I believe we have developed an informal priesthood.
What we see in the early church is the priesthood of all believers. It is taught directly in 1 Peter 2. It is modeled in Acts, especially Acts 8, where the everyday people scattered and preach the word and the church grew.
Now, there are tasks that God assigns to specific people like Paul and Barnabas in Acts 13. There are different roles like elder that not everyone fills. That is to be expected. However, what I believe we have unintentionally communicated is that many of the responsibilities of ministry fall on the shoulders of the few rather than the many.
The many watch. The few do.
That is job security for those of us in professional ministry…but is it best? I really don’t think it is. Again, I am not saying this was done intentionally, however, I believe we are seeing the effects of it in low expectations of the many that has resulted in anemic Christians who are not growing on to maturity. Not universal – but prevalent.
Was this caused by adopted a business model for church? Like in so many other areas of our lives, we professionalized and complicated ministry. Complicated ministry requires a high degree of competency and training to pull off. It used to be possible to work on your car at home. With all the computers and complication, that is getting increasingly difficult. The same is true with ministry. Churches want someone with a degree and so many years of experience to fill the role. I get it. It makes sense to a degree. We need to consider the advantages of that approach (solid teaching from someone who has a solid understanding of the scriptures, original languages, etc that you won’t get without someone taking years to be trained) and the negatives of that approach (that many in the congregation will take it upon themselves to take a back seat, give their contribution, and let the professional profess).
1 Corinthians 12 and Ephesians 4 make it clear that the members of the body are in the body to do work. When the whole body functions at full capacity we will have healthy churches.
Here are a few things we can do and no, I am not saying you should fire your minister. They haven’t done anything wrong. We can have quality ministers while also engaging the whole body of Christ in ministry.
1 – Raise expectations for the members of the congregation. Tell them specifically what is desired for the members – to be involved in ministry, give of their time, etc (be concrete and realistic of people’s time but don’t be silent on this).
2 – Identify and affirm gifts. Some people don’t how God has gifted them for ministry.
3 – Make the on-ramp to serve easily accessible and obvious. People shouldn’t have to talk to a dozen people or wait 6 months to volunteer.
4 – The elders and ministers need to be in tune with the flock. When they see people not maturing, stagnating, etc they can walk alongside and encourage.
What would you add to the list?