential of 95% of Christians to be ambassadors for Christ in every space and place.
We thank God for the testimonies we are hearing so far from people saying “Amen” and recognizing that we all called. We heard from multiple people this week of the amount of guilt that they have because of their busyness with work and family and not doing enough for the church building. This message has caused them to see that they are the church in their workplace and with their family. The church rather can begin to support them in their frontlines.
Please keep praying that this message will continue to go out and people will begin to reclaim every workplace and every frontline for God!