The Clergy and Laity Tradition
guidebook on accessing the life of God without
being sidetracked or hindered
Christianity become a Religion? I think most
everyone would respond that it is and that
is the way it is supposed to be. The most familiar
aspect of Christianity and the way it is experienced
by the millions of believers would look something
like this: We go to "services at a church,"
sing hymns or songs, listen to a choir, experience
some form of ritual, recite prayers, and hear
an address from the pulpit prepared and presented
by the priest or pastor. This pastor is the
individual who is trained to officiate in a
correct form of doctrine and to preach or teach
the parishioners in the Christian life. This
is the norm to us for this is all we know and
all we have experienced. But it was never designed
to function is this way. At the time of the
church's beginning, believers in Christ Jesus
were all called to be discipled and to function
as ministers of their own unique Spiritual
gifts. Thus the whole body of believers who
were referred to as "the church"
(called out believers) would grow, bond together
and influence the civilizations of which that
they were part.
the beginnings of the Christian faith the question
has been asked and must continue being asked,
"Should we obey God or man?" In order to distinguish
between these two voices something is required
of us. Each of us must search the Word of
Truth and trust to be a valid source of
correct doctrine, Secondly to listen to the
voice of the Witness which God has given
to all his children. Even then the discernment
of truth is not always easy to discern. Religion
presents teachings or stipulations which become
obligatory upon the followers. Are we to question
the teachings of traditional authorities? Are
we to question the doctrine of our church or
In the New Testament Bible, the word ministry comes from the Greek (Diakonia) and it generally translates as SERVICE. Thus ministry literally means service. Through the centuries of religious practice, ministry has come to mean something else, something formal and liturgical. Within the context of "church" practices ministry has been restricted to that which is done behind a pulpit and then only by a select few with "credentials."
According to the New Covenant Scriptures, discipleship is the keystone of the gospel. Yet, it is rarely taught to church congregations. All believers are trainees or disciples in the Kingdom of God and are expected at some time to become equipped to minister. "As every person has received the (free) gift, so minister the same to one another." (1Peter 4:10) To grow in the Spiritual life of God we are instructed that we are to become transformed into him and become partakers of the Lord's ministry and as well as his spiritual attributes. These attributes include all forms of compassion to serve in kindness, (charity) through the Spirit of Love. Through such service all human life can be restored and perfected.
Unfortunately old habits and traditions die hard, and few question the role and appropriateness of a trained clergyperson who may not even know God in all of his promises and power, who presumes to substitute sermonettes for the power of the Spirit.
The Clergy and the Laity
The Clergy-Laity doctrine divides the flock into two disparate parts rather than making it more unified and homogeneous. The good shepherd story described in John's gospel chapter 10 describes the characteristics of a good shepherd. It list among the virtues, intimacy and closeness of the shepherd to the flock. The shepherd knows each of his charges by name; he will sacrifice his personal comfort and life for the flock. Finally we are told that Jesus is this shepherd. The psalmist has written almost a thousand years before, "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want." It is unlikely that a human shepherd could duplicate the qualities of Christ Jesus the true bishop (overseer) and shepherd (pastor) of our souls."
Spiritual shepherd is a gift
to a body of believers. All ministry designations
are gifts chosen by God to mature the
body. There are a variety of ministry gifts,
the mentor, shepherd being one. The concept
of pastor as an office of the "church"
formal functions which have come into practice
in any fellowship so long as he ministers that
gift outside of the parameters of religious
formalism. The pastoral gift (mentor) will
possess the necessary compassion and wisdom
to minister hope, encouragement, wisdom and
strength to the flock. While being fully aware
that he does not hold the full potentiality
of certain other ministry gifts which must
come into function as needed.
The religious tradition of "Clergy and Laity" is not found in the Bible per se and must be examined in the light of Scripture. The practice no doubt made inroads into common practice through the doctrine of the five public ministry gifts (offices) described in Ephesians chapter 4. Throughout the apostolic letters we are told that mature men of God were to guide and direct and to maintain purity of doctrine and practices. These were to be overseers (Gr. presbuteros) of the local flocks of God. The intention was to keep the our faith and traditions accurate and steadfast, holding the Apostle's teaching as the model. What was written was written with the intention of providing mature guidance to the immature believers who were being discipled in the faith. We do however, find admonitions about those who would seek pre-eminence having control over the body of believers. See reference to Diotrephes in the 3rd Epistle of John; See references to the Nicolaitans doctrine in Revelations. Revelations 2:6
in faith and spiritual understanding is meant
to provide elders or overseers who it is assumed
have been properly tutored in examples of the
Spiritual life and to provide balance
and correction as necessary to assure that
true doctrine can be maintained and enforced
among the fellowship.
The Clergy-Laiety Doctrine Divides the body into disparate parts and becomes a barrier of formalism, thus standing in the way of true fellowship. "Do not call common those things that I have cleansed." (Jesus to Peter in Acts Chapter 10:15)
The Clergy-Laiety Doctrine Implies or teaches a superiority of rank among the Christian body; that the spirituality of the clergy is superior to those who are not formally credentialed or ordained. The Bible advances an important principle that "God is not a respecter of persons." (Peter speaking in Acts 10:34, and regarding Jesus in Matthew 22:16 and Mark 12:14)
The Clergy-Laiety Doctrine Presumes to teach that the status of the clergy is superior in terms of Spiritual authority. Jesus addressed a questioning pharisee," Why do you call me Good? There is none Good but one, God"(Luke 18:19; 1 of 3 references)"These signs shall follow those who believe, they shall - -"( Mark 16:17) The ability to minister with signs following gives no reference to role or leadership designation, just "believers."
The Clergy-Laiety Doctrine Suggests or implies that the ordinary believer can not be taught by God. Scriptures especially the Epistles relate how the Body (the church) was designed to edify itself through mutual nurture, all parts ministering life to one another. Mutual sharing through love grows the body. (Read Ephesians Chapter 4 pertaining to unity, edification and the mutual working of all the parts in the ministry gifts.- Ephesians 4:16.)
The Clergy-Laiety Doctrine Suggests or teaches that only the clergy minister. We are all made Kings and priests unto God. As we have shared in Scriptural references already given above and the additional Scriptures found in Revelations 1:6 and 5:10.)
The Clergy-Laiety Doctrine "God is not a respecter of persons." This is the statement Paul made regarding Peter, James and John, apostles who first questioned his Paul's assuming an apostolic ministry. (To understand the doctrine of respect of persons here are a few relevant scriptures, a few of many : Galatians 2:6; Romans 2:11; Acts 10:34; Ephesians 6:9; and James 2:1.)
The Clergy-Laiety Doctrine Impedes the work of the ministry and the Divine commission, wherein every believer is expected to be developed to minister. This is portrayed generally throughout all the epistles which are the council of God to every believer, and is enunciated in particular in the proper translation of Paul's letter to the Ephesians, Chapter 4, vss. 11, 12, 13. To suggest that ministry is limited to Clergy is a serious doctrinal error.
"Knowledge makes arrogant, love edifies."