Thursday, January 18, 2007

Clergy vs. laity

I was surprised that more of you did not have an opinion on the Highest calling. (Maybe you did have an opinion and preferred not to share it?)

That post on whether the pastor might be the highest calling brought my thoughts to this issue, the exaggerated clergy-laity distincition in modern Christianity. IMO, as a whole we Baptists tend to overemphasize the gifts/calling of pastor/bishop/elder and underemphasize the gifts/calling of other members of the church body. Below are a few quotes and some links containing discussion of the clergy-laity divide. Any opinions on them?

"The fact is that all of God's clergy are laity, and all of God's laity are clergy. Every child of God is a priest." --
The Clergy System, by W. Carl Ketcherside

"The lambs have been silenced by the example of their teachers. 'Be silent in Church and let the professionals do the talking.You are nothing but a support system to keep their mouths working.'

"Now contrast this with the typical gathering in the early Church.They had fellowship.They were family and not a family where the children were to be seen and not heard, either. Consider what Paul taught them regarding their coming together as the body of Christ.
"There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit.
"There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord.
"And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all.
"But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all:" --
The Silencing of the Lambs, by Michael Clark

"The New Testament teaches that the congregational meeting is to be a place where Christians exercise their spiritual gifts and encourage one another to love and good deeds (
Romans 12:6-8; 1 Corinthians 12:4-14; 14:12,26; Colossians 3:16; Hebrews 10:24-25; 1 Peter 4:10-11). This being true, why do most of us not say or do anything within the church service? Why is coming to church primarily a spectator event instead of a participating event? Why have we placed our responsibility of mutual edification and ministry into the hands of professional clergymen?" -- Is my church really a New Testament church?, by Darryl Erkel

"The clergy/laity divide, which has dogged Christianity for two millennia, didn't originate with either Jesus or his apostles, and is therefore nothing whatsoever to do with the teaching of the New Testament. It rather originated with a guy called Clement who took church leadership, as set up by the apostles (non-hierarchical, plural, co-equal, indigenous elders/bishops or overseers/pastors or shepherds), and turned it into a priesthood quite separate from the laity." --
The Early Church Fathers - The Heart of the Problem!, by Chigwell Christian Fellowship
It Shall Not Be So Among You, by Norman L. ParkWhat Is A Minister?, by Jon Zens


Rev. said...

First, it is important for us to emphasize the Reformational understanding of vocation ("calling"). One calling (e.g., pastorate) is not higher than another. As Luther put it (loosely), the milk-maid has a calling that is just as sacred as that of the monk.

Second, we must be careful that as we speak of calling, etc., that we don't strip the pastoral office of its' essence, importance or authority. Many within the modern church have done just that and it has resulted in the abuse of ministers and a large exodus from those (once) in pastoral ministry.

R. L. Vaughn said...

rev., thanks for dropping by. I don't remember your posting before, and hope you'll come back again.

Concerning the large exodus from the pastoral ministry: I don't advocate "abuse of ministers" and know that it has taken place. But I believe the false expectations of unscriptural notions of the pastorate, expecting one man to be everything to the entire congregation, and such like, contribute as much or more to men leaving the pastorate as the abuse of ministers.

clinch64 said...

I am afraid that the standards of the ministry are not what they used to be. In some of the "megachurches" especially, the pastorate has come to resemble an occupation more than anything.


amity said...

What is the abuse of ministers? Overwork?

R. L. Vaughn said...

Amity, I hope rev. will stop back by and give us his definition of what he meant by the term.

One example of how I might view it: deliberate false public defamation of character with the intent of destroying one's ability to be a minister/preacher/elder.

Some churches have the idea of "let the preacher do it, that's what we pay him for" and leave everything -- from visiting the sick to mowing the lawn -- to be done by the pastor. This is overwork, but I don't think I could call that abuse (maybe in a sense?). Preachers/pastors are to blame for teaching a lot of the view of what a pastor is or is supposed to be. Besides that, they are not children. Most enter into some kind of agreement with their churches. And they may even relish the part of being "everything" until the overwork begins to get to them.

I suspect a lot of what ministers view as "abuse of ministers" is not the view the average person might have.

R. L. Vaughn said...

P.S. - that last paragraph of my comment is not directed toward rev., but rather an observation of what might be true in general.

David Gregg said...

Oh, I commented on the previous thread, "Highest calling??", without knowing that "Clergy vs. laity" is topically identical. So, for the convenience of anyone still reading these comments, you can go here to read that.

Resting in Grace

Rev. said...

Many within church life view the pastor as the "hired hand," responsible for preaching, visiting, evangelizing, carrying out administrative tasks, taking out the trash, plunging the toilets, etc., etc., etc. There are definitely congregations which put too much on the pastor's shoulders.

Others disregard the calling and training many ministers have, treating them with contempt and disdain in many ways. Stinginess with salaries and benefits; wagging their tongues derisively about everything from the pastor's vehicle to his wife's clothing (the defamation of character you mentioned, R.L.); having a willingness to dismiss the pastor at the drop of a hat.

Unfortunately, such things are becoming more and more common. I personally know seven men who were dismissed from their pastorates last year. Each story was eerily similiar.