Myth #3, The Clergy – Laity Divide

Sorry about Wonderwhat being down last week.  Technical issues which have now been rectified were to blame.

vestmentsI have received a lot of invitations over the years, invitations that you have NOT received.  Do you know why?  They were invitations to honor the clergy among us, of which I am perceived to be.  You didn’t get the invite to be honored (or fed or given a plaque or ride on a plane) because YOU are perceived to be laity.  Of course…if the one doing the inviting were to interrogate me first…do a little research beyond the fact that I’m listed as a pastor in a church…they would probably rescind the offer.  As soon as it was discovered that I didn’t attend a seminary or a Bible college, I would be promptly demoted to the position of “lay minister”, because, of course, I didn’t receive official training for my status.   That’s the way it works, you see.  I have a friend who was informed by someone who was inquiring about Eastgate that we aren’t an actual church, because the pastor hasn’t been officially ordained and lacks the proper training.

Hey…I’ll be the first in line to complain about the lead pastor at Eastgate, and his lack of skills (bow-hunting and nun-chuck skills come readily to mind).  BUT…is it really a Biblical mandate that a specific class of people receive official training for a “spiritual vocation”?  Is there really a distinction between a “clergy class” and a “laity”?

The word “clergy” comes from the Greek word “kleros“…it means first and foremost, an alloted portion, or we could say “an inheritance”.  It’s used in 1 Pet 5:3, Pete encourages leaders not to “lord over” “those entrusted to them”.  The word he used for “those entrusted” is “kleros”.  Break it down…who is Peter calling “clergy” in this verse?

Col 1:12 is another passage where this word kleros shows up.  There, it’s translated as “inheritance”.  So…substitute the word “clergy” for the word “inheritance” as you read it.  Who is the clergy in this passage?

We’ll unpack this on Sunday morning as we take on the myth of the clergy/laity divide…and we may also consider the concept of “secular and spiritual” along with it.

See you then.

CORRECTION: Just to qualify, based on Mike’s comment…I want to clarify that I in no way mean to denigrate those who have paid the cost of formal training, nor do I mean to imply that there is no value in being educated to the best of our ability to do so.  My issue is with what essentially a class distinction between those who occupy supposed offices and the general community of the church.  There is no premium on ignorance…but does that entitle a person to elevated status among the saints?

3 comments

  1. Certainly Jesus had no seminary degree and was the master of all. I’ve had the privilege to attend seminary over the last couple of years and there are definite benefits, mainly focused learning about Christianity from people who have spent many decades walking the walk. No one is perfect here at Liberty University but the impact on society is noticeable-people are nicer, more friendly and take greater pride in helping others. My personal motivation was to be able to serve the men and women in uniform which requires 72 hours of graduate work per DoD requirements. Anyone can accomplish this but it takes a good degree of focus, effort and time. Perhaps the best tool Satan uses to divide the church is the comparison method. Paul explicitly chastised the church for making comparisons. “Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else, for each one should carry his own load (Gal6:1-5). My father has a PhD from Stanford and was a professor at MIT for a long time. He often says “The more you learn, the more you realize you know very little”. This is proof of the humbling effect of education. It causes many to be slow to speak, to listen and slow to anger.

  2. Interesting topic. I came from a church background that always hired a “professional minister” from outside the congregation. Elders were always long standing members of the congregation (usually migrated up from Deacons). Deacons were always members of the congregation…but the “preacher”, or “minister” was 99 times out of a hundred hired from outside. Had a degree from an appropriate Christian University, provided a sample tape (or now a DVD) of a couple of sample sermons. After making the first cut, the elders would conduct a phone interview. If he made that round then he and family would come for try-outs. Preach a few sermons, do some more “elder interviews”, and “meet the congregation” (this always involved a pot-luck supper…which I’m pretty sure is in the Bible somewhere). The congregation would have a vote, but the elders would make the final decision…and negotiate salary and benefits. Sometimes the Youth Minister, or Associate Minister would come from the congregation…but never the head preacher. Always a “professional” hired from outside.
    I don’t suppose there’s anything really wrong with this model…but it’s not in anyway based on anything in the New Testament…more of an American Business model. It always seemed very strange for me. We always put so much importance in elders and deacons being “members of the church” with relationships, history, family, and a “record of service” at home. But the guy who would “break the bread of life” to us every week…a total stranger hired from the outside. Weird.

  3. In Old Testament times, the Jewish High Priest was the only way to God, through animal sacrifices. Now, Jesus (our sacrifice) is our Mediator and High Priest. There is no hierarchy. Jesus made us all equal, and we are One Body, unified, each person gifted with different and special spiritual gifts.

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