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Feb 28, 2007


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What would it mean? Maybe that we could get back (more closely) to actually "being" the church together?

The REAL question: What keeps us from, at the very least, exploring the idea? (And let's be honest -- church wide, those of us actually talking about this aren't even a blip on the radar screen.) I think most of us know the answer to that question, and it scares the hell out of us "professional" pastors.

So... maybe it becomes a question of... are we going to be proactive, looking ahead? Or are we going to continue reacting after the fact when there is not longer any choice?


Michael Kruse

RPS, I have raised these issues in a variety of places. What I find interesting is that when I raise this issue in Protestant circles I usually get polite nods and smiles ... then it on to the next conversation about something else, as if the topic got sucked into a vortex somewhere, never to be seen again. If it is addressed, it is often dismissed as unworkable idealism.

I am not just picking on pastors and denomination leaders here. Confronting these issues creates real anxiety among the "laity." It would blow apart the church culture we have all grown into.

There are people who "get it." I had conversation last year with Tom Gillespie, past president of Princeton Seminary, in which he told me that the terms laity and clergy have no place in the Presbyterian lexicon. Yet here we are.

I think you are right about scaring professional pastors but it would ironcially make them more important to living as a New Creation community, not less.


Mike: To talk about your "vortex" - go to the PC(USA) website, click on "search" and type in "tent making"... then see how "mainstream" this idea is.

I'm in total agreement with you here, just really struggling with the idea. (Kind of like, are we the only two that really understand how important this concept is?)

And a bit tired / scared of living out the concept that "someone has to be first."

Glad to hear what Gillespie said to you. Just of the opinion that there are a whole lot of other "heavyweights" who should be saying the same thing, and saying it over and over until it finally sinks in through some tough, stubborn, lost in the 50s Presby. skulls.

Michael Kruse



We put this outrageous set of expectations and demands on pastors to be Super-Christian. More than 75% of pastors say they have no close friends. Meanwhile, we have people whose ability to minister in the place God has placed them has atrophied from dependence on specialized Christians to act and think for us. That is a scary place to be as a pastor.

And we wonder why the Church is impotent in transforming the culture and in giving an authentic witness of Christ.

I think there are more than two us I do wish others would focus on these issues.

Dave Moody

Is the bottle neck in this whole discussion really only those of us with collars? Or is it not also (also) folks who don't want to hear this stuff.

The pastor deals with God stuff for me, the old time paradigm.He prays, he visits the sick, he makes sure every committee is doing its job by being at every committee meeting, and if he can't make it we won't meet. Or the consumer mentality we all have in the west, that feeds into consuming religion.

My point- if there is one in here- this isn't a conspiracy of the clerical union to keep their jobs. There probably is an emlement of that, but more largely its a general apathy on behalf of all God's people towards him and his purposes for the totality of our lives. All seven days worth. All- and I mean all- are culpable.

Michael Kruse

"All- and I mean all- are culpable."

Bingo! Stevens will give you a hardy "Amen" as well.

I think far too much of the pastor/congregation model as it exists today is really an expression of co-dependency. I don't sense any grand conspiracy on any side of the equation. But just as with any co-dependency, start confronting the masked issues and you risk getting hammered from both sides.

Dana Ames

Oh yes, there are more of us- but it's frightening all around. Because if we actually seriously engage some very basic questions like: What is the gospel? What is God up to with humanity? What did Jesus have in mind for the church? -and others, then things *must* change, because we will have discovered a paradigm/story of very deep meaning and with huge ramifications that certainly includes all we now consider Orthodoxy- but we will see it differently, it will dawn on us, and we will have to act.

Struggling with words here.

Michael Kruse

Dana, I think you said it well. It is almost cliche but Chesterton had it right:

"The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried"

We live with an illusion of what it means to be the church. We need to be disillusioned.

will spotts

I only hope you're not preaching to the choir here. This is one of the most difficult to enact, but important concepts. And yes, neither professional clergy nor laity want to address it - both have vested interests in avoiding it.


Michael, thank you for writing this fascinating series of posts. Your thoughtful review of Stevens' book provides a great platform for discussing this issue.

As a "lay person" myself (though an elder in the PCUSA), I find myself wildly excited by prospect of breaking down the distinction between laity and clergy. How powerful it would be if we were all called and ordained and sent into the world to be (stealing from Brian McLaren) "secret agents in the kingdom of God"! While some of us folks-formerly-known-as-laity don't want things to change, some of us are energized and excited and, indeed, thankful about the idea of being first-class participants in the church.

Dave: I think you are partially right, in that the current situation isn't just a conspiracy by the pastor's union to preserve jobs. Many of the laity (non-pastors?) are culpable as well: we just want the pastor to entertain us on Sunday morning and officiate our daughter's wedding. But many pastors have also bought into a system that gives them rewards (in come cases, big money; in other cases, the devotion of their membership) but also makes them pay a price (isolation, fear, attachment to a dying institution, a forced rigidity of thought).

Both clergy and laity will need help moving beyond our current, disfunctional system.

Michael Kruse

Will, I think even if we are preaching to the choir it is good to reveiw the precise nature of the problem we find ourselves in and so we can better champion effective solutions. I am also aware that there are a great many who have a vague sense that something is wrong but can't verbalize the various issues in a coherent package. That was one of the greatest contributions this book made for me. It took lots of different pieces I have been aware of and brought them into crisp focus. I hope this conversation will do the same for others.

Michael Kruse

Dave, you are welcome.


The Artist - formerly-known-as-Prince

The Ministers - formerly-known-as-laity

I like it!

I think you are right about how institutions have served to solidify our co-dependency. I sense that is one of the reasons most folks just try to change the subject. The ramifications are huge.

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