A Warning from Wick
A Highland township of 7000 people is virtually minister-less and gives a fore-warning of a looming crisis elsewhere as a generation of preachers approach retirement. An article in Sword magazine outlines how the call of leaders is to train the body of believers to take up the work of ministry.
AS a post-war baby-boom of preachers and pastors approach retirement this demographic is posing a severe challenge regarding the building up of the people of God.
However there are other factors which have contributed to this growing problem which date back to the Reformation and even before it.
A crippling distortion
The so called 'Ministry of Word and Sacrament' is an invention which has no biblical authority, but it has become so entrenched over the centuries that it is has created a false perception at all levels within the body of Christ that the clergy/laity divide has a scriptural mandate.
In fact nothing can be further from the truth, but a 'critical comma' inserted by the translators of the King James Bible has (wrongly) taught that the five-fold giftings (given incidentally not so much to 'men' as to 'mankind' '– anthropos in the Greek) of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers each have a role and that the rest of the body are merely passive recipients of the formers' ministries. This has left the priesthood of all believers severely disabled in terms of exercising whole-body ministry when in fact all believers should become fully-equipped to perform works of service (i.e. ministry) irrespective of gender (for the majority of roles) and right across the age spectrum.
An article in the current edition of Sword magazine contains a short rhyme which the late Rev. David Watson used to cite to illustrate the problem:
'The vicar is late, he's forgotten the date,
so what are the people to do – poor things?
They'll sit in the pew with nothing to do,
but sing a selection of hymns – poor things.
The rhyme encapsulates a situation which is prevalent throughout the church of a man-dependant and hopelessly passive body of disciples which is, in total contrast, called by the founder of the church to undertake the Great Commission in a fully-orbed fashion.
The term 'vacant' can properly be used of car parking lots, apartment blocks, conference rooms and facial expressions but is totally inappropriate to be used within the body of Christ. Every single believer has a gift (of one type or another) which should be fully employed in the power of the Holy Spirit and under the oversight of the local church to the winning of souls and the extension of the Kingdom of God.