Approaches to lay formation and leadership
This paper will explore the topic above from biblical and theological point of view. As materials and time are limited, I only put forward the main points that I think are needed as a biblical and theological foundation for the topic.
Who are we talking about?
If we consider ‘lay formation and leadership’, who are we talking about?
According to Webster dictionary[i][ii] ‘the lay’ are ordinary peoples as distinguished from the clergy; not belonging to or connected with a given profession; non-professional. Webster also indicates that the word ‘lay’ comes from Latin: laicus and the Greek: laikos. Laikos is a noun form that designates the common people. [iii] In the writing of Homer laikos clearly pointed specially to the people as distinct from the rulers, or, in some relationship of subordination to their master.
Laos or laos tou theou?
Though Kraemer understands that the term laikos can not be found in the Bible, he emphasizes that its meaning is clear, that it is about laos, the people of God. Thus when he talks about laity he means the people of God.[iv]
Laos has an equivalent in Hebrew am[v] and go[vi]y in the Old Testament[vii], it means people as general, nation, crowd or tribe. There is no idea of separation in laos, on the contrary, there is a sense of unity in it. The members of laos are considered as one. Since all belong to laos, the member/community and laos can represent each other.[viii] Whether the people, nation or tribes outside of laos consider laos to be of lower status or degree than them , the degree in laos and everything in it remain the same. Therefore based on understanding of both terms, it is impossible to equate the term ‘lay’ and laos[ix]. My question now is whom are we talking about? Who do we mean when we speak about ‘lay’? is it Webster’ s definition mentioned above? If yes, my question would be what is our understanding of the church, so that we dare to categorize its people? If no, and we prefer to use the understanding of laos, meaning that there is a unity in it, and all the members belong to laos, why do we keep using the term laity? Isn’t it better to find another term to represent the members of the church who all belong to Jesus? [x] Who are they?
laos and laos tou theou are they the same?
Some scholars think yes, as both indicate the people of God.[xi] However I think Laos can be understood as the people of God or of Israel only if to Laos is added the genitive singular case tou theou or tou Israel.[xii] Thus if Laos stand by itself it cannot be translated or understood as the people of God.
Laos tou Theou.
Laos tou theou is found in New Testament mostly in quotations from the Old Testament, such as Rom 9:25 (Hos 2:22); 15:10 (Deut 32:43); 2 Cor 6:16 (Lev 26:12; Ezek 37:27); Titus 2:14 (Ex 19:5; 4:20; 7:6; 14:2, Ps 130:8); I Pet 2:9-10 (Ex 19:5-6; Deut 4:20; 7:6; 14:2; Isa 9:1; 43:20-21/ v.10- Hos 2:22); Hb 8:10 (Yer 31:31,34); 10:30 (Deut 32:35-36); Acts 7:34 (Ex 1:7-3:10); Rev 18:4 (Isa 48:20); 21:3 (Lev 26:11,12; Ezek 37:27).
The understanding of laos here has been built on the term am Yahweh from the Old Testament and is used to harmonize the relationship between the Jews and Gentiles by claiming that now all of them are the new eschatological people of God.[xiii] Now they are in a covenant relationship with God through Jesus who has died for them.[xiv] In this case we can use the understanding of laos tou theou as one that is able to represent Christians, for 1/ the inclusive way of thinking, so we are as Asian are also part of new eschatological people of God, 2/ We are still part of the continuation of the OT in doing God’s mission, though 3/ Jesus’death cuts the continuation between the OT and NT in the salvation history, for people who believe in Jesus they are free already, they are people who have been rebirth.
Why Christians formation and leadership is important?
However it is much better to use the understanding ‘the people called’ to represent Christians and the gathering of them is called ekklesia. Everybody in Christian community, the church member or not; the minister, the servant, the king, the lawyer, the farmer, the merchant, the bankers, the unemployment, the prostitute, etc, is called by God based on God’s grace (See 2 Tim 1:9; Rom 12:9; Gal 1:6,15; 2 Tes 2:14; 1 Pet 5:10; Heb 9:15). The question is whether they live consistently with their calling? The church has to play a role here, that is why formation and leadership of the people called (Christian) is so important.
The people called, (Christian) formation and leadership.
The church is a gathering of the people called, though there is no agreement among scholars whether the term ekklesia come from the idea of ‘to call out’ as seen in the word combination ek-kaleo. [xv] However based on the motif of God’s calling[xvi] [There are some motifs of God’s calling: 1/ the people called have to live lives worthy of God (Eph 1:18; 4:1,4; 1 Thess 2:12; 1 Tim 6:12; Gal 5:8; 1 Pet 2:21); to live in holiness (1 Thess 4:7; 1 Pet 1:15; to be God’s witnesses (1 Pet 2:9); to be a blessing for others (1 Pet 3:9); to always learn to know God so the people called can grow firm and mature in their calling and election (2 Pet 1:3,10); the people called are free (connect the idea with rebirth) and now belong to God only (1 Cor 7:22; Gal 5:13; Rom 1:6); the people called have to be faithful to God as God, Godself is a faithful one (Heb 3:1; Rev 17:14; 1 Thess 5:24], and the idea of to call out, church means to do a service to God and people. To be church means to be active: Worship to God, and to perform the calling[xvii]. Thus the aspects of koinonia, diakonia, and to be the witness to the world (marturia) are there. The question is how does the church do all those things? The answer is by Christian formation and leadership. Based on the motifs of God’s calling it is understood that the people called are expected to live faithfully in the process of growing into God’s direction till they are able to live in holiness (cf. Gal 5:16-26). Thus, there is an emphasis on the process, but there is no excuse for not growing into mature faith (1 Cor 13:11; 3:1-3; 14:20[xviii] and Eph 4:7-16.) Their life is conducted only by God, from and for God, since their calling makes them the reborn ones (Eph 4:17-32; Col 3:1-17; cf. Rom 6:1-11; 8; 12:9-21;16:3; 1 Cor 13; 2 Cor 5:17; Gal 2:20; 3:5-17; 5:6-16; Phil 2:5; 3:21; John 3:3) and belonging to God.[xix] Therefore agape (see: Mt 22:34-40; Mark 12:28-34; Lk 6:27-36; 10:25-28; 1 Cor 13; cf. 1 Cor 4:6-21; Rom 12:9-21; 13:8-10; 1 Pet 3:8-12; 4:8; 1 Jn 4:7-21; Yoh 15:9-17; Yoh 17: 20-26.) and the idea of oneness, (see: Eph 2: 11-22; 4:1-16; 1 Cor 12; cf. Rom 12:1-8; Phil 2:1-11; 1 Pet 3:8-12; Yoh 17:20-26; Acts 4:32-37) are so important for the church, thus all members have to support and help each other (Mt 6: 1-4; 2 Cor 8-10; Gal 6: 1-10; 1 Pet 4:9; 3 Jn 1:5-12; Acts 2:41-47), teach and remind each other (see: how many times Paul teaches and reminds the congregation how to live as the people called; see also 1 Thess 5:12-22; 2 Thess 2:13-3: 15; see the content of Timothy’s letter; Heb 12: 1-16; letter of James; 1 Pet 5:1-11; Jude 1:17-22; Mt 18:15-20); understanding each other (Lk 6:37-42; Rom 14-15:13), forgive each other (Mt 18:21-35; 2 Cor 2:5-11), for all people are under the power of sin, none is Righteous (Rom 3:9-18) and all people are created in the image of God (Gen 1:26). Therefore Christian formation has to have the above goals through Sunday worship service, bible study, counseling, Sunday school, youth group, prayer meeting, retreat and meditation, visitation to the people who are in need both in and outside the church, adult Bible school and conference/seminars that provides inter-disciplinary approaches. Through these activities it is expected that Christian are no longer schizophrenic. There is no longer separation between life at the church and everyday life at home and in society. It is so much needed for the people called to emphasize the spiritual experience and reflection theology in their everyday life so that all the things that they have been getting from the church that are supposed to equipment them in and to the world, is not like indoctrination. Therefore, the people called can be God’s witness to the world, to be salt (Mt 3:13) and light (Mt 5:14) in and to the world (cf. the idea of being part of civil society).
Who will responsible to all these kinds of activities? All the members of the church for their own calling (Tit 2:14; 3:1,8,14). Though they can be classified according to their talent, training and capacity (1 Pet 2-4; Rom 12:6; 1 Cor 5:7; 7:7; 12:7-8; 14:26; Eph 3:7; 4:16; Rom 12:3). Whatever they participate in, all are participating in order to develop the body of Christ in and to the world. (1 Cor 14:12,17[TSK1] )[xx]
[ii] Webster New World Dictionary, 827’
[iii], See William Arndt, A Greek English Lexicon of the New Testament, 462; Kittel, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, vol. IV, 30.
[iv] see: H. Kraemer. Theologia Kaum Awam (A Theology of the Laity), 116. See also Andar Ismail who in this case so much follows the idea of Kraemer above, Andar Ismail, Awam dan Pendeta: Mitra Membina Gereja, 168-9.
[v] In a general sense am is understood as a group of people larger than a tribe or a clan but less than a race. However in the group, relationship sustained within or to the group and the unity of the group, see: Theological Words Books in The Old Testament, vol.2, 1640.
[vi] Goy is used especially to refer to specifically defined political, ethnic or territorial groups of people without intending to ascribe a specific religious or moral connotation, see: Theological Word Book, vol. I, 327.
[vii] See G. Kittel, Theological Dictionary of the NT, 32.
[viii] See the understanding of the terms am and goy in f.n # 4 and 5 above.
[ix] Cf. Kung, The Church, 125-6; Richardson, An Introduction to the Theology of the New Testament,
[x] Hans Ruedy in his article “On Being Christian in the World. Reflections on the ecumenical Discussion about the Laity,” uses Christian to replace the term lay and laity since Christians link directly to Christ and also the Christian believers became known and designated themselves as it, 33.
[xi] Besides Kraemer, Johannes Louw also understands the term Laos to indicates a collective of people who belong to God, see: Greek English Lexicon of New Testament. Based on Semantic Domains, 123. Kung said that in early times laos itself could mean people of God, see: Hans Kung, 116
[xii] Cf: James Barr, The Semantics of Biblical Language, 124 n; 126 n; 234.
[xiii] There is an idea of inclusive salvation here, where the gentiles are included. Thus the concept of laos indicates the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecy. Bultmann suggested to designate itself the congregation retains this title as a second meaning, see: Rudolf Bultmann, Theology of the New Testament, 97-98. He also said that in all the titles that the earliest church used to designate itself, there is always an eschatological idea, see, Bultmann, 37-9. For an understanding of am Yahweh, see Walter Eichrodt, Theology of The Old Testament, vol. I, 40. Bultmann understood that the earliest church regarded itself first as qahal Yahweh that is translated later as ekklesia, Bultmann, p.37-38. But Kung understands the term people of God as the first and foremost besides ekklesia. He adds, “The idea of the people of God is the oldest and most fundamental concept underlying the self-interpretation of the ekklesia.” See Kung, 119.
[xiv] See Richardson, 229-32. The death of Jesus is understood as making a new covenant (cf. the idea of sacrifice in the OT), see: 1 Cor 11:25; Lk 22:10; Mat 26:27.
[xv] Ekklesia is a secular word in Greek and usually means a gathering or assembly. But the first Christians, who were Greek speaking, designated themselves as ekklesia/or ekklesia tou theou based on their understanding of qahal Yahweh in the OT. See: Robert Nelson, The Realm of Redemption. Studies in the Doctrine of the Nature of the Church in Contemporary Protestant Theology, 5-9. See also Richardson in quoting K. L Schmidt’s suggestion on p. 285-6. James Barr disagrees to say that ekklesia can represent the understanding of qahal Yahweh, see Barr, 119-29. See also Kittel’s explanation about how difficult it is to find the real meaning of the term based on its etymology, since the meaning of a word always develops, becoming either broader or narrower, see Kittel, Bible Key Words, 57-61.
[xvi] cf. Abraham’s calling in Gen 12:1-4; Isa 42:6.
[xvii] According to Nelson early Christian who called themselves as k’ nishta did these activities.
[xviii] Cf. Hans Conzelmann. 1 Corinthians, 71-2.
[xix] Therefore the gathering of the people called is supposed to be and perform as the kingdom of God in and to the world. Cf. John Bright, The Kingdom of God, 256-59. See also Jesus’ understanding of it, on p. 219-21.
[xx] See image of the church as the body of Christ in 1 Cor 12:12-27; Rom 12: 4-8.
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