Part One - A People Without 'Laity and Clergy': Chapter 3 - One God - One People
It is widely acknowledged that pastors are facing an identity crisis, a crisis which may be deepened by the pastor-as-equipper emphasis now being promoted by many, including myself. Simply put, if there is no single activity that is the exclusive prerogative of the pastor, including equipping, is there anything left? John Stott calls this aclericalism. At least those in a sacramental tradition can cling to their officiating role a baptism and the eucharist.
Being ‘unnecessary’ may be a gift. It may enable one to become truly counter-cultural*, to go deep with God and to become a true counter-cultural, to go deep with God and to become a true pastor – nurturing people in the faith, directing people Godward so they are dependent on the Head of the church. I may also help one to envision a God-sized ministry for the whole people of God, to identify giftedness in others and to empower the people to love and serve God fully. (51)
[*In a footnote here, “It can be argued that this less counter-cultural in a post-Christian, postmodern age.]
Stevens divides this Chapter 3 into the following three sections.
- Two Peoples or One?
- One God – Three Persons
- Communion or Union?
Today I focus on the first section.
Two Peoples or One?
Stevens identifies three common responses to the issues of clergy and laity.
- Clericalism – Domination of the “ordinary” people by the “ordainded.”
- Anticlericalism – Domination of the “laity” and rejection of ordained church leadership.
- Co-existence – “…two peoples separated by education, ordination, function, and even culture.”
Stevens argues the community is the more biblical term to describe the relationships between leaders and others.
Each member contributes to others in a diversity of functions that contributes to a rich social unity, like the loving unity through diversity found in the triune God in whose image the church, the laos tou theou, is created. (53)
Stevens catalogs several images of the Church given in the Bible beyond “the people of God.
- The church (the gathered)
- Saints (people dedicated to God)
- Chosen ones
- A royal priesthood
- The household of God
- The Israel of God
- The body of Christ
- A holy temple in the Lord
- A colony of heaven / God’s commonwealth
Stevens notes New Testament metaphors that highlight the relationship of the Church to God.
- Vine and the vinedresser.
- Flock and Shepherd
- Household and Father
- Temple and Builder
- Body and head
The emphasis is on God as the authority and equipper, and the people in a more or less horizontal relatedness, not a hierarchical chain of command. Stevens suggests that Paul was struggling with some of this hierarchical baggage that was similar to the clergy/laity divide. For instance, he fought the idea that Jewish law observers were a higher form of Christian than the gentiles. Paul had to dig deep beyond these surface distinctions and get to the core of what God intended for the people. Stevens believes that the starting point for a discussion of the communal nature of the church is the Trinity. More on that tomorrow.
Is Stevens on to something here? Do you agree the lessons he pulls out of the metaphors for the church?