I think it might be just me,¹ but has anyone noticed that there seems to be a progression of trust — in terms of male public leadership roles — when you’re in a new CofC church? After you show up a few times in a row and seem to be normal, here’s how it might go for men:
- First, you’re asked to serve “on the Lord’s table.” (“Bill, are you ‘on the table’ today? Oh, I’ll get someone else to read.”)
- Then, if you don’t embarrass yourself there “on the table,”² you’re asked to read scripture. First, and most often, the scripture passage will probably be chosen for you.
- If you can handle the pre-written “words of God,” you’ll be asked to pray aloud. (The order of #2 and #3 seems backwards conceptually. Many public prayers are parroted, anyway, so they are also pre-written, to a large extent. To me, it seems that moving from repeating other people’s z-z-z-z formula prayers to reading scripture aloud with purpose would be a step up.)
- [Talks A] Following prayers and scripture readings, if the “powers” think you are still OK, maybe you’ll get an opportunity to make a “table talk” or sermonette before “communion.”
- [Talks B] A mini-sermon or devotional talk is a step above the communion talk. (Not that this is really the priority. I mean, I’m a lot more forgiving of ineptitude if someone isn’t messing with communion.) If the “devo” talk exists in your church, you might get that opportunity after proving yourself at the communion table.
- If you’re really trusted, maybe you could teach a Bible class. Nevermind the actual ability to teach; in some churches, one might merely be required to have come up through the ranks, proving yourself in the above steps.
- Only rarely does anyone other than a paid preacher get asked to preach a sermon. (Perhaps even more rarely does anyone want to!) Most often, it’s an elder-shepherd. In the church in which I grew up, there were other men called on to fill in during vacations, etc. I remember Ralph, Jerry, Mark, and others.
Song leading is a category of its own. And what about the “call to worship”? If there is one, does the song or worship leader do it, or is there another designee?
Greetings and announcements often fall in yet another category. If the preacher doesn’t do these himself (for worse, not better, he is probably more in the know than anyone else), there might be one other with the gift of gab who gets tapped. Maybe the mover-shaker elder (you know, the pep rally guy or the entrepreneurial businessman in the lot) does the greeting a lot? In only two or three churches in my experience have the best person or people managed announcements and greetings.
As for me, recently, I seem to have bypassed some of the steps. Some of it has been my own choice, but I touched #1 and #2 lightly and then leapt to #6 and #7. This is strange. But then again, I’m strange. I feel strange about it. But I also feel trusted.
¹ Additional posts:
- Here’s another “maybe it was just me” post: Communion
- And another one that followed that one: Collecting (My Thoughts)
² Where I grew up, there was for many long years a communion table that resembled a hybrid UFO-casket. It really was quite the piece. Heavy. And dangerous, with corners that could have put a Great Dane’s eye out. Given this beast of a table, the image of someone “on the table” was burned into my mind.