9 Insights I’ve Learned about Laypersons

The New Testament clearly teaches the importance of pastors and deacons as leaders of the church (1 Tim. 3). At the same time, though, there would be no need for leaders were it not for the laypersons God gives us to lead. Recognizing that my conclusions are anecdotal, here are some things I’ve learned about laypeople in 34+ years of ministry.

  1. Some are not believers. I start here because this insight may be the most important one, and we need to be honest from the beginning. Jesus had 12 apostles, and one of those was a fake from the beginning. We’re not likely to do better than Jesus did.
  2. Most love the Lord.  Despite finding #1 above, I’ve met thousands of laypeople through the years who love God. They may struggle in following Him (see the next point), but it’s not because they don’t love Him.
  3. Most have not been discipled well. Many have been members of churches with a weak or non-existent discipleship strategy. Consequently, many members live in defeat, and others are in leadership positions for which they have not been spiritually prepared. Frankly, I fit that category myself for too many years.
  4. Many are still young in their faith. Believers who have never been intentionally and strategically discipled will have been stunted in their spiritual growth – and the fault is as much the church’s as it is the believers’. Problems then develop when we get frustrated because we expect “young” believers to act like mature ones.
  5. Almost all are more gifted than I am in some area. That’s God’s intent, actually. The beauty of a 1 Corinthians 12 church is most evident when each member serves where he/she is created to serve. When I choose to do everything myself, I’m guilty of idolatry.
  6. Most want to serve the Lord through the church. That desire doesn’t mean they do, however. Many members want to serve, but they don’t know how to get started. Some have been hurt and are afraid to serve, though their heart longs to be faithful.
  7. Most love their pastor. In fact, I cannot think of any members who did not love me during the 14 years I served as pastor and the many months I’ve served as interim pastor since then. Some disagreed with me – even got angry enough with me to leave the church – but I still don’t doubt their love.
  8. Many are dealing with hidden sin. In many cases, they sense no “safe” place to talk about their sin. Some have no friendships deep enough to tackle these issues. Sunday after Sunday, they battle with conviction internally while not fully understanding how to overcome their sin.
  9. They’re no messier than some of the New Testament church members. Read the book of 1 Corinthians, and you’ll find that even early church leaders dealt with problematic people. The good news is that we still serve the God of the New Testament – the One who loves His church despite how messy it is.   

What other insights have you discovered about laypersons? Do you agree or disagree with my findings? 


  • Lane says:

    How do we fix #3?

    • Chuck Lawless says:

      Great question, Lane. I think we have to move in two directions: (1) begin investing in a few longer-term people rather than trying to program a fix; (2) develop good discipling strategies for new believers and new members so we can catch them early.  

  • Stacy Dixon says:

    Laypeople are saturated by a culture best described in the bowl the woman holds in Revelation, which holds every sin. Focus needs to be on this fact and the needs and pain this exposure creates.Teaching a lifestyle of faithfulness, including rhythms of worship, the disciplines and the grace of confession and repentance provide a framework that believers need to learn how to build into their lives. Christianity isn’t a buffet of choices, during the week, and a steak dinner on Sunday. Teaching lay people how to enrich their daily life through consistency and community are the building blocks that hold fast when life in this world bears down. I like the model of stopping and re-focusing 3x a day. This provides a way to re-organize faulty thinking and change behavior in constant conversation with God. This is the ideal, but I have found even my pursuit of this to be helpful in the chaos of modern life. People are broken by Sunday. Teach us how to bring all the pieces all the time, to the Cross, and find restoration. The need is too great to get sidetracked by cultural, political or popular issues. Fun stories and nods to the latest movie are distractions. And we’re already distracted. Give me the food I need, not the food that makes me fat, yet malnourished. I won’t be entertained, but I will be changed.

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