Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Pulpit Vs. Pew

Do you think that there should be a distinction between clergy and laity?
In general, do ministers create an artificial distinction between clergy and laity in the way their lives are lived?
Is this distinction a perception or a reality?
Do ministers need to change their perceptions as to eliminate the distinction in their own minds?
If so, how can they do this?
Do other members of the church need to change their perceptions as to eliminate the distinction in their own minds?
If so, how can they do this?

What do you think?
Share your thoughts.


Blogger japhy said...

I think 1 Cor 12 challenges us to accept that God calls us to different vocations in our lives. All throughout the New Testament are examples of a hierarchy of the faithful -- not of their worth, but of their particular role in the body of the faithful.

Jesus chose the Apostles. The Apostles chose Deacons to minister to the widows and the poor when it was realized there was neglect of that duty (Acts 6:1-6). The Ethiopian eunuch needed assistance to understand Scripture, and God sent Philip to aid him (Acts 8:26-40). Paul writes of bishops (1 Tim 3:1-3; Titus 1:7-9) and presbyters (or elders) (1 Tim 4:14, 5:17; Titus 1:5-6) and deacons (1 Tim 3:8-13). Even James (James 5:14-15), Peter (1 Pet 5:1,5), and John (2 John 1:1; 3 John 1:1) refer to the presbyterate. Peter makes it clear that there are presbyters among you (that is, of the faithful, some are set apart to the presbyterate) and that the laity should be subject to them because a presbyter is charged by God with a flock, to tend to it eagerly and willingly, not for shameful gain, being an example for them (1 Pet 5:1-3).

Paul writes of performing the priestly service of the Gospel of God (using the words leitourgos (whence comes liturgy) and hierourgeo) of preaching the Gospel (Rom 15:16). These roles (the bishopric, the presbyterate, and the diaconate) are distinct from what Peter calls a holy ... royal priesthood (1 Pet 2:5,9), which is the title for all the children of God who serve and worship Him.

I think hierarchy is necessary as part of our human nature. Even if you were to say there is no hierarchy and we're all on equal footing, you eventually split into the majority and the minorities (a hierarchy).

Now, as to what to make of the distinction between clergy and laity, I think Scripture implores the leaders in the Church to be examples and models for the faithful. James warns teachers that they will be scrutinized more closely by others (James 3:1). Jesus condemned the attitude of the Pharisees of teaching properly but acting improperly. But the clergy should never be regarded as unapproachable or aloof, for the Chief Shepherd gathers his lambs in his arms, and was not afraid to suffer their condition for their sake.

To the man given ten talents, let him invest and make his return to the Lord. To the man given five, the same. To the man given one, let him not make counterfeit talents out of envy and pride, lest he be punished for dishonesty and imposture.

I'll close my comments with a caveat and a passage of Scripture: I am not a minister, ordained or otherwise, I have no degree in Theology or Divinity... although I am seriously considering both qualifications (the Permanent Diaconate a couple decades from now, and a Theology degree less distant than that). I have tried to keep my personal views subject to Scripture and the Church. And now for something completely different... a man with a letter to the Corinthians:

Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, then healers, helpers, administrators, speakers in various kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? ~ 1 Cor 12:27-30

8:23 AM  
Blogger Tim Archer said...

I have a different take than the previous commentator. While there are differences in gifts, I think we've made way too much of the "professional preacher."

You know:
"Somebody came forward; get the preacher up there."
"Our preacher is going to be out of town; better bring in a minister."
Or the idea that for a funeral, better the preacher that didn't know the person than the friend who "isn't a minister."

Grace and peace,
Tim Archer

8:43 AM  
Blogger Darin L. Hamm said...

I think there is a distinction as japhy states. I think at times we make too much out of that, different role's don't mean one is better or more important.

I also have no place for hierarchy in church. I believe that is a cultural assumption we read back into the text. The role is different and unique and is due honor but we make more out of it at times than we should.

2:23 PM  
Blogger Josh said...

I think the distinction between clergy & laity makes for a lonely clergy much of the time.

2:31 PM  
Blogger japhy said...

darin: "I also have no place for hierarchy in church. I believe that is a cultural assumption we read back into the text."

What particular elements of hierarchy do you think we read into the text? Bishops, presbyterates (or elders), and deacons are clearly attested from Scripture. Flocks need shepherds: while Jesus is the Chief Shepherd, he gave Peter the command to shepherd his (Jesus's) sheep as well. There's hierarchy between husband and wife, and that's just two people. Why wouldn't there be a hierarchy in an assembly of hundreds or thousands?

Should a church let anyone minister or preach or preside who wants to? Is there not some measure of aptitude? A time for discernment? Where does the hierarchy in churches today stem from? Hierarchy in the past. So where did this hierarchy start? Was it a mistake on the part of the Apostles, the early Church, whom?

3:33 PM  
Blogger Laymond said...

can't we all just get along

3:57 PM  
Blogger Alan said...

I like Laymond's comment.

One man draws a salary from the church and another does not. But a person's role should depend on his gifts, his character, and his service -- not on the source of his income.

4:47 PM  
Blogger Neva said...

From a women's point of view:
God calls us all to be ministers, but not all of us can be preachers.
We should each minister according to our gifts and assignments.
The attitude is the problem. Having preacher does not give us an excuse to not study (after all we can always call the preacher to find out what "we" believe.) nor does if give the preacher an excuse to look down on others, feeling he is the authority. We are all in this together--walking toward heaven.
Just a thought,

9:58 PM  
Blogger Darin L. Hamm said...


I’m glad you have asked me to clarify my point. It seems it has caused some unintended issues. For that I apologize.

Now, my understanding of hierarchy is a system of ranking, people over other people etc.

Is the assumption that to have bishops, elders, deacons this must mean hierarchy? Is it really people over people?

I have trouble thinking that when Jesus said this, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many,." that he was thinking hierarchy.

Throw in the fact the Deacons in Acts were given full authority to make decisions, no one to check in with, just get it done so we aren’t bothered with it, the fact that in Acts 15 the entire church along with the apostles and elders ratified and that in other places Paul in his writings places responsibility for decisions and actions with the church not elders or bishops and I think we have roles without hierarchy.

Again, I apologize for not being clearer, it was not my intention to cloud the discussion. Thanks for the opportunity to clarify.

10:52 PM  
Blogger japhy said...

darin: "Is the assumption that to have bishops, elders, deacons this must mean hierarchy? Is it really people over people?"

Well, if there's no hierarchy, then it's just people with titles and people without titles. The ordained have privileges and permissions that the laity do not. That doesn't make them "better", but it makes them different. And those privileges (and responsibilities) involve preaching and ministering to the entirety of the flock.

If we are to defer to the interpretation and teaching of our clergy, they are our superiors. If we are not required to defer to them, then we're all bishops and presbyters as we see fit. And then we'll each have our own little Church of Me, congregation of one.

I agree that the clergy should not be infatuated with their position and inflate themselves with authority. That's not the idea of servitude Jesus had in mind. But those with responsibility must avoid the two extremes of passive servitude and abuse of power.

11:32 PM  
Blogger Josh said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

5:22 PM  
Blogger Jenni said...

Every Christian should strive to live the best example they can, but people who are held up as public examples should especially be careful and concious of what their words and behaviors tell others about Christ. James 3:1 tells us not to take teaching lightly, because teachers will be judged more strictly, and Paul writes (I Cor. 11:1) about how his life is what people will follow as a living sermon and that adhereing to Christ's teachings is important, because if you aren't following Christ the people who follow you will either stop, and it's hard to lead those who won't follow, or more likely they will follow you down the wrong path, then you, as the teacher, are responsible for the lessons your life has taught. So, yeah, pay attention to what your words and actions, your marriage, your music, your use of your free time, and your life is teaching people about Christ.

3:39 PM  
Blogger Matt said...

I think if we would be more equippers rather than the only ones doing anything it wouldn't seem like there was so much of a division. It is so much easier just to do things yourself rather than teach someone else that we end up doing all the work. We bring some of it on ourselves and the rest from members who aren't willing to try new things or just want to be comfortable.

3:59 PM  
Blogger Royce Ogle said...

The distinction is simple and easy if you only remember this; The difference has nothing to do with worth, it is only about roles.

To say there is no difference between people who have given their lives full time to ministry and those who for the most part only fill a pew on Sunday is wrong.

Again, there is no difference in their worth to God, only in the roles He has place them in.

Grace and Peace,
Royce Ogle

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