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Pray, listen, study, and act

Reading Bible

Reflecting on experiences as a lay leader, Gordon Galloway gives practical wisdom on things we can do to prepare our hearts and minds for discipleship.

Holt UMC

“Therefore, my brothers and sisters, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, my beloved. I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. Yes, and I ask you also, my loyal companion, help these women, for they have struggled beside me in the work of the gospel, together with Clement and the rest of my coworkers, whose names are in the book of life” (Philippians 4:1-3, NRSV).

These words of Paul to the Philippians remind me of a time when our pastor was incapacitated by a serious biking accident and could not lead our stewardship campaign from the pulpit or in person. It was up to us — the laity — to take his gathered resources and produce a lay-led stewardship drive.

This plan included a four-week sermon series based on a book he was going to use. We had four capable lay speakers to fill the pulpit, but the issue was whether we could be “of the same mind,” as Paul urged Euodia and Syntyche. We each read the book and came together to assign the chapters as they aligned with each person’s strengths. Without realizing it, we each chose to focus on Philippians 4:8: “Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

Putting aside personal goals and praying for each other, we could focus on the plan that our pastor had laid out. Just as Paul had urged the Philippians to “keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me” (v. 9), we put into action what we had learned, received, and heard from our pastor. We delivered our Sunday morning messages while collectively supporting and encouraging each other. Plus, we were able to complete a very successful stewardship drive.

So, what led me to lay ministry, and what experiences prepared me to respond faithfully when our pastor was out and the laity had to step up? Well, even though I had been an active church member serving on various committees, it wasn’t until I participated in an Emmaus Walk that I headed down a new ministry path.

It started with realizing Jesus wanted to be in a relationship with me, which required authentic prayer — talking with and listening to each other. It’s not just listing things you want God to do for you, but an honest sharing of expectations between you and God. I found that the Holy Spirit always talked to me; I just wasn’t always listening.

Speaking through a couple of good friends, the Holy Spirit convinced me to go on that Emmaus Walk. It was the Holy Spirit working through my wife and another good friend that convinced me to join a Disciple Bible study. The Spirit then led me and my wife to travel to Columbus, OH, to learn how to lead Disciple.

What also helped prepare me to become a more effective lay leader in my church was giving back to the Emmaus community by working on numerous weekend walks, both behind the scenes and in the conference room.

The next step for me was lay speaker classes, which are now called lay servant classes. These classes helped give me the confidence to deliver a message in front of a congregation, a huge step for someone who blacked out giving a book report to his junior high classmates.

The last practical step I want to share is how important accountability is in leadership formation. I am part of an accountability group with a handful of men who help each other stay focused on God in our everyday lives. We meet for an hour every week; we can share in confidence what we did right or wrong for the past week and encourage and pray for one another. We realize we are not perfect and will fall short, but we always have each other and, more importantly, Jesus on our side!

I hope what I’ve shared about my formation as a lay leader is helpful in some way as you discern God’s call on your life. The basics are timeless: pray, listen, study, and act. May the Holy Spirit guide you in your way as you discern God’s call on your life.

Last Updated on October 11, 2023

The Michigan Conference