I think it’s safe to say that the Church has historically struggled with what many have dubbed “the clergy/laity split.” It’s a caste system of sorts, one that elevates those who preach, teach and sing whilst relegating everyone else to the level of minions who provide the money and the labor force needed to support those with a “higher calling.” It’s biblical authority/leadership gone horribly wrong, and its effects are more widespread than we probably realize…
You see, in the past, I think the clergy were the ones emphasizing this “split” as a means of propping up themselves and their agendas. It was like Red Bull for the pastoral ego: “I have a higher calling!” I am in NO position to claim that members of the clergy aren’t still doing this today (safe money says we are), however, it does seem like more and more support for the clergy/laity split is coming from, of all places, the laity! That’s right, some of the people who have been conditioned to believe that pastors are smarter, more spiritual, and benefactors of a higher calling in life, are now shockingly happy to go along with these silly claims. If I’m going to be completely (and foolishly) honest, this development among the saints is exasperating to me, but before I can tackle that, I need to go to the source: the preachers.
Wherever there’s smoke, there’s fire, right? Well, wherever there’s sin, there’s usually another sin somewhere behind it – a fire behind the smoke. This nonsense about pastors being ministers is rooted in ignorance and it’s about time we own up to it. Ephesians 4 describes pastors not as ministers but as “equippers” of the ministers, who happen to be, the saints. We created a religious system that was the exact opposite of God’s design! I suggest that this reversal of fortune is rooted in our insecurity as men of God. Our identity got caught up in our titles and roles when it should’ve always been in Christ and his redemption. Whatever we create, we’re now obligated to sustain, and we’ve been sustaining this clergy/laity system with delusions of a “higher calling.” Pastors we need to repent of looking to our education, our titles, or our performance as a source of confidence! Even if I did have a “higher calling,” it’s not like any of those things would’ve qualified me for it!
But now I’m encountering the flip side of this unfortunate development: laity who like this divide and don’t want to be bothered with things like Bible study, fellowship and corporate gatherings that inconvenience them. These professional laypeople want to relegate the heavy spiritual lifting to the clergy. They like the idea of two categories of believers: serious/intense saints who study and pray and are always focused on God’s work, and the “normal” everyday folks who live good lives and show up on Sunday mornings. The problems with this are many, but I’ll start here. There’s only supposed to be one kind of Christian, those whom he “predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son.” (Romans 8:29 ESV)
If we’re not passionate about discovering Jesus and learning him through the Scriptures, I think this reveals a serious health issue. If we’re not generally excited to fellowship (Bible-talk for spending time together in a meaningful way) with our brothers and sisters in Christ, there’s a serious health problem. If the idea of gathering with other believers during the week is off-putting, it’s not your personality, it’s a crisis of faith! If our worship gatherings are on a timer, we’re not lacking an appropriate attention span, we’re lacking passion. If we relieve our conscience or defend ourselves by arguing that some or all of what I’ve mentioned above is for pastors and not for normal people, we’ve bought into the lie of the clergy/laity split.
I’m of the mindset that says let’s just call a spade a spade. Let’s stop with the “only human” nonsense – that’s an insult to the way our Maker intended us to be (don’t blame him!). In the same way that it’s time for preachers like myself to confess that my calling and value in the Body of Christ is no greater than the next person’s, it’s time for ALL of us to confess our carnality, our immaturity and our lack of “Genesis 1-humanity” when it comes to our attitudes and feelings about being conformed to the image of Jesus. We need to stop hiding behind our “humanity” or our membership in the laity and mature! Working in the marketplace matters as much as preaching, and this is why the worker needs to study as much as the preacher!
“…they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.”
~Acts 17:11-10 ESV