Clergy/laity


We didn’t know whether to chuckle or shed a tear.

The president of a “ministerial fellowship” had just explained the group’s rasion d’être: “The fellowship is here to make us more effective and enhance ministry in our community.”  Then he explained his view of what that looks like, “That’s why this fellowship is for pastors.”  As in, “pastors only.”

 

Do we still not get it?

 

This guy was neck-deep in a room full of capable, gifted believers passionate about ministry and reaching and teaching for Christ.  But the only people he saw were the “paid professionals.”

 

Is this “ministry” Jesus’ way?

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Ever taken a swig from a milk carton that’s two weeks past its expiration date?  Read the headlines from last month’s newspaper?  Charted box scores from last year’s big game?

Kind of stale, huh?

Let’s look at it in a difference context: Where in the New Testament do we find a model for pastors camping at a specific church at a specific locale or address and staying there for ten, twenty, thirty years or more?

Granted, there’s something to be said for maturity and stability.  Many pastors – and not a few ICs – wear pastoral longevity on their sleeves like a badge of honor.  But is it?

What’s ‘predictable,’ ‘routine’ and ‘comfortable’ can also be spelled r-u-t.  Pastors who’ve been running the show since just after the earth’s crust cooled become a kind of crutch.  In some instances, congregants become so dependent on a pastor to think for them that their own growth is stunted.  They’re spiritual cripples.  In others, “church” becomes less and less about Jesus or the ekklesia and focuses on a single dominant personality and their agenda.

In C.S.Lewis’s The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, Lucy inquires about Aslan, the Great Lion of Narnia:

“Then he isn’t safe?” said Lucy.

“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver. “Don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

“The son of the great Emperor-Beyond-the-Sea may be many things.  One thing he is not is “tame.”

How does that square with the average “church”?

Continuing from Part 1:

A few things might happen: First, it’d be uncomfortable.  There’d be no where to hide.  No comfortable anonymity.  People would have to think for themselves, make their own decisions.  They’d have to grow up and learn to feed themselves and others.   New leaders would emerge as others step aside and move on.  Pastors wouldn’t have total control anymore.  “Regular” folks would have to step up to the plate, learn to do for themselves what they’ve always sloughed off on the pastor to do.  Multiplying disciples would accelerate.  So would growth.  So would grace.  It’d have to.

Think about it.  Isn’t it easier to look surrendered and sanctified for an hour a week  in your Sunday best from a distance than it is to pull off the same up close and personal, 24/7?  The latter means people would have to drop the masks and the games and the head trips.  It means donning authenticity and transparency, which can be a little messy.

It takes patience, perseverance and heaps of grace to learn to live in community with other believers.  United, we’re invincible.  Fractured, we’re weak and ineffective.  The Enemy knows this.  Why else do you think he attacks community and unity so hard?

But Christian community is worth fighting for.  (Notice I didn’t say “a building” or a “church service” or a “corner office.”)  Genuine Christian community is much more casual and informal and real than the Sunday morning show.  It’s   where life happens, not once a week on Sunday morning.  Not in an artificial “fellowship” environment.  But as life unfolds while walking with Jesus, one day at a time.  Without the totem poles.

We attended another  “ministerial fellowship” meeting the other day.

Curious label, “ministerial fellowship.”  When’s the last time you heard an outfit describe itself as a “a non-professional fellowship,”  an “unpaid volunteer fellowship” or a “rank and file fellowship”?

What does this label imply?  Exclusivity?  Elitism?  A divide between those who belong to the “ministerial” fellowship – e.g., the paid professionals, and everyone else, e.g., the second string?

Really?

Is that what “church” is about?

Someone recently opined, “I’m not against leadership.  I just think ‘leadership’ looks more like someone washing other people’s feet than a CEO in a tie.”

When the last time you saw the former in an IC setting?

Interestingly, this same “ministerial fellowship” meets for the purpose of “trying to find ways to be more effective in ministry.”

Is it that mysterious?

How about: Dropping the elitist “‘ole boys club”  mentality. Being inclusive.   Opening your  meetings.  Inviting anyone who’s engaged in ministry to attend and contribute.  Getting rid of the clergy/laity divide.  Embracing the universal priesthood of all believers, where ministry and service are based on gifting and calling, not on an autocratic, top-down pecking order.

How Would It Look?

What would “church” look like then?  How much more “effective” would “ministry” be?   What if every clergy member made it a goal to work him/herself out of a job?  What if “ministry” was something all believers were actively engaged in, rather than watching a few paid professionals operate while they sit on the sidelines and spectate?

Stay tuned for Part 2.

Does “cleros” really mean what some think it does?  Whatever happened to the priesthood of ALL believers?  Is the clergy/laity divide biblical?