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Clericalism is killing the church
While there are many sincere and conscientious believers in pulpits who are labouring diligently in their calling, the unbiblical clergy/laity divide is killing the church.
First published 11/05/12
The following article is not - in the main - aimed at 'people'. What it is principally designed to do is highlight the damage that a system is doing to both 'clergy' and 'laity'.
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 1 Pet 2:9
We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. Rom 12:6
The one-man-band form of ministry is destructive for both those who occupy pulpits and those who sit in pews. (In fact the pulpit/pew architecture in our churches is a contradiction of what the Bible teaches.)
The dangers to clergy is that they are forced into a relative isolation from the rest of the congregation and can easily fall victim to overload and stress. They are also an easy target for spiritual attack. (How many manse families have suffer from this problem; and how many churches have been brought low if/when the pulpit person becomes ill, or falls from grace for one reason or another?)
Many clergy are obliged, by the position in which the church structures place them, to perform in roles which are outwith their gifting and calling. How many good preachers do not have pastoral gifting? And how many sensitive caring pastors do not have preaching abilities? And yet they are obliged to fulfil functions for which are beyond their callings.
With regard to the pews, what opportunity is given to believers to fully exercise their gifts and callings bestowed on them by the Lord? Additionally there is the great danger of become dependent on one person only to hear what the Lord is saying to the church. This becomes a huge problem if that person drifts away from the Lord.
Two great problems very often arise.
Scenario 1. The person in the pulpit is a Spirit-filled earnest honest-to-God preacher who repeatedly, but to no real effect, urges the congregation and every member of it to accept the responsibility and calling of Christ in the Great Commission in the situations and with the abilities which God has given them.
Result: A stressed-out, over-worked, frustrated pulpit person.
Scenario 2. A congregation is full of committed and gifted believers who are earnestly seeking to outwork their respective ministries but are offered no real scope to do so.
Result: A serious diminution of the work of extending the Kingdom and a suppression of the gifts and abilities which God has bestowed within the ministry of all believers. (In one of the worst-case scenarios, those who have returned from active missionary service are relegated to become passive observers on the back pews.)
Thankfully there are at least some who are honest enough to Scripture, acute enough to realise, and bold enough to say that the centuries-old system – which not even the Reformation corrected – is totally unbiblical, and is causing the most serious and lasting damage to the extension of the Kingdom of God, the saving of souls and the building up of the body of Christ.
One of these is Jon Zens.
Dr. Jon Zens has a wide-ranging theological background. He holds a B.A. in Biblical studies from Covenant College, a M.Div. from Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia, and a D.Min. from the California Graduate School of Theology.
For the last thirty years, Jon has been the editor of a magazine entitled Searching Together. He's not only a NT scholar, but he's an expert on church history. Jon also served as a pastor for a number of years, but moved on after concluding that full reformation within the existing institutional church system was unworkable.