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Posts Tagged ‘Clergy-Laity System

“God Called Me To Be A Pastor”

When I was in my last year of high school, I was right where most high school seniors are in terms of their future.  I didn’t know what to do.  I wanted to go to college but even that was not easy.  My sister had attended a Lutheran university that was very liberal and a very sinful campus but I thought I wanted to attend there and perhaps try out for the baseball team.  The other part of me wanted to attend a Bible college in Florida.  In the end, because of money and time, I ended up at a local Bible college in my area (a fact I am still paying on years later!).  I graduated four years later with a BA in Bible with a minor in youth ministries.

Prior to all this, I thought the youth pastor life was excellent.  I mean you get to serve God in a local church, work with teenagers, play goofy games, go to concerts, youth retreats, camps, etc. all for the glory of the King. My youth pastor made it look fun and easy so I begin to pray about being “called into ministry.”  In my mind, I thought a light would shine around me and I would hear the voice of God telling me He needed me in His service.  I prayed and prayed for God to show me His will and to reveal to me His calling into the ministry.  And finally that day came.  No lights.  No smoke.  No glory.  No voice.  Just me reading 1 Timothy 1:12 and deciding that the Lord was indeed calling me into the “ministry.”  When the high school year books came out, I would write some message and always sign my name with 1 Timothy 1:12 under it.  This was my calling into the ministry.

They say that you must be called to preach.  I have been in youth meetings where the evangelist would say that this many got saved and this many were called to preach.  I am not sure how “called to preach” works other than people go by subjective experience to determine if they are called to preach.  Even cessationists that I know believe that God called them to preach.  When you ask them how, they typically reply in experiential terms such “Well, I couldn’t picture myself doing anything else but serving God in full-time ministry.”  Most evangelical pastors will give you their testimony of their “calling to preach” and many can name the date and time when God called them to preach.

A couple of things about this.  First, there is nothing in the New Testament to suggest that God calls men to preach.  In fact, the Bible calls all disciples to preach (Matthew 28:19-20; Mark 16:15-16; Luke 24:47).  The Bible says that we all have been given this ministry (2 Corinthians 5:18-21).  1 Timothy 1:12, that I used back when I believed in this subjective experience, is Paul the Apostle’s own testimony to His calling.  Paul’s calling was unique (Acts 22:21).  Not one person in the New Testament can be shown to having been “called to preach” unless you twist the experiences of Paul the Apostle to make them fit your own.

Secondly, as a person who now works in the “secular” workforce, I find it offensive that I am not called to preach the gospel while a full-time, professional clergy is.  In fact, I would argue that people in the “secular” workplace preach more often than clergy.  I get to be around lost people all the time.  I get to share the gospel all the time.  When I was in full-time ministry, I could go days without talking to a lost person and had no real relationships with lost souls.  When I was in full-time ministry, my focus was always on Christians.  Now that I am no longer called (in terms of the clergy calling), I serve God more now with lost sinners than before.  The Bible is clear that we are all called (1 Peter 2:9-10).  Romans 8:29 tells us that all disciples are called.

The calling to leadership is a different story in the New Testament.  In fact, the leaders just lead.  In Acts 14:23 we read that the Apostles appointed elders.  My question is how did they know who the elders were?  Notice also that they appointed elders after leaving the saints and then coming back.  They didn’t preach the gospel, baptize disciples and then appoint elders all at the same time.  They allowed the Spirit of God to work in the lives of the disciples and the Spirit raised up the elders.  The apostles merely appointed whom the Spirit had already chosen (Titus 1:5).  In other words, leaders in the New Testament Church were already doing the work of the minister without official appointment.  They were serving already (1 Peter 5:1-4).

In our day, a person must have a subjective call to the ministry.  They go to Bible college or seminary and then come back to serve in a church.  None of this is found in the New Testament.

I don’t doubt that godly men love the Lord and want to serve Him.  I just question the “call” to ministry.  It seems very shaky to me, lacks biblical support, and hinders the other saints who serve God in “secular” jobs by making them feel they are not called to preach when in fact they are.  Instead of disciples going out and making disciples, people falsely believe that the pastor is to build the church and we bring people to our churches for the pastor to convert them, teach them, train them, etc.  This is not based on the Scriptures.  Disciples serving God in every area of life is better by far (1 Peter 4:10-11).

One final point about this.  I am not seeking to demean those who truly want to serve God as a pastor (shepherd).  I don’t doubt that many do take serious their passion for God, for His Church, for His Word.  I don’t doubt that godly men have served God faithfully in the local church.  I am simply trying to help us to see that the priesthood of the saints is a vital doctrine.  All of us, because of Christ, are called to serve Him and can approach the throne of God through Him (Hebrews 4:14-16).  The entire church can serve God and should serve God (1 Corinthians 12:7).  Christ is head of His Church (Colossians 1:18) and all of us who are His disciples can serve Him for His glory.  I fear that this is lost when we place emphasis on “Christian ministry” calling versus “secular job” calling.  All of us are to serve God where we are because all of us who are true disciples of Jesus are His temples (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).

Written by The Seeking Disciple

08/19/2014 at 12:00 PM

Biblical Leadership

In my previous post I wrote on the amazing lack of leadership we see in the New Testament Church.  I pointed out that the church at Corinth was full of problems yet Paul dealt with the entire church rather than writing to a single pastor (“lead pastor” in our day) or even a group or board.  He wrote  to the entire church (1 Corinthians 1:2).  Out of twenty-seven New Testament books, only Philippians opens with a reference to leaders and that only after Paul greets the saints first (Philippians 1:1).  Not one book in the New Testament is addressed to one leader other than Timothy and Titus who were not singular pastors but apostles.

My point in all this is not to deny that there are leaders in the Church.  Ephesians 4:11-16 is clear that there are gifted saints given to the Church to help her.  1 Timothy 3:1-13 and Titus 1:5-9 are clear about elders and deacons in the Church.  In Acts 20:17 Paul called the leaders of the church at Ephesus to himself.  Hebrews 13:7, 17 mention leaders.  1 Peter 5:1-4 mentions elders.  It is obvious that leaders are there in the Church but they simply don’t play the prominent role that they do in the modern institutional church.  In the modern church, the pastors are the leaders and they play the most prominent roles.  Who’s name is on the marquee?  It is not the janitor.  It is not the prayer leaders.  It is the senior pastor.  The senior pastor casts the vision, gets the most money from the church, sets up the budgets, visits the sick, prays, preaches, etc.

By the way, in passing, the pastorate also has the single highest burnout rate.  Consider the following stats:

13% of active pastors are divorced.
23% have been fired or pressured to resign at least once in their careers.
25% don’t know where to turn when they have a family or personal conflict or issue.
25% of pastors’ wives see their husband’s work schedule as a source of conflict.
33% felt burned out within their first five years of ministry.
33% say that being in ministry is an outright hazard to their family.
40% of pastors and 47% of spouses are suffering from burnout, frantic schedules, and/or unrealistic expectations.
45% of pastors’ wives say the greatest danger to them and their family is physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual burnout.
45% of pastors say that they’ve experienced depression or burnout to the extent that they needed to take a leave of absence from ministry.
50% feel unable to meet the needs of the job.
52% of pastors say they and their spouses believe that being in pastoral ministry is hazardous to their family’s well-being and health.
56% of pastors’ wives say that they have no close friends.
57% would leave the pastorate if they had somewhere else to go or some other vocation they could do.
70% don’t have any close friends.
75% report severe stress causing anguish, worry, bewilderment, anger, depression, fear, and alienation.
80% of pastors say they have insufficient time with their spouse.
80% believe that pastoral ministry affects their families negatively.
90% feel unqualified or poorly prepared for ministry.
90% work more than 50 hours a week.
94% feel under pressure to have a perfect family.
1,500 pastors leave their ministries each month due to burnout, conflict, or moral failure.
Doctors, lawyers and clergy have the most problems with drug abuse, alcoholism and suicide.

That is pretty telling.  And why do pastors feel this way?  Why the struggles?  Some would argue because Satan opposes them.  I would concur but I would also argue that they are doing something God has not given them to do in His Word.  Again, the modern pastorate is missing from the New Testament.

Biblical leadership is very different.  Consider the Lord Jesus who set the example of leadership.  Jesus said that He came to serve (Mark 10:45) and Jesus told His own disciples not to lord it over one another as the Gentiles leaders do (Matthew 20:20-28).  Jesus’ example was service (John 13:1-17).  Peter the Apostle tells us that elders are to be examples to the flock under the control of the Chief Shepherd (1 Peter 5:3).  Notice also that Peter tells the elders to shepherd the flock among you (1 Peter 5:2) and not under them.  The elders themselves were part of the sheep.  This was not a clergy-laity division.

I believe that we have lost the understanding that the Holy Spirit is in control of His Church.  We tend to think that we need a pastor to lead us.  We have a pastor in Jesus (John 10:14) and we can hear His voice (John 10:27).  Jesus leads His Church by His Word that everyone can hear Him speak from (John 8:47).  God is still speaking to His people (Hebrews 12:25).  He speaks to all of us by His Word (2 Timothy 3:16-17).  While I do agree that we need godly teachers to teach us His Word (Ephesians 4:11; James 3:1), all of God’s saints have equal right to come to the Word of God and feed off it.  We don’t need to wait for the Bible teacher for the Spirit to teach us.  Further, the elders are our examples (Hebrews 13:7) and not as lords over us.

How radically different the church would look if elders led the saints by their examples and the entire church worked together for the kingdom of God!  Imagine 1 Corinthians 14:26 being worked out in your local church.  Could it be done or would the professional pastors halt it?  The New Testament has 52 “one another” passages.  Can your church obey those?  Or is your church’s traditions (professional pastors for example) robbing the word of God of its power (Mark 7:1-13)?

My prayer is that God will raise up godly leaders who serve among us.  The Lord is going great things through His Church all over the world and I rejoice in that!  I rejoice that souls are being saved and the Lord is opening eyes to the truth that He can faithfully lead His bride.  I pray that many godly pastors will search the Scriptures and will transition from the Catholic model of leadership to the biblical model of leadership.

For more information on biblical leadership, I recommend the website: New Testament Reformation Foundation.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

08/18/2014 at 10:50 AM

How The Clergy-Laity System Prevents Biblical Doctrine

In our day, pragmatism reigns.  Leonard Ravenhill use to say that if you let him hear a man preach for five minutes, he could tell you what books the man had been reading.  Sadly, brother Len was right.  I watch as pastor after pastor copies other pastors (usually over success more than character) and they seek to imitate the latest large church growth fads.  In our area, they copy the large seeker churches in hopes they their churches will someday be as large as those churches.  Pastors sit and dream of pastoring large mega-churches with satellite campuses all over the city.  Oh yes, they would gladly say that this is their passion for Jesus to be known and for souls to be saved but most of it is pride and money.

I know I am making some large blanket statements there.  I will begin up front by saying that I am thankful to God that I get to serve Him by driving a truck.  I am surrounded by lost guys.  I am daily getting to know lost sinners and I long to see them saved.  For me, my motivation has nothing to do with building a church or getting their money.  I just want to see souls saved.  I want 2 Corinthians 2:14-17 to be true of me.  I pray that there are many others out there like me.

On the other side are professional pastors.  I once was there myself.  I worked full time in the “ministry” for just over 10 years.  I don’t regret leaving it behind.  In fact, I now serve the Lord better than when I was in full-time “ministry.”  For professional clergy, ministry is both a blessing and a curse.  I don’t doubt that many go into ministry with their hearts set on pleasing the Lord.  Most, including myself, start out with pride being their biggest struggle.  Over time (and many failures), they see that they better trust in Christ or their will indeed fail.  Few reach the level of success that many of the seeker churches have obtained but sadly, the drive to build a big church turns many pastors toward seeker churches.  Seeker churches are driven by pragmatism.  What reigns in a seeker church is not the Word of God but a conviction that the church is for the lost.  The seeker church is designed to attract and keep the “unchurched” coming.  The “sermons” are designed to keep your attention, the music service is full of lights, smoke, flare, and shallow songs designed to keep you excited and coming.  Everything rotates around the conviction that church needs to be cool and attractive.  There is little to no emphasis on verse by verse teaching of the Bible, little to no emphasis on sound doctrine, little to no emphasis on creating an environment of evangelism and prayer.  Instead the focus is singular: the consumer.

For quickly, a biblical understanding of the church is that the church is composed of disciples who meet to build each other up (Hebrews 10:24-25).  If you read 1 Corinthians 14:26 and then consider most churches, few to none actually obey the text.  In most churches, the pastors do everything.  You might have a music pastor, a youth pastor, a children’s pastor, a senior pastor (or the new phrase is “lead pastor”).  They do all the “ministry” of 1 Corinthians 14:26.  The thought of “each one” doing this is unheard of unless you are in a small setting.  A house church can accommodate this text.  The church is to come together to edify each other and in turn the saints are equipped (Ephesians 4:11-16) to do the work of the ministry.  The church goes out to spread the gospel (Matthew 28:19; Mark 16:15-16; Luke 24:47; John 20:21; Acts 1:8; 2 Corinthians 5:18-21) and does not sit waiting on people to come to them.  1 Corinthians 12:13 is clear that only disciples compose the church.  I heard one brother put it this way, “In the Old Testament, God gave the world Israel and said ‘Come and see’ but in the New Testament, He gave the world the church and said, ‘Go and tell.'”  The Church is not a building as in the Old Testament where God met with His people at His chosen place (Deuteronomy 14:23) but the Church is wherever saints of God meet.  It could be a house.  It could be an office building.  It could be a field.  It could be in a prison.  God is not limited by a building.

I believe the modern pastorate hurts the spread of sound doctrine in many ways.  Pastors struggle with busy schedules as is and yet one man is told to build the church when this is not found in the Bible.  Not one singular pastor is found in the Bible but Jesus Christ (John 10:14).  Jesus is the single head of His Church (Colossians 1:18).  On most churches, they oddly put the name of one person and that is the pastor.  I have often wondered why they only choose one person to place on the name of the marquee.  Why not other gifted people in the church?  Further, where is just one pastor in the Bible?  The word “pastor” only occurs in most English Bibles in Ephesians 4:11 but even there it is not a good translation. The ESV correctly translates it “shepherd” for that is the Greek word used here.  Jesus is called “the chief shepherd” in 1 Peter 5:4.  While it would not be a good translation, one could substitute “pastor” for “shepherd” in John 10:14 or 1 Peter 2:25 or 1 Peter 5:4 and one can see that Jesus is our pastor, He is the lead pastor.

People in churches such as this one above look to one person to lead the church: the pastor.  They don’t look to the Bible per se or to the Spirit to lead them (as He did in Acts 13:2) but to the vision of the pastor.  The pastor, for better or worse, leads them to where he wants to go.  Some pastors do well and lead the church toward Christ and His kingdom.  Others push their own agenda (or usually someone else’s agenda that they admire).  What all pastors rely on is the money of the people and this can be a tough issue.  Some pastors are controlled by a board of deacons or an elder board.  Some pastors have a big giver in the church who controls them.  Other pastors have to be bi-vocational but long for the day that they can work full time in the “ministry.”

Now let me change that all up for you.  Suppose there were no pastors.  What would the church look like?  It would not go away as some quickly think.  Consider the book of Acts.  There were no full-time pastors in the New Testament Church and they did just fine.  Not once in the New Testament is one pastor referred to.  Only once does a book of the New Testament even begin by mentioning leaders and that is Philippians and they are mentioned only after Paul addressed the saints first.  In our day, a letter to a church would always begin by addressing the senior pastor and no one would think of writing a church in our day and never mention the leaders but only one book out of twenty-seven New Testament books evens begin by mentioning the leaders.  The lack of leadership is what is amazing in the New Testament books.  It was as if the Spirit of God was really leading His Church.

The book of 1 Corinthians is a case study unto itself.  Here is a sinful church.  A church that is divided, that has much sin going on in it and much chaos.  Yet Paul the Apostle never addresses the leaders.  He never mentions that leaders should bring the Corinthians under their control.  He never writes to pastors.  He never addresses the elders.  Instead, he calls the church to take care of these issues.  The church as a whole is to do the work.  In our day, we would expect Paul to address the senior leadership and tell them to do this or that to get the Corinthians back in line yet Paul never does this.  He calls them all to repent and take care of the church themselves.  In our day, we look to the pastors to do everything, to take care of problems.  Not so in the New Testament Church!

This view of mine is not to scare pastors.  I know some pastors will feel threatened and they fear having to go and get a “secular” job.  I remember those fears myself.  I actually want to free you pastors.  Not a day goes by that I don’t rejoice that I am not in the ministry anymore.  Yet I praise God that I work a “secular” job that allows me to serve Jesus and not be controlled be a clergy-laity system.  I can preach what I want to preach and not fear that someone is going to get mad and leave.  I can evangelize as I desire without fear of scarring off people who might attend.  I work for 50 hours or more a week, receive my compensation for my work, and then I serve the Lord both on my job and off.  I never fear of losing my position in the “ministry.”  I never fear of having to make church attractive for the lost.  I never worry about having to compete with other churches.  I have one focus: on living a life that honors the Lord (1 Peter 1:15-16).  I am not controlled by money.  I am not controlled by a denomination.  I want to be like the Apostles who called themselves “slaves of Christ” (Romans 1:1 etc.).  A slave doesn’t expect much (Luke 17:7-10).

Traditional pastors have to worry about money.  About people.  About boards.  About programs.  About fads.  About what to preach and what not to preach.  About how not to offend people.  About how much time to devote to family, to prayer, to the Word and yet still pastor people.  About competition with other churches.  About whether the small crowd this Sunday will mean less money.  About how to leave the ministry and make a living.

And none of that is based on the New Testament.

For more information on all this, I encourage you to read Frank Viola’s excellent book, Reimagining Church.  

Written by The Seeking Disciple

08/17/2014 at 11:24 AM

The Levites: Picture of the NT Saints (Part Two)

In my previous post on the Levites, I noted the promises that God gave to them about Him being their lot, Him being their portion.  God Himself said that the Levites were to be consecrated unto Him (Numbers 3:11-13).  The Lord told the children of Israel that the Levites were to be His priests to approach Him on their behalf (Numbers 3:5-10).

Deuteronomy 18:1-2 was clear about the Levites and the Lord being their portion:

“The Levitical priests, all the tribe of Levi, shall have no portion or inheritance with Israel. They shall eat the Lord’s food offerings as their inheritance. 2 They shall have no inheritance among their brothers; the Lord is their inheritance, as he promised them.

When the children of Israel finally entered into the promise land, the Levites did not inherit the land as God would again be their portion.  Joshua 13:14 reads,

To the tribe of Levi alone Moses gave no inheritance. The offerings by fire to the Lord God of Israel are their inheritance, as he said to him.

How does this picture the NT saint?

First, we are chosen in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 1:3-14).  Those who are in Christ Jesus by faith are His elect (1 Timothy 4:10).

Secondly, in Christ we are all priests before God.  1 Peter 2:9 reads,

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

Notice that the disciple of Jesus is a royal priesthood.  All disciples are priests unto God in Christ Jesus (Revelation 1:6).  Through Christ we are all equally able to come into God’s presence because of the work of Christ, our faithful High Priest (Hebrews 4:14-16).  As Hebrews 13:15 reminds us:

Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.

Thirdly, there no longer remains a special group of people who do the priestly duties.  The Roman Catholic Church incorrectly carried over both the Levitical priesthood and combined it with paganism.  The Protestant Reformers did not go further enough to not just preach salvation through faith in Christ Jesus alone but they failed to dethrone men from the pope’s chair.  In exchange for one pope, the Protestants, in some ways, now have thousands.  The modern clergy-laity system does not find its roots in the New Testament but in the Old Testament with the Levites and with the Roman Catholics.

We need to see that our faithful high priest is Jesus and He is also our faithful pastor (John 10:11).  While the Church does have leaders, Jesus is the chief shepherd (1 Peter 5:4) and He is our shepherd and guardian of our souls (1 Peter 2:25).  Leaders are not there to rule over the people of God but to serve alongside them (Ephesians 4:11-16; 1 Peter 5:1-4).  There is not one NT example of one man leading one church.  There are always elders leading (Acts 20:17; Titus 1:5) but not one elder.  Furthermore, there is never named one pastor.  Ironically, what is amazing in the NT letters is the lack of leadership as compared to the modern clergy-laity driven church model.  Only Philippians (1:1) mentions leaders at the start of the letter.  Only Philippians.

I am not advocating no leadership.  Jesus said we would have leaders but His example was one of servant leaders and not worldly leaders (Matthew 20:20-28; John 13:1-20).  We are to imitate our leaders (Hebrews 13:7) and their example is Jesus and not a worldly CEO.  We are to submit to such leaders (Hebrews 13:17 and notice the emphasis on plurality).

My point here is that clergy do not have special access to God.  Clergy may know more about the Bible only because of their training but this doesn’t have to be the case nor should be the rule.  All of us are equal at the cross (Galatians 3:26-29).  We have different gifts and roles but we all are able to come boldly before the Lord because of Christ.  Christ has fulfilled the Law and the old types is now complete in Him (Hebrews 10:1-4).  We have a new covenant in Christ Jesus (Hebrews 8:13).  This new covenant enables all of God’s people to come before Him now through the faithfulness of Jesus Christ.  We don’t need a priest or a special place to worship God (nor even a special day as opposed to Sabbath keepers).  We can now worship, adore, praise, proclaim, and exalt the one true God at any time and any place.  He will never leave us nor forsake us for He is our portion and our delight.

Preparing to Leave the Ministry

I wanted to write toward traditional pastors who perhaps are considering leaving the full-time ministry.  How do you begin to do this?

I read a statistic today that 80% of traditional pastors are discouraged and 50% would leave the ministry if they could.  I am one of those who has left the ministry.  I have not left Jesus.  I have not left true ministry (and I am actually doing more now for the kingdom of God than when I was a full-time traditional minister).  I strongly believe in the fundamentals of the gospel and I would stand with my traditional pastor friends in defending orthodoxy.  I believe that we all need to be biblical disciples who love the Word of God and test all things (including our traditions) by the Word of God (1 John 4:1-2).

For now, let me state some basics for leaving the ministry.  Let me begin by pointing out that I am not talking about walking away from Jesus nor from the Church.  I am talking about moving out of dependence on the money of the church toward a “secular” job and away from working in a traditional church.  Let me offer my own insights.

1.  Be Willing To Work

I was not afraid of “getting my hands dirty” when I left the traditional ministry.  I was ready and willing to work any job to provide for my family.  I am the type of man who will do whatever it takes to provide for my wife and children.  Obviously, I am not saying that a man should be sinful in work to provide (selling drugs for example or compromising the gospel to earn money) but I am advocating willing to do any job to provide.  Don’t be so smug as to think that because you went to Bible college or seminary, you shouldn’t have to work at a fast food restaurant or drive a truck for a living.  Be willing to do all things to the glory of God (Colossians 3:17) including dirty jobs.

2.  Be Willing To Wait

My first job out of the ministry was with Coca-Cola.  I had no clue when I got that job that it would open the door for other truck driving jobs.  I left Coke to work for Pepsi (I know they are competitors but it cut my personal vehicle driving in half!).  I left Pepsi to work for US Foodservice.  I left US Foodservice to work for Golden State Foods (GSF).  Along that way was years of waiting.  I would work my jobs (and some with pain more than pleasure) and wait on the Lord to open the next door.  In each case He faithfully guided me and led me every step of the way.  I struggled at times to know His plan or His ways but I trusted Him.  Several times along the way I tried to make jobs work out on my own but the Lord closed those doors each time (I tried to buy a Fed Ex Ground truck route and tried to get a Little Debbie route but failed at both).  I praise God for His faithfulness and for His providence in leading us.

3.  Be Willing To Worship.

No matter where you find yourself after leaving the traditional ministry, be willing to worship God.  We are not saved by going to Bible college or by preaching or by reading theology books or blogs.  We are saved through a living faith in the Lord Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8-9; James 2:14-26).  I have found that my prayer life is now stronger because I don’t carry the burdens of the church.  My Bible study is stronger because I am reading and studying the Bible with an eye on the Lord and not on me or the people.  My witnessing is better because I am not always surrounded by disciples but now with unbelievers.  I feel I am a better man, a better husband, a better father, and a stronger disciple of Christ after leaving the ministry.  I like to say that I left the ministry for the true ministry of the Lord.

However, wherever you find yourself in life, be willing to worship God.  Be willing to worship Him when you have no money and times are hard.  Be willing to worship Him when you get that job promotion and the Lord opens the door for success.  Be willing to worship God in whatever state you find yourself (Philippians 4:11-13).  Worship Him when you feel discouraged.  Worship Him when others doubt your decisions to leave the ministry.  Worship Him when others ridicule your faith in God.  Worship Him when you are struggling to just make ends meet.

4.  Be Willing To Wrestle.

By wrestle I don’t mean physical but spiritual.  Be willing to wrestle in prayer.  Leaving the ministry was the best decision I ever made.  But at first I had to pray a lot.  I had to just pray for food (Matthew 6:11) which was a good thing as I look back.  I had to pray for the Lord to open doors for jobs.  I had to pray for money to come through.  Yet I rejoice that the Lord was using my struggles to help me learn to pray (Luke 11:1).

So often when leaving the ministry, men try to make things work on their own.  Don’t do that.  Depend on the Lord.  Show this in prayer.  Praise Him for the small victories and for His leading.  Pray to Him who knows what you have need of before you ask Him (Matthew 6:8).  I prayed for many things after leaving the ministry including Him moving us away from the area we were in.  He did this and more.  I prayed for Him to open doors for us and close doors for us and He did.  It was not always as I dreamed it would be but He was faithful every step of the way.  Don’t be afraid to pray to our sovereign God and trust Him through it all (Matthew 7:7-11).

Written by The Seeking Disciple

02/27/2014 at 11:11 AM

The Errors of Multisite Churches

What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up.
– 1 Corinthians 14:26

Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.
– Hebrews 13:7

I could write an entire series on the errors of the modern clergy-laity driven church.  We could discuss so many aspects of modern church life that is foreign to the Bible but nonetheless, we are so entrenched into our traditions that we believe them to be found in the Bible.  Sort of like the first time someone challenged me to find the “sinner’s prayer” for salvation in the Bible.  I answered about begin saved by faith, justified through faith, believing the gospel, etc.  but they challenged me further to show one person who prayed to receive Christ or who was instructed to pray for salvation.  I was dumfounded trying to find one person in the book of Acts who was saved by simply praying a prayer.

One of the fads in the modern evangelical church in the West are multisite churches.  This has become the new desire, to be large enough to meet on various “campuses” around a city.  One multisite church I looked at on the Internet has 19 “campuses” for people to meet.  Most of these sites are not even in the same states.  I know of a church in my area that is sucking the smaller churches dry with a new site that features a church that is nearly 100 miles away.  At a multisite church, you come in and you watch a screen of the Bible teacher who could be hundreds of miles away.  They count you as being in their church despite never even knowing your name.  I know of a man who died while attending one of these multisite churches and a representative from the mega church showed up to tell the grieving family that the superstar pastor would not be able to be there with them but he was thinking about them in their suffering and trials.  Yeah right.

I honestly don’t get the point of multisite churches other than pride.  Why not just plant another church?

In reality, multisite churches are just another reflection of the error of modern church gatherings in the first place.  Christians today believe that the reason we show up on the Lord’s day is to hear preaching.  This is not true.  Others believe we meet on the Lord’s day to worship God.  This is not true.  Some say that we meet on the Lord’s day to be trained through Sunday school or discipleship classes how to live for the Lord.  Again, not true.

In reality, the Lord’s day was to be a day to meet and eat (1 Corinthians 11:20).  For most disciples of Jesus in the early church, the Lord’s day was a work day.  Most would have worked all day and so they would meet in the evening around a meal with the Lord’s supper being the main focus (1 Corinthians 11:23-26).  Jesus was the Passover Lamb and He was the focus (1 Corinthians 5:7).  The Lord’s supper (as part of the meal and not the Lord’s tiny snack) would focus the disciples upon the Lord Jesus as their hope (1 Peter 1:3).  The focus of the Lords’ supper would be a gospel focus (Mark 14:22-25).

Acts 20:7 speaks of these gatherings.  Notice the verse says, “On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul talked with them, intending to depart on the next day, and he prolonged his speech until midnight.”  Notice that the disciples gathered to “break bread” which is to eat.  The eating would have been probably on a floor and not around a table.  The custom was to eat with your legs behind you and you facing the others.  In this context, people would have been a family, close-knit, and one in Christ.  You would have people from various ethnic backgrounds and cultures coming together to eat and to fellowship around the Lord’s table.  Rich people would have been on equal footing with the poor (James 2:1-7).

In this context, of eating around the Lord’s table, true fellowship and discipleship would have taken place (Hebrews 3:13; 10:24-25).

What about preaching?  In the book of Acts, we find preaching only toward the lost.  In fact, the closest thing we have to church gatherings and preaching is Acts 20:7 and here Paul uses this time because he knows that he will not see these saints again.  It also appears that Paul is not preaching here but simply talking.  To preach is to raise ones voice (see Acts 2:14).  I have no problem with bringing the church together for teaching times but one teacher should not take up the Lord’s day.  I find nothing of this in the New Testament.

In 1 Corinthians 14:26 the Bible is clear that one speaker did not dominate the early church.  The idea of one professional Christian telling other Christians is not found in the Bible.  1 Corinthians 14:26 says that each one can offer a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation but the point is to be for the edification of the church or as the ESV says, “building up.”

Now to return to my issue with multisite churches.  First of all, they don’t obey 1 Corinthians 14:26 at all.  Most evangelical churches don’t.  House churches can offer the best place for this to take place.  Small groups (or cell groups) offer the closest thing we have of this biblical practice in the Bible.  However, cell groups often are an extension of the clergy driven church and often are tightly controlled by the traditional church.

Secondly, how can multisite churches (or even large churches for that matter) obey Hebrews 13:7?  How can I imitate the faith of my elders who live 500 miles from me?  How can I see their prayer lives?  How can I imitate their marriage?  How can I learn how they evangelize or study the Bible?  How can I even submit to my elders (Hebrews 13:17)?

This can happen in smaller groups only.  I know that multisite churches would claim this.  But this is not the same as what we find in 1 Corinthians 11 or 1 Corinthians 14.  According to multisite churches, we meet to hear the professional Bible teacher who lives miles from me and doesn’t know me or my name.  We meet to hear him teach and then we meet in small groups to apply what we learn.  Where is this in the New Testament?  How can we take this approach to church meetings and apply this to 1 Corinthians 11 or 14?  We simply cannot.

For more information on this issue, I highly recommend two books.  One is Paul’s Idea of Community: The Early House Churches in Their Cultural Setting by Robert Banks.  The other is  Reimagining Church: Pursuing the Dream of Organic Christianity by Frank Viola.  Both are excellent books.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

11/10/2013 at 1:31 PM

How the Clergy/Laity System Hurts the Church

I once worked in a church.  I know the pressures that come from being in “full-time ministry” and I also know the liberation when you leave “full-time ministry.”  I now work a “secular” job and I love it.  I don’t always enjoy the work nor the time away from my family but I enjoy not being in “the ministry.”  I enjoy serving Jesus where I am.  I actually love to study my Bible now more than when I was a pastor and I love to pray now more than when I had prayer meetings at the church I served at.  I actually get to talk to lost people on a regular basis instead of always talking to “Christians.”  I get to take the monies that God gives me and give to whatever I want to give it to (missions, the poor, other disciples, etc.) instead of giving to a local church so they can their bills and support their staffs.

In 2001, while studying a book on house churches, I came to the conclusion that the clergy/laity system is wrong.  It is not biblically based.  It is based on human traditions but not upon the Word of God.  I noticed the lack of leadership in the New Testament.  There are elders mentioned (Acts 20:17; 1 Timothy 3:1-7) and deacons (1 Timothy 3:8-13) but other than the Apostles, few leaders are mentioned.  Out of the Epistles, only one begins with an address to the leaders (Philippians 1:1) and even Jesus, in Revelation 2-3, never addresses the leaders but the entire church.  In fact, Matthew 20:20-28 gives a very low view of leadership from Jesus as compared to the worldly leadership system that the Jews had known.  This is not to demean leadership but to simply point out that the idea of a single pastor leading a church is not found in the New Testament.  While elder-led churches are seen, the elders are to serve “among” the people of God and not over them as so often found among clergy-led churches (1 Peter 5:1-4).

To me, the clergy-laity system hurts the Church.  How so?

1.  The Clergy-Laity System Divides the People of God

Galatians 3:26-28 mentions the people of God being one.  Jesus prayed for the Church to be one in John 17:20-23.  Ephesians 4:4 says there is only one body.  Not many.  1 Corinthians 12:27 says that the body of Christ is one even with many members being apart of it.  Yet the clergy-laity system makes a few people “professional” Christians while the rest work in the secular realm.  This makes the Church focused on what the professionals want and not what the Spirit wants (Acts 13:1-4).  The clergy are “paid” to study the Bible and to do the work of the ministry despite Ephesians 4:11-16 being poorly applied here.  The clergy are separate from the people and even some wear special garments to show that they are clergymen.  The laity show up to the building, listen to the professional Christians, give money to the professional Christians, and then go back home to their secular worlds.  This is a division not found in the New Testament.

2.  The Clergy-Laity System Nullifies the Priesthood of All Saints of God

It has been said, “We are equal at the cross.”  Not so with the clergy-laity system.  The clergy are closer to God since they are professional Christians and they pray, read their Bibles, teach us the Bible, etc.  Often the clergy are the ones who do all the “ministry” such as baptisms, marriages, prayer, etc.  The laity, perhaps once in a while, get to do stuff but nothing on the level of the professional Christians.

Yet 1 Peter 2:5, 9 and Revelation 1:6 and 5:10 all mention that disciples are priests unto God.  With the death of Jesus came a new way to God (Hebrews 10:19-20) and the old Jewish ways were gone (Hebrews 8:13).  This included the high priests and the whole priesthood.  Jesus fulfilled the Law completely (John 19:30) and now we all are equal before God.  We all have access through Him into God’s holy presence (Ephesians 2:11-22).  We don’t need priests because we have one in Jesus Christ (Hebrews 9:14).  Through Jesus we can come into the presence of God (Hebrews 4:14-16).  Every disciple of Jesus is a priest.  There is no special priesthood.

The clergy-laity system pays only some homage to that doctrine.  How many people in the Church are exhorted to pray and do the work of the ministry because they are priests?  How many are taught that God hears them just as He hears the pastor of the church?  How many are taught that the Holy Spirit will teach them the Scriptures just as well as He teaches the pastor and they too can hear from God through His Word on a regular basis?  We are taught instead to listen to sermons that the pastor gets from his study of Scripture.  To a degree the priesthood of the saints is honored but not to the point that the New Testament places on it.  Instead we are taught that some people are called to be special priests unto God while others are only laity priests unto God.

3. The Clergy-Laity System Never Fulfills Ephesians 4:11-16

Read Ephesians 4:11-16 and notice that the point of gifted people given to the Church is not to do the work themselves but to train others to do the work of the ministry.  This happens not by going off to seminary and learning how to parse the Greek text but from actually showing people by our examples how to serve Christ (Hebrews 13:7, 17).  Timothy was to teach others (2 Timothy 2:2).  That is biblical discipleship at its best (Matthew 28:20) where disciples are teaching disciples and showing them how to serve Jesus through faithful prayer, evangelism, etc.

The clergy-laity system tells us that the professional Christians are there to fulfill Ephesians 4:11-16 but it never does.  It the premise was of this statement were true then the reason for the clergy would be to work themselves out of a job.  They never do.  The larger the church gets, the more it needs the lead clergy and even adds more clergy.  The church sits back and watches the show called church.  It never does anything.  The old 80/20 principle is very much true in the clergy-laity church.  80% of the work is done by 20% of the church which is largely clergy.  The clergy do all the preaching, all the teaching, all the discipling, all the singing, all the praying, all the baptizing, etc.  They can say that they are seeking to fulfill Ephesians 4:11-16 but they never do.  It’s an ongoing thing that never changes.

4.  The Clergy-Laity System Forces the Church To Water Down the Gospel

I know that some Bible teachers are bold in preaching the gospel.  Carter Conlon, for example at Times Square Church, preaches the true gospel.  John MacArthur preaches a hard gospel.  But sadly, the clergy-laity system causes many Bible teachers to teach for one purpose: church growth which in turn equals, for them, more money.  Some Bible teachers, perhaps, even despise doing goofy series preaching on watered down subjects but they know that they must fill the seats and to preach doctrine or repentance or prayer would not fill the seats.  A few know that they need to preach the hard gospel of Jesus (Luke 9:23-25; 14:25-35) but they can’t because they would drive out their biggest givers and supporters.  The clergy also fear their board of deacons who often control the clergy like a puppet on a string.

How thankful I was when I was pastoring a church and had to get a job because the church had dwindled down to the point that I needed to get a real job.  I remember the liberation of standing up and preaching the hard gospel of Jesus Christ and not fearing what anyone thought because Coca-Cola was paying my bills and not the board of deacons.  I preached with passion those last few months that I pastored a church because I was not controlled by money.  I was driven by the gospel.  I wanted people to repent of their sins.  I wanted people to be holy as God was holy.  I wanted to preach the entire Word of God faithfully and I did so those last few months that I pastored all because I didn’t receive a dime from the church.

Most clergymen are not in that state.  In most cases their income and the income of the church and their staff is based on keeping people happy in the seats.  This means preaching goofy series sermons that are lifeless and lack the power of God.  The church grows because of transfer growth from other more boring churches or even true churches where repentance is preached (people will run from true preaching).  The clergy-laity system makes the church focused on filling the seats for money instead of seeking make disciples of Jesus through faithful preaching of the gospel.  How many clergymen live in fear of losing their jobs or losing their key givers by what they say?  Not me!

5.  The Clergy-Laity System Misuses Money

I reject tithing.  I find nothing in the New Testament to suggest that disciples should tithe.  Tithing is biblical but it is biblical because the Jews in the Old Testament did tithe not just money but even their crops to support the Levitical priesthood system.  That is now gone with the coming of Jesus.  Not once in the New Testament are we told to tithe to a priest or to give to a local church.  1 Corinthians 16:1-2 must be read in the context of 1 Corinthians 16:1-4 where Paul was saying that the Corinthians were giving not to support a clergymen but to give to saints in Jerusalem.  They were helping hurting saints and not tithing!

How many times have I heard pastors exhorting people to give to the local church, to tithe 10% of their income?  Why?  Because the clergymen need money to live and to pay the bills of the church building.  The average salary of the lead pastor of a mega-church is $147,000 and as high as $400,000 per year.  85% of money that the American church receives goes toward buildings and salaries and less than 2% goes toward world evangelism according to K.P. Yohannan.  I remember in Bible college the boys would say that they would not take a church job unless they made more than $35,000 per year and that was the mid 1990’s.

Time doesn’t permit me to talk about what the Bible specifically tells us give to.  We are to give (Matthew 6:2) but what are we to give to?  In the Book of Acts we find the Church giving to the poor, hurting disciples, and church planters (Apostles).  That is it.  They didn’t tithe.  They didn’t support a full-time professional Christian system.  They gave to what they wanted to give to (2 Corinthians 8-9).  If I am required to give the tithe of my income, how could 2 Corinthians 9:7 make sense?  If Jesus delivers me from the curse of the Law (Galatians 3:13) then how could I fall under the curse of Malachi 3:8-10?  By the way, I have not tithed in almost ten years and am making more money today than when I was tithing.  How do you like those apples?

Conclusion

I know that some of what I have said could be perceived as harsh and that I am just angry as a former pastor but I am not.  I love my life outside of “the ministry.”  I do more for the glory of God today than when I was working full-time in a church.  What do I miss about “the ministry?”  The time to spend in studying and I do miss being able to sleep a lot.  Other than that, I don’t miss “the ministry” at all.  I am thankful to God for allowing that house church book to come my way ten years ago.  A great book to read is Jon Zens’ book, The Pastor Has No Clothes.  Zens’ articles about the clergy-laity system are right on.

My prayer is that God would help the Church to return to the New Testament and seek to be faithful to obey all that it teaches (2 Thessalonians 2:15).

Written by The Seeking Disciple

10/09/2011 at 10:00 AM

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