A First Small Step
French educator and theologian Jacques Ellul once suggested the abolition of the word Christian. He said one could keep the term only if one used it for the ideological and sociological movement it has become.
I couldn’t agree more.
The Reformers, for example, abolished the notion of a sacrificial priesthood (a good step in the right direction). But why stop there? Why not realize that all Christians are called to the priesthood. And why not give all of our members a significant part in the ministry of the church?
In many Baptist churches only “ordained” deacons are permitted to serve the elements at the Lord’s Supper. Why? Don’t we realize just how closely this sacerdotal status comes to the notion that only priests can perform the highest acts of congregational worship? If it be deemed too radical and too great a break with tradition to allow non-deacons to serve the bread and the cup, we must ask ourselves where our courage is.
In numerous writings I have looked at the clergy-laity distinction and seen that there is no theological justification for it. Would it be too radical to suggest that the way forward would be to have various “lay” members of the church, at the behest of the elders, serve the elements the next time your church observes the Lord’s Supper? This would, after all, merely be a practical application of scriptural teaching. In this way an important message would be sent to all that there will be no more “business as usual.” Unedifying practices would gradually be weeded out and the whole church brought to the realization that every part of the Body is vitally important.
(I should add here a caveat. I would ask the reader not to make me say what I am not saying. I am not denying the need for leadership in the church. I am simply stressing the specific dangers posed by the notion that there is a separate priestly caste within Christianity. Although not every Christian is called upon to exercise leadership within a local congregation, the church remains a classless society.)
The important thing is that we follow the Scriptures. We have, obviously, a very long way to go in many of our congregations. But surely we can make a first small step.
September 26, 2009
David Alan Black is the editor of www.daveblackonline.com.