But To Challenge The Laity, They Must Be Freed Of Dependency On The Clergy
Recently a personal friend of mine, a member of the professional clergy, ask me how long I would be clergy bashing. It have had to step back and examine what I have been writing and their purpose. I do not want to sound that I am against the clergy as persons, but I do challenge the authenticity of their existence Biblically from a “professional office” position. To me “pastor” is not a professional paid position of leadership, but one of the points of view or passions of the five fold mentioned in Ephesians 4 that is available for all believers in Jesus Christ. I believe every believer in Jesus Christ can be an evangelist, or a pastor, or a teacher, or a prophet, or a prophet, or even a combination of those experiences. I am also a believer in plurality of leadership through these multiple giftings where believers are called to “lay down their lives for their brethren” (IJohn 3:16) in order for leadership to work effectively. There is no hierarchal distinction of leadership where everyone is laying prostrate before each other in service!
Over the years some of my best friends have gone into the professional ministry; my best man in my wedding is a respected professional minister in the Lutheran Church circles. Often you hear the term “called into the ministry” which I fully believe in. What one faces as a professional Christian needs a response to a “calling” in order to survive.
Personally, I was part of a “calling” when in my early twenties I was invited to respond to an invitation to become a member of the “free ministry” at New Fairview Church of the Brethren where their leaders are chosen for life and receive no monetary compensation for their efforts. This, historically, has been their practice since their inception, and generations later they have had home grown leadership. When asked to respond to a “calling”, I prayed and fasted for a week and got a red light to the calling. I was honored by the recognition that a local body of believers was willing to stand behind me in leadership that would be for life, but God had other directions for my spiritual walk.
I believe in home grown leadership verses professional westernized theological training. Paul, an apostle, would come into a city, birth a church, develop the Christian character of those attending, and raise up local leadership, then leave to start a new work somewhere else. He did not bring in the “Antioch boys” to replace him. He did bring in outside sources like Barnabas, the encourager, to help “equip” and “train” the locals for when he would depart. He even came back to visit them to check on their progress. His letters are often written to those he trained, and often he mentions them by name.
Jesus was the son of a carpenter whose trade I am sure he learned and Paul a tent maker. Several of His disciples went back to their professions as fishermen after His death and resurrection. No where in the New Testament can I find where there was developed a differential between a professional and nonprofessional believers. “Equipping the saints” was the apostolic goal of the first century. Rapid expansion could only come through the “equipping of the saints”, particularly preparing them for the upcoming persecution and martyrdom that they would face.
Burn out rate is high among today’s pastors, the professional clergy, because the laity expects them to be all things to all people which physically, psychologically, and emotionally they can’t. Because it is “part of their job”, most parishioners expect their pastor to be a teacher, a people person, a counselor, a prayer warrior, a church politician, an organizer, a motivator, a Biblical scholar, a person who they can call 24/7, an administrator, and so much more. They expect their pastor to pray for them, read and interpret the Word for them, provide necessary fellowship by being their personal friend, and, unfortunately, most clergy try to comply which enables their parishioners to continue to be pew sitters, uninvolved, untrained, Biblically illiterate, lacksidaisical in their prayer life, and childish in their spiritual development.
Church leadership needs to train the saints; then release them “to do it”! Jesus had to teach Peter to walk on water because he had to learn how to focus on Jesus and not the storm, believe in faith, and do the impossible. It was equipping Peter for what lay ahead in his life, in his calling to be a “rock” in this new Church. Jesus trained, equipped, developed, and released his disciples to do even “greater things” than He. Ought we not follow Jesus’ example.
So in conclusion, I want to encourage Church leadership to train others in their local congregations to replace them, to multiply. The difference between being a child and maturity is the difference between dependency and independence. When children mature, they eventually leave home, earn their own living, marry, and have a family and career; in other words, become independent. When Christian believers mature, do we release them to replace us or send them out like to serve others like the Great Commission challenges us to do? Can I believe that there may be a local church or congregation that has no professional clergy, or pastor, leading them because they once had one, but he trained and lead everyone in this congregation to stand on their own with their God given talents and gifting. He trained and “equipped” US to do the work of service, so he resigned his position and became just one of us, another family member, and we do everything he has taught us! Is that dream to vast for me to believe?