And Reaffirming the priesthood of all believers.
That the pope or bishop anoints, makes tonsures, ordains, consecrates, or dresses differently from the laity, may make a hypocrite or an idolatrous oil-painted icon, but it in no way makes a Christian or spiritual human being. In fact, we are all consecrated priests through Baptism, as St. Peter in 1 Peter 2[:9] says, “You are a royal priesthood and a priestly kingdom,” and Revelation [5:10], “Through your blood you have made us into priests and kings.”
Martin Luther, To the Christian Nobility of the German Nobility, 1520
Most people on church staff have no idea how to turn the reigns of their ministry over to the church. It seems counter-productive to lead without holding the reigns. The attitude is generally that church staff are the experts, seminary trained, denominationally ordained and battle-experienced to do the work. And the people in the pews won’t do anything even if you asked them to. On most church staff’s the concept of the priesthood of all believers is taken figuratively, dismissed as impossible in the literal sense.
There is an inverse relationship in the church today between the increase in church staffing/overall spending and the decrease in the number of people we reach per capita.
The Vortex We Created
Somewhere along the line we, as church staff, started to think that we could do ministry better than people who don’t work at the church. We bought the lie that because people are busy that they can’t be functional body parts described in 1 Corinthians 12. Instead of leaning on Scripture to correct, rebuke, and train in righteousness to call believers to their responsibilities– we assigned them books on Christian leadership which affirmed that we were the ones called to do the work and they were called to write checks.
Worse yet, we started to believe that being a pastor was a vocation of leadership and not a holy calling.
We turned saints into spectators. Then we handed them literature that told them to pursue excellence in leadership and got mad when they left our hard-working church of 500 for a megachurch of 10,000.
Many Luthers Wanted!
We need brave men and women to publicly state the obvious– the current strategy isn’t working. It’s not a liberal thing. It’s not a conservative thing. It’s not an emergent thing. It’s not an old-fashioned thing. It’s no modern. It’s not post-modern.
It is the church, universally failing to reach more than 10% of the population on any given Sunday.
There is no hope that a staff-led church can reach your community much less the world. (My pastor has only been to my house once, he doesn’t know the names of any of my neighbors.) It is not mathematically possible because it is outside of the design. The hope of the world is not that we flock to bigger and bigger megachurches with more refined experts. It is the opposite.
The hope of the world lies in individuals and families embracing a simple strategy of neighbors loving neighbors. As we, the body of Christ– messy, broken, and dependent– embrace our role as the God-ordained priests on our block, the church can get back to the designed multiplication strategy.
- How is the identity of your pastoral calling tied to the responsibilities of being church staff? If you weren’t on staff would you still feel like a pastor?
- I make the argument that there is an inverse relationship between increased spending/staffing/programs and reaching people. Looking back at the last 30 years of history in your congregation, do you find that to be the case? Why or why not?
- Read 1 Corinthians 12. What are spiritual gifts lacking on your staff team? What are ways your current staff structure may be handicapping your church?
- What are ways that your staff’s ecclesiology or even church polity are getting in the way of the priesthood of all believers?
- What are practical ways you and your staff team can reaffirm the priesthood of all believers in 2011?
- Do you know the names of all the neighbors whose property touches or is adjacent to your own residence? What are ways you can love your neighbors better in the next 14 days?