Killing the Minister
One of the reasons that North American Christians have so frequently limited Christian commitment and faith to church gatherings is because of a concept, a concept I will refer to as “the minister.” In many Christian traditions there is in fact an individual who is referred to as “the minister.” This concept is deadly to a lifestyle sense of Christianity. I am not against the concept of ministers or even a concept of ordained ministers who have a special -- but not better -- role in the Body of Christ (i.e. that is a sacramental role).
What I am against is the concept that the essential ministry and mission of the Church is carried out principally, almost entirely, by one man (Though lately, thankfully, in many mainline denominations we could also say by one woman). Of course, we know this doesn’t literally (usually!) mean one man or woman, but that one person does the significant work while others assist. The rise of specialization in our society in the modern era has not helped this perception either. In age of certifications, advance degrees and specialized training courses, people are often led to believe that they can’t even breathe without having the proper credentials, certifying they have been trained by the experts (whose own breathing status is, in many peoples’ opinion, quite questionable).
Every Christian is called to “minister” in the sense of serving others in Christ’s name; in the sense of advancing the Kingdom of God by how they live and how they refuse to live; in the sense of passing on the faith to the next generation (their kids, but others as well); and so on. Yes, some are called to a particular role that supports this general calling of all Christians, that supports the gathered life of the Church, but the gathering ministers (bishops, priests, pastors, church staff, etc.) must always remember they are in the business of equipping and supporting other Christians for discipleship, ministry and mission in their daily lives. No one person or even special group of persons can accomplish the work of the Body of Christ all by themselves; it’s a team effort, through and through.
Growing up I had an interim pastor who was a strong proponent of the ministry of all Christians, especially the laity. Her notice in the bulletin (more typical now) “Ministers: The People of Saint Peters” was not met with universal acclaim. Not only is this shift from a ministerial person to a ministerial congregation often difficult for the laity to make, it is also often very difficult for clergy to make (most of us were trained to be lone rangers, see here for example). Both groups of people (and of course many protest at this division to begin with) have been trained to understand the Church’s life in a particular way, but we must ask, is this the Jesus way?
I am not an advocate for the removal of ordained ministry and my reasons are not entirely self-serving, so much as sacramental and Biblical (the priestly people of God need ministerial priests to remind them of who they are, priests are more symbols than mere functionaries, but I digress…for more of that click here, then click on May 22 "A priestly people").
How can we kill the minister and in the process bring life to a ministerial people of God?