Do Friends have a future: Part 4 The power of ordinary people

Friends have a valuable resource that we are uniquely able to tap, the power of ordinary people. With our attempt to empower the individual, and work together in community we have the ability for growth.

So often, people think of the ministry of the extraordinary ministers. People look to the best speakers or the most charismatic leaders. So often people talk as if someone must be the best, or the person is nothing. A more realistic view recognizes that someone with experience can be as effective as two. Someone with experience and talent can be as effective as 10, but no one will be as effective as 100. If we release and support all who feel God’s call into ministry, there is no limit to what God can do with us.

How could we take advantage of our tradition of equipping all people for ministry? I suggest that we remember our past as pioneers in the house Church movement. We have a whole system designed to encourage the smaller worship group — because of this we should free people to minister and build small communities. If we encourage people in ministry we will grow.

These days, the population is mobile, yet technology offers opportunities to keep old connections alive. We are uniquely able to encourage those who leave our communities for university or work to remain active. We must encourage isolated Friends. If two families of Friends live close together we should encourage them to meet together, read scripture together, pray together, and to share with each other how they are living with Jesus. This small group, possibly meeting in a home or a coffee shop is a functioning faith community and not lost to the Society of Friends. It is likely if two families meet, a third, fourth or more will meet as well. If we mobilize our ordinary people we can expect to replace a period of decline with a period of growth. We must value the house-church and the coffee shop prayer meeting.

Ideally we should see youth group as a training camp for church planters. We know that many of them will leave us for other communities, so we must train them to form communities and share the work of living with Christ in community. If we invited our young adults to help build the faith community, we would keep them as they followed God and found their place in the world.

We either encourage isolated Friends, or we lose them. With care, ordinary isolated Friends can become functional and growing faith communities. Friends will have a dynamic future unless we become so narrow-minded as to destroy the ministries of our ordinary, faithful individuals. On the other hand, if we do not take advantage of ordinary people we are neglecting our greatest resource and will continue to lose members and meetings.

Part 1


12 comments on “Do Friends have a future: Part 4 The power of ordinary people

  1. Michael,

    Great thoughts! Thanks for putting them up for folks to chew on. When I was in seminary in the NE, I found myself in a place of no Friends church to attend, and so I began a spiritual pilgrimage of sorts, landing in a Presbyterian church for 4 years and then an Episcopal church for 4 years. Throughout it all, my home was the Friends church, for similar reasons you have mentioned. There is hope for the Friends church…check out my blog, especially the Call for Submissions. I’d love for you to consider submitting something. Thanks!

  2. Robin Mohr says:

    This is really good to read: We know that many of them will leave us for other communities, so we must train them to form communities and share the work of living with Christ in community. If we invited our young adults to help build the faith community, we would keep them as they followed God and found their place in the world. It connects to my thoughts about young Friends and crystallizes a new way of approaching it. Thank you.

  3. Kim says:

    I have attended traditional Protestant churches and even Orthodox Christian churches. After reading a few books and many blogs about both organic/house churches and Quakers, it hit me one morning – the Quakers are the original New Testament church! Many don’t employ a pastor, they believe in empowering everyone for ministry, exactly what the new movement of house churches are promising. I think your time has come, and I hope I can find a local Friends meeting that is moderate; seems like the 2 closest to me are at both extremes of liberal and conservative.

  4. Dorlan says:

    Thank you, Michael, for this thoughtful essay.

  5. Michael, I just finished reading this series of posts and am really grateful for your ministry. In Part 3, you talked about ordinary ministry as one of the reasons you’ve stayed with Friends, and that’s how I feel also. I have always felt called to ministry, on and off through my life, but I could never have become a Lutheran minister (my original background), or any other kind—except Quaker. And no other joy quite matches the fulfillment of doing what you know God calls you to do, of being of service, which of course, requires community. So it has been a great blessing to find a community that actually encourages my gifts and service.

    I also think that the faith and practice of Quaker ministry could hold the key to revitalizing the Society. There must be many people out there like you and me, who feel called but have not found their community. The problem is that so many meetings have lost that faith and practice. So one of my own ministries is to try to recover the traditions of Quaker ministry, to promote them, to begin to experiment with them and adapt them to our modern condition.

    And I agree with you that youth are essential. How young George Fox was when he began his ministry! So finding ways to nurture young people’s spirituality and connect them with our community is really important. While reading your posts, I had this idea: to create a national database (maybe on Facebook) of young Friends in college, so that they could find each other while they’re away from home.

    Finally, a personal note: I have an uncle and cousins living in Hutchinson. The Andres family. I come from Wichita, myself, originally. My dad lived in Goddard and Newton.

    • Oddly enough, I was invited to a facebook young Friends community not that many days ago. Western Yearly Meeting has a facebook community that talks about camp and other events — it seems that these databases are forming.

      We need to move from cyberspace to the world where we live — but, we’re making a start.

  6. Cindy L says:

    Yes, isolated Friends need to be encouraged and acknowledged by the greater body of the Society. My husband and I no longer feel led to attend our local Meeting. In order to attend another meeting, we would have to drive to another state – not possible. We worship together at home as we feel led. While it isn’t the same experience, it is our experience now and still provides nourishment.

  7. Roscoe says:

    Michael –

    I just finished reading your four entries on the future of Quakerdom. I am still seeking, but have great sympathy and respect for the Society of Friends.

    I’m presently in China, and because of your words as well as others, I am going to seek out other Friends to meet again. I’ve only been to my local meeting a few times back in the States, but it seems like the right thing to do.

    I feel a bit like Frodo. “I will go to Meeting… though I do not know the way.” :D

    I have noticed that congregations of most kinds are greying, usually faster than the surrounding culture. My mother’s Anglican church was composed of 50-year-olds when I was a boy, and of 70-year-olds now. Same with the UU meeting and the (mostly-Anglo) Catholic church. The mostly-Hispanic Catholic church remains younger and more viable, due partly to Catholic beliefs and partly to an extremely vigorous youth program that they run.

    I believe Friends’ practices are valuable and unique, especially within the Christian tradition, and need to be preserved and passed down. Still wrestling with the ‘faith’ part myself. It would be a colder world if Quakerism passed from the earth.

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