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Clergy & Laity



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Author's Brief Testimony

The Whole Idea of Priesthood

The Old Covenant priesthood provided a priest class set apart for ministry. The priest acted as a go-between between God and others in the community. The Levites were thoroughly schooled in priest craft and thus qualified to go to God on behalf of others. Priests meet with (G)god and receive from (G)god on behalf of others. Priestly rites in the days of the tabernacle and the temple were specific and had to be followed to the letter. It is the same in other religions where a priest or a shaman communicates to their local gods or goddesses according to their sacred rites. It can be said that the priest was the one person who had the proper spiritual credentials to offer incense, sacrifices, offerings, prayers and petitions to their God (gods.) Every Canaanite religion had their own priests or priestesses. They led in the worship of their own demon gods or goddesses. Among these Canaanite demon gods were Baal, Molech, Chemosh, Dagon, Ashtoreth, Milcom and others.

Christianity was intended in the beginning to be a different kind of worship and a different kind of priesthood. Jesus' followers, the disciples and apostles, were given a distinctly different charge; to present and represent the "gift of God."  Jesus did not come to create a religion that required a priest. The new creation was the fulfilment of the original Pentecost described in Exodus 19. It was JVHV's plan that there would be a kingdom of priests. The people of Israel, out of fear and terror of God's presence, declined that plan and insisted that Moses and Aaron would meet with God and receive any of the instructions to be given. After Jesus rose from the dead he met with his disciples and gave them a brand new commission, it is called the "great commission." It was to go into the world, including all nations outside of Israel and make disciples. Disciples were to be not merely believers; they were men, women and children who were spiritually transformed. They carry with them an incorruptible seed that made (and continues to make) them a different kind of creature than they were born into. The propet Jeremiah gives us a description of that new creation:
Jeremiah 31:31 Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: 32 Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the Lord: 33 But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.
Jewish people who remain devoted to Judaism in some sort today have said "No" to this transformative gift,that prophesied new covenant. A remnant, has been called to believe but many more will experience being part of this new creation in the future. In the meantime the Gospel to the gentiles is drawing many to the Messiah Jesus every day. They know and have experience the transformation of being Born Again.

We have inherited the tradition of a priesthood that governs the church.

Without questioning the fact, Christians after the reformation continued to follow the tradition of the priesthood as practiced in the Roman Catholic church. The Roman Catholic priests perform the ceremonies and ordinances of the "church." dressed in their priestly regalia. Religious constume separates the offical priest from the congregation. The priest continues to act as intermediary to God as though the common folk, the laity. This suggested that the laity  could not access God in any way. The priest determines the  particular readings of Scripture to focus on the proper doctrines that are essential. The priest and traditions dictate which portions of the word of Truth, or Bible will be presented.

Catholic versus Protestant Priesthood
You may ask, how can you say that protestants still have a priest? It is by virtue of this fact: Protestants still have ministers and clergy who continue, in varying degrees, to lead and manage programs of church. These men and women have trained for "the ministry." They are ordained and certified to know and uphold the ordinances and mission of their denomination. It is not their understanding that leadership will be shared among the congregation except for a few deacons or elders elected to serve as advisors.

In most cases protestant clergy are more or less unapproachable when it comes to direction or correction from anyone in the "laiety." There is a huge gulf separating those who are the clergy and those of the laiety. The structure of a worship service becomes codified, routine and predictable. Worship services are governed by time allotments and number of meetings in a given day. The pastor is likely not a true discipler nor in most cases interested in training believers as a body to make them ready to minister.

Some passages point to a difference way for the church "body" to function

Ephesians: 4: 11 "And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood,[c] to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ - " The point to be made is that each disciple is called to minister. We are (at least we were meant to be) trained by the practical experience personal, Spirit empowered maturity in the 'Body of Christ' and witnessing the function of the body as interdependant members each of whom in possession of a gift needed by others. The Holy Spirit is the discipler and the God-person who works to mature every disciple through grace. If you read Corinthians chapter 12 and Romans chapter 12, you will discover the idea of a body possesing various gifts, all of which are necessary for the growth of all. The church functioned this way in the days of the apostles and it was expected and urged to continue so thereafter.

See Jude vs. 3: Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.
It is also a great insight to see what Peter had to say about utilizing the individual gifts of 'the body.'
1 Peter 4: 10 As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace: 11 whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies - ". This points to an entirely different kind of "church" and the execution of The Gospel than that which is commonly seen and experienced today.

In the days of the early church, that is the church in the days of the apostles, there were no priests. All partook of the gift of God and the Spiritual gifts were allocated to every believer at God's discretion. These Spiritual gifts were the provision needed to bring glory to the Father and to validate the gospel supernaturally.

Kingdoms of this world vs. the heavenly Kingdom

We have seen individuals eagerly pursue what they believe to be God's will. Though mostly well intentioned they eventually find themselves trained to partake in traditional institutional religion. There are multitudes of religions including Christianity. The brand of Christianity that I refer to as churchianity takes its form and practice from that which has been practiced throughout most of the history of Christendom. Religion tend to reflect mere human wisdom and human natural efforts without little knowledge of God or the Holy Spirit's leading. How easy it is to lose the knowledge of God's best plan. Religion of all stripes can produce a form of godliness and yet lack evidence of the power of God. (2 Timothy 3:5 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!) Those who have been touched by God's authentic power through the Holy Spirit will seek to grow in the knowledge of Spiritual things. They may express a desire to be used in ministry. The familiar path to ministry has been to enter into a school of ministerial training, a Bible school or seminary. Once credentialed they may proceed to a paying career in some area of Christian ministry. To summarize that paradigm: One who is called to the ministry becomes formally trained and graduates with ministry credentials. Now, officially qualified to minister, he or she takes charge over a body or a congregation. Thereafter, the success of a ministry professional depends upon that person's ability to please a congregation, attract members and present programs and messages in a professional way. The laity provides the audience that supports the church program and is presumably edified and sustained by their professional leadership.

Where did the clergy and the laity doctrine come from?

Historical information does not give us too much insight about how the church of the apostles transitioned into religion. In the beginning individuals who made up the body of believers were called by God. They were called and transformed as worldly centered souls to individuals who discarded the values and vain philosophies of this world. They became known as disciples and saints. (This has always represented the true church.) The apostles warned their disciples that men would eventually come in who would not follow the way of truth, the faith presented by the apostolic founders. See referances above in Jude v.3 and Peter and elsewhere. In my own experience of studying the word and watching religious scenarios play out, I have observed how worldly values and methodology gradually take the place of and altering Spiritual life and practice. It is spiritual discernment alone that help someone determine the right spirit from the spirit of this world. Retracing the church from its earliest days requires examination of some of the notable "church fathers" who followed after the original apostles most of whom were martyred. Polycarp of Smyrna, Irenaeus, Justin Martyr, Clement of Alexandria, Eusebius of Pamphilia, Origen of Alexandria are among the fathers that hearkened to the apostolic foundation of Christianity.

The Function of Priests (Sacerdotalism)

In light of the gospel, with the birth of the "church" and the New Covenant, we see a clear discontinuation of any order of priesthood. Jesus is the one high priest of the New Covenant. Remember that the role of priests are people believed to have the authority to minister to God or receive knowledge from God on behalf of others. These others are somehow excluded who cannot go directly to God themselves. Following the protestant reformation, 1517 and following, the priesthood was still seen as the proper function to serve a body of believers. This practice along with many other forms was retained from the Roman Catholic church. Some form of priesthood remains in almost every church today where there are pulpits and pews.

The need to address the need for real discipleship is a key issue.
Leaders with knowledge and experience in the Word of truth, (not necessarily credentialed) are used to mature those who have just come out of the world into entering the God-formed life. Those who carry experience and knowledge of the word are called 'elders.' These elders should understand the apostolic ways of God in order to protect the new believer from error. Believers are edified and grow through mutual sharing and testimony. Thus all participate in this edification of the body. Both those new to the faith and those with depth of knowledge are co- participants through koinonia (freely sharing in a common assembly.) God the Holy Spirit is an active participant in the fellowship everything is for edification. A new testament fellowship meeting (koinonia) is described in 1 Corinthian Chapter 14.) An important aspect of a fellowship meeting may be the communion remembrance, scripture discoveries and sharing testimonies. Testimonies build faith and encourage the new and seasoned believer alike. Sadly, where God has not been a participant their will few if any testimonies. Fellowship is to be without confusion and in good order with allowance for the Holy Spirit to guide and direct as Paul informs us in the above passage in 1Cor.14.
There is no time constraint on an open meeting gathering. All things are done decently and in order using a host or moderator.

Priesthood by definition is any system in which a person (a leader or person of authority) intervenes with God on behalf of others. The revelation of the New Covenant Gospel points to a new dispensation: a priesthood of all believers. Further, in the book of Revelation, John receives a vision of the churches and among these we find reference to the doctrine of the Nicolaitins, (Rev.2:6) a doctrine that God despises. Nicolaitinism is a system in which a leader assumes control over a body of common believers and essentially take them captive, ruling over them and dispensing whatever teaching he deems necessary, making merchandise of the sheep. In my opinion, the priesthood fulfils the definination of Nicolaitin. Many cults such as Jim Jones of Jonestown fame, begin to function in accordance with this model. Pastors who exhert a stifling control over a congregation also fit this application.

We find it hard to compare the forms of worship and discipleship described in the epistles to that which we find in most formal church experiences known today. In the early days of the church there was no formalized ministry. There was apostolic leadership that brought the gospel, discipled believers and released them to lead and minister in their own communities. There were no theology schools, nor accrediting agencies to credential ministers but there was the active reliance upon the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Jesus which was promised to guide and equip believers in all matters of spiritual witness. The churches (ekklesia) consist only of believers who after being told the good news, have received the free gift of salvation, were discipled in matters of the Spiritual life through the ongoing revelation of the Son of God. Unbelievers are converted in the presence of the Holy Spirit working through the body. Believers are the disciples to whom it is given to experience the powers of the world to come, (The Kingdom of Heaven.) These first century believers were not taught in schools of theology, even as Christ was not schooled formally like the Jewish Pharisees and doctors of the law. Yet, the saints of the first century experienced the mighty works of God on a day to day basis. All learned that Jesus (Yeshua) the Christ (Messiah) made it possible for any and all who believed to become adopted children of God. Believers in every generation became new creations through acknowledgment that Jesus' died for the sin of all humankind. With the empowerment of the Holy Spirit each were led to understand that they could partake in the exploits that replicated Jesus' ministry. The Holy Spirit and Power (dunamis) was given at Pentecost.

The Power of God heralds a new status of humanity

In the time that followed Eden, mankind had lost their status as children of God. Humans were born according to the fallen Adam's form and likeness. So it remained until Christ the Messiah was manifested in human form. Only an occasional prophet was raised up to speak for God. But for the most part individuals could not know God, nor meet with him for fellowship. When Adam lost his dominion over the earth, Satan became the default 'god of this world.' He was acting in this capacity when he tempted the Lord in the wilderness. The tempter said, "All of these kingdoms are mine and I give them to whom I wish.." Lucifer was willing to make a deal with Jesus, offering these kingdoms with the stiplulation that Jesus would worship and give homage to him. This would have the effect of defeating the plan of redemption through the promised seed of the woman. (Genesis 3:15)

Jesus Christ came to fulfill his mission as the "son of man" and the lamb of God. In this role, He prepared the way for us. Crucified and raised from the dead Jesus became more than Messiah King of the Jews. He became the savior and redeemer of all humankind. We who were outside of the fellowship of God could at last, know Him, have fellowship with Him, and even call Him Abba, Daddy. This is the Good News!

Throughout the earliest days of the Christian faith the question has been asked and must continue to be asked, "Should we obey God or man?" In order to distinguish between these two voices something is required of us: To begin, each of us must acknowledge that the Bible IS the Word of Truth and trust it to be the single valid source of truth and doctrine. Too few in the modern world have actually discovered this and believe it. Secondly it is required of us to listen to the voice of inner witness which God has given to all his children. Those seeking truth will usually seek some expert, theologian, or cleric explain to explain to us what is written.

About new believers:
We all go through a spiritual infancy. At such times you are open and eager to grow in the knowledge of God. During these times we find that God is always close at hand. He is quick to reveal himself and to answer prayers and to support you as you grow. But this is also a precarious time because in our eagerness to learn the ways of God we can be taken captive easily by wrong doctrine and fall into the trap of religion which we accept willingly enough. (1Corinthians 12v1-2)

New believers require time to renew their minds and their habits of lifestyle and even beliefs they formerly held to be reasonable and true. The renewing of the mind is achieved only as we absorb the words of the Bible. The epistles written by the first apostles describe the nature of the spiritual life and the parameters of community and discipleship. The Holy Spirit baptism is the power and the prerequisite for any such discipleship and growth. Many will argue the theology of this statement. I will argue however, that this baptism of power is a second act of Grace proven by the study of the Book of acts. This baptism opens our eyes to heavenly things. It bears witness to the Spirit of Truth that the world can not receive nor comprehend.

If any expert tells you, with assumed authority, that the gifts of the first century apostolic church have disappeared (doctrine of cessationism), do not believe them. Flea quickly any association from any such group or authority. As Jesus said addressed leaven of the Pharisees (religious traditionalists without spiritual understanding); who resisted the Holy Spirit. Matt 23: 15 "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel land and sea to win one proselyte, and when he is won, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves." (also see Revelation Chapter 8, Stephen's testimony of how the religious always withstand the Holy Spirit.)

We begin our spiritual path as spiritual infants who crave "the milk of the Word." Too many who God has called to be established as a new born child of God become polluted with religious doctrine. Our understandings can be poisoned and corrupted by evil doctrine. As a result, many receive the wrong Jesus, the wrong spirit, or the wrong gospel. (1 Corinthians,11;3) Discerning truth is a constant challenge.

Religion presents teachings or stipulations that become binding or obligatory upon the followers. Are we to question the teachings of traditional authorities? Yes, prove all teachings with scripture. Are we to question the doctrine of our church or church leadership? Yes, there are many in the pulpit, who are nothing more than "blind guides." Many who question will be shunned, or dismissed as heretical. Though we suffer condemnation it becomes the path to liberty.

What is a Minister?

In the New Testament texts, the word translated "ministry" is translated from service. The term ministry comes from Greek Diakonia. Thus ministry means to serve. Through the process of generations of religious practice, ministry has come to mean something else, something formal and liturgical. Gifts denoted experience and leadership become designated as a religious office.e.g. Pastor, Deacon, Bishop, or Cardinal. Within the context of "church house" practices, ministry has been defined and restricted to that which is done behind a pulpit and then only by the few with "credentials."

All Believers are called Disciples and Saints
According to the Scripture, discipleship is the keystone of the gospel. Yet, it is rarely taught to church congregations with the emphasis that Jesus gave to his own first disciples or apostles. All believers are trainees or disciples in the Kingdom of God. And all disciples are expected to to minister what he has been given by the Holy Spirit (A particular gift of God). "As every person has received the (free) gift, so minister the same to one another." (1Peter 4:11)
To grow in the Spiritual life of God we are instructed that we can be transformed into the pattern of Jesus the Son of God. and through him becoming partakers of the Lord's ministry as well as his spiritual attributes. These attributes include the gifts of the Spirit, (Galations 5:22) love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. All demonstrate the character of compassion and the ability to serve in kindness, (charity) through the Spirit of Love. Through such ministry (service) the path is open to see human lives restored and perfected. 

The Tradition of the Professional Clergy

There are some elements in the institutional church that are positive. These include social relationships and a place to receive teachings and moral precepts that are Biblical. But even in this light such deeper and more intimate relationships are limited and lack deeper levels of discipleship and growth in the knowledge of heavenly things. Institutional religion has remained a long standing stronghold and is resistant to change and resolute. Institutional religion in some ways is in descendency as numbers who participate gradually decline. But olld habits and traditions die hard. The inertia of centuries of social tradition is hard to alter.

We have learned to accept without question, the role of a professional clergy person. Many of these men and women have wonderful natural gifting. Many are brilliant communicators, possessing compassion and dedication. These will I believe, received their heavenly rewards according to the fruitfulness in their calling. Such who carry the love and zeal of God are beloved by those who they touch or disciple. The gift and calling of a Spiritual shepherd is a gift to disciple the body. A pastoral gift enables mentor-ship and , encouragement. The pastoral call may just as easily minister that gift outside of the parameters of religious formalism. But this may be a call without a salary or a congregation. The shepherding gift forms caring relationships. It brings with it a necessary compassion and wisdom to minister hope, encouragement, wisdom to strengthen the 'flock.' Leadership is based upon experience and depth of understanding of the Word of God and the True Gospel. It should not be imagined as a mere career calling. I know very few who fit these criteria.

Conversely, there are others among the certified clergy who may not even know God. Some do not apprise themselves of all his promises and power. Unlike the apostle Paul who said I determine to know nothing among you but Jesus Christ crucified and to demonstrate the reality of his ruler-ship by the power of God. There are innumerable trained clergy professionals who presume to substitute sermonettes rather than in demonstrating and discipling believers in the Spiritual life, understanding and demonstrating the power of the Spirit. Among those in the ministry, many exalt 'preaching.' Eloquence and persuasive speech and the ability to hold an audience in awe is a prerequisite for clerical success.

I believe that most in professional clergy presume their own pre-eminence owing to their credentials. It would be a great if people approved with seminary credentials would use as a doorway to service, to bless and to edify. Sadly these spiritual credentials are often turned into a tool of personal gain and control over others.

Examining The Clergy and the Laity

The Clergy-Laity doctrine divides the flock into two disparate parts. The good shepherd story described in John's gospel, chapter 10, describes the characteristics of a good shepherd. It lists among the virtues, intimacy and closeness of the shepherd to the flock. The shepherd knows each of his charges and calls them by name; he will sacrifice his personal comfort and life for the flock. Finally we are told that Jesus is this shepherd. The psalmist has written almost a thousand years before, "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want." Jesus Christ remains the true shepherd, the true bishop (overseer) and shepherd (pastor) of our souls."

Jesus modeled correct shepherding, in his ministry process of preaching, teaching and leading with care and compassion. The Lord demonstrated his Spiritual credentials with miracles, signs and wonders, and with deliverance from the demonic. To those who did not know of the Father's plan to extend the Kingdom of God he Preached the Gospel of the Kingdom; To his closest disciples, he gave more intimate insight and he taught them through dialogue of questions and answers. It was through dialogue with his closest disciples and associates that he expounded deeper truths and unraveled parables.

Jesus came and ministered with authority and yet with the meekness of a servant. He was a friend to sinners. He came to seek and to save and to serve. Modern church members tend to exalt leadership and place them on unrealistic pedestals and grant them unusual authority. Jesus taught us about those who lead: (Matthew 23) "Who is the greatest among you, Jesus said, shall be a servant to all." Moreover, Jesus instructed his own disciples not to place one man over others. He required that they were not to give titles to these 'masters' saying call no man master, No man teacher, No man father. This ought to qualify as a template by which to measure the character and role of those in the role of pastoral leadership.

THE BODY : Edified by a multiplicity of gifts
One individual with a pastoral gifting will not carry all of the ministry gifts. A multiplicity of ministry gifts are needed to fully edify the body. (Ephesians 4) God in fact has more than one finger on his hands. There is something called the 5-fold ministry, which includes apostles, prophets, teachers, pastors, and evangelists. We might also consider the other hand as a body has two hands; consider additional gifts or, 5 other ministries which serve the body in a less formal or visible way. So called apostolic movements tend to reintroduce the hierarchical structure and a network or association of high profile and highly paid Christian 'celebrities' all eager to provide seminars or conferences to garner large offerings and expand their ministries .

Guidance by Spiritually Mature Mentors

Throughout the apostolic letters we are told that mature men of God were to guide and direct and to maintain purity of doctrine and practices. These were designated overseers (Gr. presbuteros) of the local flocks (fellowships) of God. These bodies met in a form and place having no resemblance to church houses that are the norm today.

Overseers need spiritual experience
more than theological credentials! The apostolic intention was to keep our faith and traditions accurate and steadfast. This model must continue to stand. What was written by the apostles was delivered with the intention of providing guidance and knowledge of the kingdom for believers in perpetuity. Maturity in faith and spiritual understanding encouraged the guidance of elders or overseers. These men and woman having depth of experience in the Spiritual life we called to provide balance and correction so that true doctrine be maintained and enforced among the fellowship:

In the early days of Christianity, elders, pastors, or overseers evolved into an office that assumed the whole responsibility of "ministry." This evolved into the clergy roles of today. Interesting things regarding the form of the early church are in evidence today revealing a return to New Testament forms of Koinonia, Ecclesia (Christians assembling together)

"It is the Father's good pleasure to give you the Kingdom"
© Charles Pinkney, 1995 -2019
updated 3/5/2019


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