Clergy and Laity

Taken from Designed to Lead, edited by Bobby Price

God is deeply passionate for His Church, for His bride, and ferociously committed to maturing her. For this reason, “He personally gave some to be.. pastors and teachers”(Eph. 4: 11). He personally involves Himself in the process of setting apart pastors and teachers, not to do the ministry, but to prepare God’s people. “Pastors” refers to the shepherds of the flock i.e. elders, and “teachers” would include preachers and those who are mature, knowledgeable in the word, and able to teach.

Perhaps an unbiblical approach to ministry exists in many churches because an inaccurate vocabulary has infiltrated the people of God. When most people hear terms like “clergy” and “laypeople,” certain images and definitions enter their minds. And these definitions are often far from their original meaning.

Clergy. Churches often think it makes sense to hire clergy to do ministry because many believe that “the clergy” are a select group of people-a group able to offer spiritual counsel and insights that mere mortals could never; a group able to care for others in ways regular, everyday Christians could not. There are even “clergy parking” spots at hospitals, and we admit that we have taken advantage of the offer, but solely for opportunistic and practical reasons and not because we theologically believe in such a thing. After all, the term clergy comes from the Greek word kleros and refers to one’s inheritance or a lot. So the sign in front of the best parking spots at the hospital literally means “inheritance.” 

In the bible the word kleros does not refer to a select group of people who “do all the ministry.” The opposite is true. The term actually applies to all believers who are “qualified…to share in the inheritance [the kleros] of the saints”(Col. 1: 12 ESV). All Christians are ministers and all Christians will share in the inheritance. The word was never intended to help foster a group of super Christians who do the ministry. In reality, the clergy parking spot is for all of us. But we accept no responsibility for your towing if you choose to grab an empty clergy spot.

Laypeople. “Oh, but I am not a minister. I am just a layperson.” We have heard that statement countless times when speaking to committed Christians at conferences or other events. Often the statement comes from someone who wants to serve God more, wants to lead and make an impact, but feels second class and unable to do anything really significant. The person is often searching for a bigger view of life and the mission of God, but the lie that ministry is for the professionals has been reinforced for years.

In the Scripture, the term lay comes from the Greek word laos and simply refers to God’s special people. The laos are, therefore, not less significant. They are God’s special people, those He has adopted as His own. All of us are “a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people [laos] for His possession”(1 Pet. 2: 9). 

Biblically both terms apply to believers. We are all laos, people of His possession, and we all enjoy the kleros, the inheritance, as children of God. Literally, your preacher is a layperson and you share in the clergy.

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