“The term “laity” is one of the worst in the vocabulary of religion and ought to be banished from Christian conversation”. -Karl Barth.
I think Barth is right. The Clergy laity distinction does create an unhelpful them and us image of division.
It is translated into some peoples minds as “the called and the uncalled” -which is rubbish we are all called people, we just are called to different things and different roles within the body of Christ.
Or the qualified and the unqualified, but actually although it is an amazing privilege to study theology at degree level the under-pinning idea that ordinary everyday Christians aren’t “qualified” to do the works of the Kingdom is simply ludicrous -most of the original disciples were unskilled men!
Or perhaps you feel like the ‘elite’ and the ‘plebs’ which again isn’t helpful, because I think there is no such thing as a super Christian, as we all stand on level ground before the cross of Christ in our need of salvation, and ultimately all good works come “not by might, nor by power but by my spirit says the Lord of Hosts”.
In fact I’d go further and point to two pictures within scripture which I think are more helpful:
i) The first is that of the body of Christ, where every bit is interdependent on each other, each bit is needed, no bit can claim a greater importance in the body as each is doing a role or function that only they can do.
ii) The second is the ‘priest-hood of all believers’, not the few elected holy people as under the old covenant, but everyone able to approach the throne of grace with boldness.
That is not to say that there isn’t an important role in leadership within Christ’s Church, although I fear that to often Christian leadership looks more like Lord Sugar than the Lord Jesus’ Christ, the board-board rather than the upper room where Christ washed, dust, sweat and camel crap of his disciples feet.
Jesus said “The Son of Man (a term he used to describe himself) has come not to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many”.
I think Jesus showed us leadership that looked very different, it looks like sacrificial and costly servant-hood because that is what it is.
A friend who is a vicar, once asked a Church about a Biblical character they thought of when they thought of leadership, their response was of Moses coming down the mountain clutching the tablets of stone under his arm and saying “thus sayth the Lord” -an image I find very uncomfortable, and no wonder if this is your starting point is leadership abused. Instead this friend talked about the leadership picture he prefers which is that of John the Baptist “I must decrease so he must increase” -the path to fruitfulness is humility, prayerfulness, finding strength in weakness and these are entirely the virtues of the upside-down Kingdom of God.
I think we need to go back to scripture and see afresh what leadership is meant to achieve, from my reading of scripture it is meant to “equip the body of Christ for works of service”.
We often think this is about the 5 fold ministries in Ephesians, “Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist, Teacher and Pastor”, where someone comes and does Evangelism, or moves in the Prophetic, but surely the role of the Apostle is to teach other people to think apostolicially -looking for those kingdom opportunities, the prophet to hear other people to hear from God for themselves, the teacher to enable people to learn and grow for themselves, the evangelist to help other people in evangelism, and the pastor to help us love and care for one another”.
It’s not about building ourselves up, but rather it is about building up the body of Christ.
We often forget that leadership is actually about bringing out the gifts of God in others, it’s not a calling (to use a football analogy) to be a star striker scoring all the goals, but rather it is the role of the team coach who is called to invest, encourage, bless, challenge, inspire God’s people so they can turn this broken upside down world the right way up for Christ Jesus.
It’s not about building a big empire, with lots of people downloading your sermons and turning up to your services and putting on a great show on a Sunday, but rather sending people out to transform the world on Monday morning living out their faith in everyday life on their front-lines.
Too often leadership has been “you help me do what I think we should be doing” than asking “what is God calling you to do, and how can we help, bless and enable you to fulfil God’s call on your life”.
Too often we think of leadership about ‘press ganging volunteers’ to do our things -What can I get from them? Rather than thinking “how can be bless them” in what and where God is calling them.
I’ll close with a controversial Youtube Clip:-