Professional Ministry: An Oxymoron

“The idea of a distinction between clergy and laity is one of those extrabiblical human inventions that needs to be challenged and possibly even abolished altogether in believing communities. If, as the Apostle Peter claims, Christians are truly a Royal Priesthood then it seems that the very presence of a distinction between professional clergy and believing laity robs the “average” believer of his responsibility and calling to ministry in a local assembly through the use of his or her Spiritual gifts. Now I am aware that history happens and that it would be almost impossible to completely abolish any sort of “priestly” caste throughout the entire church but I am hopeful that communities within the emerging church, house church & organic church “movement” will begin to challenge this paradigm that – in my view – has vested too much power in the so-called clergy, thereby placing the burden of pastoral ministry that should be shared by an entire community on one person or a small group of persons. This over-burdening has two effects: first, it makes effective and relational ministry in churches nearly impossible because one person simply cannot embody every spiritual gift identified by Paul as beneficial and necessary for a functional Christian community. Second, it relieves “ordinary” Christians of the pastoral duties that they are called to embody by encouraging the truthless claim that the role of “pastor” should be embodied only by a formally trained and supposedly more fully gifted group of “called” and “equipped” pastoral elites.”

So says my friend and Duke seminarian Andrew Tatum in his blog today. Go here to read his entire thought-provoking post.

9 Responses to “Professional Ministry: An Oxymoron”

  1. 2 gccald October 16, 2007 at 8:21 pm

    I once read an entry in a Visitor’s Book in the hallway of a friend’s house: “Pastor David Rhimes” had been to visit. Why not just plain old “David Rhimes” I wondered?

    Mr Rhimes obviously thought “Pastor” was his title rather than a function or gift. The words of the Lord Jesus came to mind:
    “They love the best places at feasts, the best seats in the synagogues, greetings in the marketplaces, and to be called by men, ‘Rabbi, Rabbi.’ But you, do not be called ‘Rabbi’; for One is your Teacher, the Christ, and you are all brethren.

  2. 3 gccald October 16, 2007 at 8:22 pm

    I’ve changed the name to protect the guilty…

  3. 4 P.S. October 17, 2007 at 12:04 am

    Random question…

    If the church is a community of priests, for whom is it interceding?

  4. 5 zoecarnate October 17, 2007 at 4:12 am

    What a great story, Gccald!

  5. 6 Peter K Bell October 17, 2007 at 4:29 am

    Response to P.S.

    Jesus is the high priest forever in the order of Melchizedek, ever living to make intercession for us after the power of an endless life. By that priesthood he holds all things together, and energizes the establishment of the new creation, the kingdom of God on earth, through the transformation he is working by the power of his cross (eternal sacrifice) and the victory of his resurrection.
    Our New Testament priesthood is a participation in his eternal priesthood. In short, we are interceding for everything and everyone that exists or could possible exist in his kingdom.

    That’s pretty big–and plenty to keep us busy!

    Response to Andrew Tatum:

    Extremely well said, Andrew!

    Your insight into this is very sharp, and accurate.

    Here is a current example: I recently went on an Emmaus walk (sponsored by the United Methodist Church) and was greatly blessed by the abundant outpouring of love the whole time, and greatly angered and frustrated by the firmly entrenched distinction (reinforced by concrete and barbed wire, as it were) between “clergy” and “laity” at every turn.

    In sharp contrast, I just returned from an impartation session by a modern charismatic apostle, where all the gifts of the Spirit (including tongues, healing, discernment, miracles, wisdom & knowledge) were freely flowing among a group of liberated and empowered saints with no titles or positions. Even the apostle does not have a formal title or paycheck, and the prophets and teachers were free to minister as led by the Spirit wherever their ministry was being received.

    What a contrast! What a challenge!

    I pray that the Holy Spirit will continue to guide and teach you, and that He will show you in great depth and detail (as you grow) exactly what He wants you to do with the crystal clear insight He has given you by His grace.

    Peace in Jesus,

  6. 7 joeljohn May 25, 2011 at 1:22 am

    Many greetings in Jesus name, you are doing great efforts for His Kingdom and glory. I am prayer that God give you more power and strength to keep up the great works. I see your website and know about your ability and knowledge, and your love for Jesus. Every line is very important. I impress your knowledge and experience. I want tell you information our mission

    Faith. Hope. Ministry- base on Jesus education and spread Jesus message but we use different way.
    Basically we are service the Jesus and social actives in backward areas. And struggle to develop thought of the peoples, not only social, economic development but also we change old thought just like magic believe and unnecessary old custom As cruel on women, human violence We give true education of mankind, trust about Jesus and Holy Spirit, we believe one day we will change the backward areas and everyway see peace and love and every one worships and prayers Jesus’
    We are believe, love and only hope of Jesus but Jesus open many ways to incitation his mission and establish our courage. Jesus has selected you to proclaiming his name. And help the worries peoples. Please keep touch us in your prayer and helpfulness hand and you encourage to the ministry.
    Mail address

  1. 1 The Priesthood of All..? « zoecarnate Trackback on October 17, 2007 at 4:24 am
  2. 2 Housing Faith: The Priesthood of All..? | Mike Morrell Trackback on December 5, 2011 at 4:47 pm

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