"But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander." ~ 1 Peter 3:15-16

Church Without Clergy

Christian Smith's books have been out of print, but this short article of his titled "Church Without Clergy" is sure one good read. I especially resonate with his last paragraph, which I hope will encourage those who are out of the institutional system. For the rest of my brethren, I hope it will be a springboard to more stimulating thoughts and issues to ponder over. Be blessed.

"Church without clergy is not easy; it demands the full, active participation of everyone. But the rewards of church without clergy - the riches of participation, of solidarity, and of community -make the effort exceedingly worthwhile. And, those who make that effort will be well on their way to transforming church from something they simply go to, to something they, together, are."


Anonymous said...

Some people will lead and others will follow. Of course those who follow should be challenged and enabled to follow actively, and those who lead should lead in a "followly" manner (attentively, with humility). The question is whether the selection, training, recognition, and support of leaders is important enough that it should be done intentionally and in a principled way. If you say yes: you're up and running with structures, regulations, and institutions. And those are not necessarily bad or unspiritual things. Of course, "semper reformanda": the institutions are perenially in a state of "must-be-reformed," must always remain subject to critique and renewal. The church catholic has surely always or at least often known that, before and after 1500. Critique and revision of the clergy is not out of bounds.

But the suggestion that we'd simply be better off without clergy, while maybe useful as a provocative thought-experiment, runs the risk of veering off into both naivete (ever seen all the s[tuff] that happens in congregations that are simultaneously deprived of trained, credentialed, and effective pastoral leadership and blessed with an abundance of dysfunctional laypeople who think they know enough to do it all on their own?) and arrogant (once again a 21st-century Christian wants to ditch the [Spirit-guided, no?] wisdom of the post-NT founders and reinvent the church).

Elvin said...

Thanks for your comments. The key is whether there is indeed scriptural justification for such clergy vs laity distinction, which often results in hierarchical offices in contrast to the priesthood of all believers. Personally, I don't see it as a reinventing of something old, but merely a return to where things should be. And I don't think Smith meant that those with leadership or pastoral gifts should cease functioning or serving the people, if that's the impression you get.

If you happen to read this again, may I know your name at least? :)