Friday, September 21, 2012

A Christian Caste System

Ed Stetzer is beginning a series on the concept of "laity" or laypeople, and points out how this concept is used and abused in the church.  I agree with him when he says, "I don't like it."  You can check out his comments on his blog with a hyperactive amount of links and information HERE.  Stetzer refers to the idea of two types of Christians as a type of caste system.  I agree.  

In many parts of the world, economic realities make paying a  full-time pastor impossible.  In Mexico, men desirous of serving as pastors and elders realize that it will be primarily a bi-vocational endeavor.  Does this mean that their leadership is hindered?  Or perhaps it is enhanced.  The pastor can share the pulpit without the pressure of "they're paying me to preach."  The people realize that they cannot expect their leader to do everything for them, because he also needs to work.  Church leadership is looked to for what it should be looked for...providing spiritual guidance and Biblical council.  Not for being (necessarily) a dynamic speaker, an innovative guru or a brilliant theologian.  But for being someone who can loving lead a flock.  A shepherd.  Someone who I know cares about me, and is there for me.  But I am also there for him.  Why?  Because his needs are similar to my own.  We are a family.  He is my older brother, not a hired gun.

My home church, Word of Life Chapel, has gone through a difficult but edifying time of transition, a time that seems unending, I'm sure, to some.  After having two pastors whose joint service spanned 50 years, the church suddenly found itself in pastoral search mode.  You know the drill.  The church board works side by side with a special pastoral search committee, reviewing resumes and praying that God would send them a godly man.  Walking on water was an optional, albeit desirable trait.

What has happened during this time is educational.  The board, long used to basically following the senior pastor's leadership, realized that each elder was responsible before God for praying for and guiding the flock.  New, creative ideas began to spring up out of nowhere.  People were forced to take spiritual responsibility for themselves.  The congregation began to realize that (gasp!) the church could be alive and thrive without a senior pastor.  Lo and behold, there were many shepherds in the flock, guiding ministries, making good decisions.

Can full-time pastors be effective?  Absolutely.  But they need to remember that their primary mission is to equip the church for the work of the get everyone involved, mobilized and excited to work out their salvation with fear and trembling, to administrate each of the congregation's unique gifts in the Spirit's power.  In a word, to be a catalyst.  To comfort the afflicted, and afflict the comfortable.  Oh, and to remember that although people may call them "pastor" (which means shepherd), they are still as needy and as smelly as the next sheep in the pen!

Quote of the Day: The Jesus story was being reworked and re-experienced in each of these people in this town, this day. And I was here, to see it take shape, helping it to take shape, listening to the sentences form, observing the actions, discerning character and plot. I determined to be as exegetically serious when I was listening to Eric Matthews in Koine American as I was when reading St. Matthew in Koine Greek. I wanted to see the Jesus story in each person in my congregation...
Eugene H. Peterson. Subversive Spirituality (pp. 175-176).

No comments: