As you may already know, I have been blogging lately on distinctions that are made in the Body of Christ. I talked the first go around about how it seems that the Graeco-Roman mindset has affected Christianity in causing believers to divide their lives into "secular" and "sacred" distinctions. This carries over into many areas of our lives. One such distinction that I feel has had a huge impact on believers is the division between what is known as the "clergy" and the "laity".
Before we get started, let me give you a little of my own personal history/journey. I have ascribed to the traditional model of church since childhood; the model that says that there is a specialized "clergy" that is to lead the "laity" into the things of God. As an adult, I decided to go into pastoral ministry. So, I went to Bible college and studied to be a pastor in the church as I knew it. I became an associate pastor/worship leader in a church, where I was in leadership for a little more than 2 years. I have just recently stepped down to pursue a more simple concept of church. Coming to grips with the distinction between "clergy" and "laity" is one thing that led me to this decision.
In the modern church, the clergy is the leading influence among the believers. The clergy is responsible for everything from preaching to counseling to administrating to recruiting volunteers to evangelism...and the list goes on. The clergy has become the professional caste in Christendom that performs all of the duties that simple laymen and women are not "qualified" to perform. In many circles, the clergy or pastor is considered to be the "head" of a local church; a distinction which the Bible ascribes to Jesus alone. It seems that the Church has adopted the hierarchial model passed on by governments and corporations. We have a "CEO" (the pastor), a board of directors (the elders/deacons), blue collar workers (the "committed" laity) and consumers (unbelievers and "apathetic" believers).
Jesus talked to His disciples several times about order within the Kingdom of God. In speaking of this He said:
"The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who have authority over them are called 'Benefactors.' But it is not this way with you, but the one who is the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like the servant.
Luke 22:25-26 (NASU) Be sure to check out the references on this one too!
Jesus does not here condemn the oppressive domination of fellow believers. Instead, He shows His displeasure for any form of authoritarianism. Even when this would seem to benefit others, taking authority over brethren in the Body is denounced. Jesus says that we are not to excercise authority even as "Benefactors"--ones who excercise authority for the good of the ones under his/her control. How much authority does the "youngest" have? How much authority does a "servant" have? You get the picture:)
Typically, in a normal gathering of believers, a "professional" clergyman (or team thereof) leads the way and sets the tone. A worship "leader" decides what songs will be sung by all, only to be followed by a pastor or other single member of the clergy who gives a 30 minute to 1 hour "sermon" wherein he/she shares with us "God's Word" for the day/week. Contrast the current model of church to Paul's description in 1 Corinthians 14:
When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation.
1 Corinthians 14:26 (NIV)
According to this verse, when we come together as believers, everyone has something to contribute and should be allowed to do so. Biblically, no place seems to be given to monolithic discourses in meetings with other believers. Every member functioning is not the exception but the rule. It has even been proven scientifically that a person only remembers about 20 percent of what they hear, while they remember 70 percent of what they say themselves and 90 percent of what they do themselves.
One of the pivotal truths that came out of the Reformation was that of the "priesthood of all believers". This came to the forefront in doctrine, but rarely changed the churches practices. While claiming that all believers have an equal standing before God, we have elevated the "clergy" to a place of preeminence in ministry. Instead of the functioning priesthood of all believers, we go to a building and listen to the same person week after week share with us the "word" that God has given them for us! While the Reformation put the Bible back into the commoners hand, the lay person is left to rely on the pastor or clergyman to interpret it for them. If there really only is "one Mediator between God and man" .........then why do I need to trust in a person to hear the voice of God for me? Didn't Jesus say that His sheep would hear His voice? I take it that "all" is the implied description of participants in that verse; that is, ALL of His sheep will hear His voice. If the Holy Spirit really is my "Counselor", as Jesus said that He was, why should I seek to have a "professional" work through my problems with me? Is He not up to the challenge? Do we really believe that the veil in the Temple was torn in two after all? Are we trying to live under a renovated version of the Levitical priesthood? Am I under the New Covenant, or the Old Covenant?
It seems to me that the role of a professional minister impedes the growth of the rest of the Body and contributes to many believers remaining in an infantile state of Christianity. Instead of letting God flow through me to others (and vice-versa), I pay someone to "do the work of the ministry" in my place.
As long as the caste system of "clergy" and "laity" remains the norm, it will be difficult for most of the Body to learn to function in the gifts that God has empowered them with. If this system remains in place we will probably see a continuance of ministry "burn-out", stagnation among "regular" believers and fewer disciples being released for Kingdom ministry. Until we truly look at all of the Body as "a kingdom of priests", we will remain but a limited expression of what God intended the Church to be. All of the Church must rise up and be the part of the Body that God has called us to be. Only together can we manifest the will of God in the earth. That's what I think:) What do you think?