CLERGY and LAITY TRADITION
THE CLERGY and LAITY TRADITION
Kingdoms of this world vs.
the Kingdom of God?
Where did the clergy and the laity doctrine
come from? Historical information chronicles
the transition of the first ekklesia to religion, (those
who are called out to believe are the church.) The apostles warned their
followers that men would eventually come in who would not follow the
way of truth, the faith presented by the apostolic founders. The Bible
epistles forewarn that men would come in to make merchandise of the
people of God. They would, through deception and twisting the truth,
turn the people to other gospels, another spirit or another Jesus. (2Corinthians
11:3) In my own experience of studying the word and watching religious
scenarios play out, I have observed how worldly values and methodology
gradually alter a Spiritual Christian life and practice. Jude exhorts
in his short epistle to contend for the faith first presented by the
apostles lest it be lost or corrupted. (Jude vs 3.)
In light of the gospel, we see a discontinuation from any order of priesthood. Remember that priests are people believed to have the authority to minister to God or receive knowledge from God on behalf of others who cannot go to God themselves. Following the reformation the priesthood was still seen as the proper function to serve a body of believers. It remains today in almost every church where there are pulpits and pews. "The ministry" as a clergy-centered activity must be viewed in the light of apostolic exhortations Peter tells us, "- - all those who have received the gift ought to minister that gift to one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. The "gift" is that which we partake of when we are called into the fellowship of God through the new birth. Those who are born of God are called to have a special function in the body. These gifts are of a variety which the entire body requires to be built up and matured. (Read Romans Chapter 12 and 1 Corinthians 12.) The need to address the need for real discipleship is the key. Leaders with knowledge and experience in the Word of truth, mature those who have just come out of the world to know and enter the God-formed life. Those who carry experience and knowledge of the word are called 'elders.' These elders should know the apostolic ways of God in order to protect the new believer from error. Believers are edified and grow through mutual sharing and testimony. Thus all participate in this edification of the body. Both those new to the faith and those with depth of knowledge are co- participants through koinonia (dialogue and freely sharing in a common assembly.) Where God is an active participant in the fellowship everything is for edification. A new testament fellowship meeting (koinonia) is described in 1 Corinthian Chapter 14.) An important aspect of a fellowship meeting which is entirely with formal structure is sharing testimonies. Testimonies build faith and encourage the new and seasoned believer alike. Sadly, where God is not allowed to be a participant their will few if any testimonies. Fellowship is to be without confusion and in good order with allowance for the Holy Spirit to guide and direct as Paul informs us in the above passage in 1Cor.14.
Priesthood by definition is any system in which a person (a leader or person of authority) intervenes with God on behalf of others. The revelation of the New Covenant Gospel points to a new dispensation: a priesthood of all believers. Further, in the book of Revelation, John receives a vision of the churches and among these we find reference to the doctrine of the Nicolaitins, (Rev.2:6) a doctrine that God despises. Nicolaitinism is a system in which a leader assumes control over a body of common believers and essentially take them captive, ruling over them and dispensing whatever teaching he deems necessary, making merchandise of the sheep. In my opinion, the priesthood fulfils the definination of Nicolaitin. Many cults such as Jim Jones of Jonestown fame, begin to function in accordance with this model. Pastors who exhert a stifling control over a congregation also fit this application.
We find it hard to compare the forms of worship and discipleship described in the epistles to that which we find in most formal church experiences known today. In the early days of the church there was no formalized ministry. There was apostolic leadership that brought the gospel, discipled believers and released them to lead and minister in their own communities. There were no theology schools, nor accrediting agencies to credential ministers but there was the active reliance upon the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Jesus which was promised to guide and equip believers in all matters of spiritual witness. The churches (ekklesia) consist only of believers who after being told the good news, have received the free gift of salvation, were discipled in matters of the Spiritual life through the ongoing revelation of the Son of God. Unbelievers are converted in the presence of the Holy Spirit working through the body. Believers are the disciples to whom it is given to experience the powers of the world to come, (The Kingdom of Heaven.) These first century believers were not taught in schools of theology, even as Christ was not schooled formally as were the Pharisees and doctors of the law. Yet, the saints of the first century experienced the mighty works of God on a day to day basis. All learned that Jesus (Yeshua) the Christ (Messiah) made it possible for any and all who believed to become adopted children of God. Believers in every generation became new creations through acknowledgment that Jesus' died for the sin of all humankind. With the empowerment of the Holy Spirit each were led to understand that they could partake in the exploits that replicated Jesus' ministry.
Power of God heralds a new status of humanity
the earliest days of the Christian faith the
question has been asked and must continue to
be asked, "Should we obey God or man?"
In order to distinguish between these two voices
something is required of us: To begin, each
of us must acknowledge that the Bible IS the
Word of Truth and trust it to be the single
valid source of truth and doctrine. Too few
in the modern world have actually discovered
this and believe it. Secondly it is required
of us to listen to the voice of inner witness
which God has given to all his children. Those
seeking truth will usually seek some expert,
theologian, or cleric explain to explain to
us what is written.
If any expert tells you, with assumed authority, that the gifts of the first century apostolic church have disappeared (doctrine of cessationism), do not believe them. Flea quickly any association from any such group or authority. As Jesus said addressed leaven of the Pharisees (religious traditionalists without spiritual understanding); who resisted the Holy Spirit. Matt 23: 15 "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel land and sea to win one proselyte, and when he is won, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves." (also see Revelation Chapter 8, Stephen's testimony of how the religious always withstand the Holy Spirit.)
We begin our spiritual path as spiritual infants who crave "the milk of the Word." Too many who God has called to be established as a new born child of God become polluted with religious doctrine. Our understandings can be poisoned and corrupted by evil doctrine. As a result, many receive the wrong Jesus, the wrong spirit, or the wrong gospel. (1 Corinthians,11;3) Discerning truth is a constant challenge.
Religion presents teachings or stipulations that become binding or obligatory upon the followers. Are we to question the teachings of traditional authorities? Yes, prove all teachings with scripture. Are we to question the doctrine of our church or church leadership? Yes, there are many in the pulpit, who are nothing more than "blind guides." Many who question will be shunned, or dismissed as heretical. Though we suffer condemnation it becomes the path to liberty.
In the New Testament texts, the word translated "ministry" is translated from service. The term ministry comes from Greek Diakonia. Thus ministry means to serve. Through the process of generations of religious practice, ministry has come to mean something else, something formal and liturgical. Gifts denoted experience and leadership become designated as a religious office.e.g. Pastor, Deacon, Bishop, or Cardinal. Within the context of "church house" practices, ministry has been defined and restricted to that which is done behind a pulpit and then only by the few with "credentials."
Believers are called Disciples and Saints
The Tradition of the Professional Clergy
There are some elements in the institutional church that are positive. These include social relationships and a place to receive teachings and moral precepts that are Biblical. But even in this light such deeper and more intimate relationships are limited and lack deeper levels of discipleship and growth in the knowledge of heavenly things. Institutional religion has remained a long standing stronghold and is resistant to change and resolute. Institutional religion in some ways is in descendency as numbers who participate gradually decline. But olld habits and traditions die hard. The inertia of centuries of social tradition is hard to alter.
have learned to accept without question, the
role of a professional clergy person. Many
of these men and women have wonderful natural
gifting. Many are brilliant communicators,
possessing compassion and dedication. These
will I believe, received their heavenly rewards
according to the fruitfulness in their calling.
Such who carry the love and zeal of God are
beloved by those who they touch or disciple.
The gift and calling of a Spiritual shepherd
is a gift to disciple the body. A pastoral
gift enables mentor-ship and , encouragement.
The pastoral call may just as easily minister
that gift outside of the parameters of religious
formalism. But this may be a call without a
salary or a congregation. The shepherding gift
forms caring relationships. It brings with
it a necessary compassion and wisdom to minister
hope, encouragement, wisdom to strengthen the
'flock.' Leadership is based upon experience
and depth of understanding of the Word of God
and the True Gospel. It should not be imagined
as a mere career calling. I know very few who
fit these criteria.
I believe that most in professional clergy presume their own pre-eminence owing to their credentials. It would be a great if people approved with seminary credentials would use as a doorway to service, to bless and to edify. Sadly these spiritual credentials are often turned into a tool of personal gain and control over others.
Examining The Clergy and the Laity
The Clergy-Laity doctrine divides the flock into two disparate parts. The good shepherd story described in John's gospel, chapter 10, describes the characteristics of a good shepherd. It lists among the virtues, intimacy and closeness of the shepherd to the flock. The shepherd knows each of his charges and calls them 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." Jesus Christ remains the true shepherd, the true bishop (overseer) and shepherd (pastor) of our souls."
Jesus modeled correct shepherding, in his ministry process of preaching, teaching and leading with care and compassion. The Lord demonstrated his Spiritual credentials with miracles, signs and wonders, and with deliverance from the demonic. To those who did not know of the Father's plan to extend the Kingdom of God he Preached the Gospel of the Kingdom; To his closest disciples, he gave more intimate insight and he taught them through dialogue of questions and answers. It was through dialogue with his closest disciples and associates that he expounded deeper truths and unraveled parables.
Jesus came and ministered with authority and yet with the meekness of a servant. He was a friend to sinners. He came to seek and to save and to serve. Modern church members tend to exalt leadership and place them on unrealistic pedestals and grant them unusual authority. Jesus taught us about those who lead: (Matthew 23) "Who is the greatest among you, Jesus said, shall be a servant to all." Moreover, Jesus instructed his own disciples not to place one man over others. He required that they were not to give titles to these 'masters' saying call no man master, No man teacher, No man father. This ought to qualify as a template by which to measure the character and role of those in the role of pastoral leadership.
BODY : Edified by a multiplicity of gifts
Guidance by Spiritually wise and experienced
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 designated overseers (Gr. presbuteros)
of the local flocks (fellowships) of God. These
bodies met in a form and place having no resemblance
to church houses that are the norm today.
In the early days of Christianity, elders, pastors, or overseers evolved into an office that assumed the whole responsibility of "ministry." This evolved into the clergy roles of today. Interesting things regarding the form of the early church are in evidence today revealing a return to New Testament forms of Koinonia, Ecclesia (Christians assembling together)
See recent publications by Frank Viola and George Barna, regarding the Open Church, etc.
Understanding Home Fellowships
Updated edit 07-09-2018