New Testament Royal Priesthood: Participatory Participation in the Church occurs in many forms, beginning with its worship. The liturgy is designed to engage the people in some kind of activity, even a confession of faith. It is literally a statement of what the people believe, as one man has said, “The liturgy may be said to be a theological confession in the second person singular, and it would accord with the ethos of Anglicanism to say that this [is a] dramatized form”14 of theology. Perhaps this explains why Presbyterianism in England collapsed so quickly into Unitarianism after it left prayer book worship for “free” worship. Whatever the case, the liturgy moves the congregation to participate at the throne of God, hopefully translating into action in the streets of life. When you hear the word, liturgy, what comes to your mind? Formal? Candles? Vestments? Chanting choirs? For most people, unless they have been properly trained in the meaning of the liturgy of the Church, they probably do not have the correct impression. They may think of a liturgy as something that a priest does in front of everyone. Nothing could be further from the truth according to the meaning of the word liturgy itself. The English word is derived straight from the Greek, leitourgia, which is a compound of two other words: people and work. Thus, the word liturgy literally means, work of the people. The purpose of liturgy is to equip and lead the laity to worship God. This may not be your impression, but consider the ramifications of the popularly taught doctrine in the evangelical church: the priesthood of all believers. Do they really get to act like priests in their worship services? Probably not because their worship consists mostly of listening to sermons, doing a lot of sitting, and singing a little, usually three hymns. If they are part of the livelier side of evangelicalism, they at least get to more in the worship. They get to participate, explaining why there is so much growth in this part of the kingdom. But liveliness is not necessarily priestly activity. True priestly response is nothing less than a conversation between the leader and the people, representing a dialogue between God and the common man. Liturgical worship is 14 Geddes MacGregor, Corpus Christi (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1958), p.11. – page 41 – New Testament Royal Priesthood: Participatory an organized exchange between God and the people, consisting of various responses ranging from congregational prayers of confession and praise, to coming forward for communion at the throne of God on a regular (weekly preferably) basis. After all, the high point of the sacrifices of the Old Testament was peace offering where the family got to eat a meal with God as they accompanied the priest (Leviticus 5). Liturgy, therefore, is the practical working out of the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers into the worship of the Church, teaching everyone from young to old how to act like a priest before God. For this reason, liturgical churches have prayer books and missals. These books are to liturgy what a hymnal is to singing. They tell the officiant or celebrant (the one[s] who leads the worship) how to lead the laity in worship. They show as well involve the laity in an on the job type of training in worship. Moreover, they guide the laity so that they are the ones doing the worship. They, not the leader, determine the quality of the worship. Worship, liturgy, is the work of the people, clergy and most importantly, the laity. But notice: the clergy/laity combination is hierarchical in the outworking of worship. Each group is assigned very precise roles, someone leading and someone following. The clergy are like captains of worship. The people are like the court of worship. Does this hierarchy somehow stifle participation? Only if the priestly sense of the entire body of believers is lost. If the people lose sight of the fact that they are the ones performing the liturgy, or if they are not taught how to behave as priests in worship, they become passive. But if they are trained that they are a priesthood, responding to the captains of the priesthood, the clergy who represent the Lord God to the people, then they have a recognized and needed place in the acting out of the liturgy before their Maker and Redeemer. It is the laity’s ordination as a royal priesthood that sets them apart to act on behalf of God. Thus, Biblical hierarchy is part of functioning as a priesthood, the key to all participation in the Church. Jethro was a priest who advised Moses to set up a priestly hierarchy. He counseled a system that demanded participation. In our study of the Old Testament royal priesthood, I pointed out the various activities of this general priesthood. The life and laws of Israel demanded participation. Without responsiveness on the part of the people, the whole nation fell into disarray. Without action at the grassroots level, Israel could not function. It became a top-heavy bureaucracy. The problem was not in the system or the concept of Biblical hierarchy. The problem was the obedience of the people. As long as they were faithful, however, they engaged in a lively system of the – page 42 – Captains and Courts priesthood of all believers. They were part of the system not outside of it. They functioned as a true hierarchy. Jethro’s model pulls into the New Testament through Jesus Christ. Our Lord at the feeding of the five thousand implements the Melchizedekkal model as never before. He is the fulfillment of Moses. He carries out the Jethro model in a way far superior to the Old Testament, for He engages His followers more intensely and actively in the priestly activities of the Kingdom of God. His conceptualization of Jethro’s structure exacts more participation. How? The Discipleship Model Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo I am with you always, even to the end of the age. Amen. (Matthew 28:19- 20) . In Christ’s final words to the disciples, He commissions them to make disciples, making the Church the center of discipleship. This commission is hierarchical in nature. Christ had demonstrated the hierarchy of discipleship in His ministry. He dealt with essentially three groups of people: the disciples, the mixed multitude, and the world. The disciples were the twelve. The mixed multitude were those who followed in large crowds, one moment enthusiastically supporting Him and the next calling for His Crucifixion. Such is the fickle nature of the larger, loosely discipled group. The world is the group totally out of contact directly with His ministry, primarily the Roman Empire. Christ’s method for reaching the world is significant, however. To use Jethro’s language, He appointed and trained captains who would carry His ministry far beyond where He went, to the world of the Roman Empire, His obvious long-range goal. Of the three groups, He spent most of His time with the twelve disciples, one of which betrayed Him but who was replaced by Matthias (Acts 1:15ff.). At the end of His ministry, He lost one twelfth. He regained rapidly what He lost because the others had been discipled. Of the twelve, He invested Himself in the three to whom He was closest: Peter, James and John. This is hierarchy. He dealt often with the twelve by means of the three and He ministered to the mixed multitude through the twelve. Christ did not begin with the world, holding revivalistic campaigns. He began with the Church and specifically the twelve. – page 43 – New Testament Royal Priesthood: Participatory This hierarchical approach to ministry is copied by the disciples of Christ, especially the Apostle Paul who said, “And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (II Timothy 2:2). Notice the levels of discipleship. Timothy, to whom Paul wrote, had been a disciple, level one. The Apostle tells him to make disciples by committing Paul’s teachings to others, level two. Finally, the Apostle tells Timothy to make disciples who can disciple others, making disciple makers, level three. These three levels form a bottom-up hierarchy of pastoral ministry. Makers of disciple makers Disciple makers Disciples The goal of the Apostle Paul’s ministry was the outworking of what Christ had commissioned the Church to do. Thus, discipleship is hierarchical, analogous to Jethro’s structure. The hierarchical discipleship model of Christ forces participation. Becoming a Christian meant willing to become a disciple, level one. The nature of being a disciple, as the word implies, requires following the Master. It means doing what Christ did, which returns us to the hierarchy of discipleship. To be a disciple means not only being a disciple, but it consists of following Christ in the discipling of others. Equipping the Saints Specifically, to make disciples calls for the ministry of the Church to equip the saints to do what Jesus commanded. Someone has to equip and someone has to be equipped, with everyone in the Church being thrown into the process. The Apostle Paul explains the equipping ministry to the Church of Ephesus: He (Christ) gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness by which they lie in wait to deceive, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the – page 44 – Captains and Courts head — Christ — from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love (Ephesians 4:ll-16). This section of Scripture could be called the correct philosophy of ministry. Notice how Paul defines the purpose of the offices of the Church. He says that pastors and teachers are supposed to equip the saints for the work of ministry. The pastors and teachers equip. Their role is not to do everything or else they will be subject to Jethro’s counsel to Moses, “The thing that you do is not good. Both you and these people who are with you will surely wear yourselves out. For this thing is too much for you; you are not able to perform it by yourself” (Exodus 18:17-18). The pastor and teacher are supposed to decentralize. If they attempt to do everything, they will burn out themselves and the congregation. Besides, they cannot do everything. If Jethro’s counsel says anything it is that one man cannot do all of the tasks. From the saints’ point of view, they must be willing to be equipped. They need training. Doing what is needed in the Church is not natural. They should allow the pastors and teachers to train them. After being discipled they then have to be willing to do. If either the pastors fail to equip or the people fail to be equipped, the ministry closes down in whole areas. Parish ministry has only minimal effect in the community. The bottom line is that everyone is to participate in the ministry of the Church. Agreed, everyone should participate in the ministry. Does this mean that everyone does exactly the same thing? No, this notion of requiring each person to do the same kinds of tasks doesn’t work in any other area of life, such as the home and business; there is division of labor. It will not work in the Church. The Apostle Paul argues that since the Church is the Body of Christ; not every part of the body is the same or has the same function (I Corinthians 12). There are hands, feet, arms, legs, circulatory systems, respiratory systems, and so forth. The point is that not everyone is supposed to do the same function because not everyone can perform the same function. For this reason, God gives each believer at least one spiritual gift by which to serve the Church. He gives that the gift might be given back. These gifts vary from teaching to giving money (Romans 12:3-8; I Corinthians 12:14). Without going into detail on each gift, they should be understood in terms of the ministry of Christ. Remember, the Church is the Body of Christ. As such, it should reflect the threefold offices of – page 45 – New Testament Royal Priesthood: Participatory Christ: Prophet, Priest, and King. It is not surprising, therefore, that the spiritual gifts given to the Church can be organized around these three offices. Prophetic Office: Prophesy (Romans 12:6) Evangelism (Ephesians 4:11) Exhortation (Romans 12:8) Faith (I Corinthians 12:9) Miracles (I Corinthians 12:10) Priestly Office: Ministering (Romans 12:7) Mercy (Romans 12:8) Healing (I Corinthians 12:9) Discerning Spirits (I Corinthians 12:10) Teaching (Romans 12:7) Tongues (I Corinthians 12:10) Interpretation of Tongues (I Corinthians 12:10) Pastors (Ephesians 4:11) Kingly Off ice: Giving (Romans 12:8) Leading (Romans 12:8) Wisdom (I Corinthians 12:8) Knowledge (I Corinthians 12:8) The offices of Christ give perspective to the gifts. As these gifts are put to use, the Church should be more Christ-like. In fact, this is the greatest test of a congregation in its application of the gifts. If there is a deficiency, it should be understood according to an office of Christ that is not being reflected. Moreover, to keep gifts in perspective with Christ’s ministry, they should be kept in a discipleship context, which is most often neglected. The gifts of the Church are to be used to make disciples. They are not given for the fascination of the believer and all who behold the exercise of a gift. They are provided to carry out Christ’s commission. They are bestowed so that the pastor can equip and the layman can be equipped to use the gift in the hierarchy of discipleship. For example, not everyone is an evangelist but everyone is called to evangelize. On the basis of spiritual gifts, not everyone will evangelize the same way. A person will reach people according to his (her) gifts. This calls for spiritual gifts to be understood in terms of discipleship, or the equipping – page 46 – Captains and Courts ministry of the Church. The benefits of an equipping ministry are enormous. Aside from involving everyone, the church is provided with a built-in protection against becoming too overly dependent on the dynamic leader. The one-man-show approach cripples the church, causing the success of the ministry to rely on him. This is exactly what many church members think the ministry should be. The problem is that the great dynamic leaders are few and far between. Interestingly enough, most of them are involved in equipping types of ministry. This means that they will probably not come to the church that is depending on the super-pastor. Why? Because they don’t want to be worn out. So if a congregation ever wants the “great man” to come to it, an equipping ministry is necessary. But trying to lure the multiphasic pastor should not be the motivation for equipping ministry. The purpose should be to decentralize the strengths of the congregation so that it is not totally at the mercy of one man’s gifts. The founder of McDonalds, Ray Kroc, once quoted someone who was describing the British Navy as the ideal organization when he said, “The British Navy is an organization designed by geniuses to be run by imbeciles.” What is he saying? He is trying to get the reader to see that the best organization is the one that can be run by anyone, not just a super-person. Applied to the Church, the best Church organization is the one that can be run by imbeciles. Don’t be offended. The imbeciles of the Church have to include clergy as well as laity. Most evangelicals are astounded when they attend large successful Episcopal churches, or other liturgical ones. Most of the time, the pastor is not necessarily dynamic. I remember quite well how a friend of mine responded after going to a dynamic evangelical Episcopal church. He said, “I couldn’t believe it, the pastor was just a simple preacher; he wasn’t a great orator but the congregation was a growing dynamic parish.” How could this be? The genius of the Anglican system (and most liturgical churches for that matter) is that it is not dependent on the super-star pastor. It is a discipleship, equipping ministry model whereby the people are trained to do the work of the ministry. It doesn’t depend on any one person, because the saints are doing the work! As we observed in the Jethro structure, Biblical hierarchy produces and demands participation at all levels. This is especially true of the Church. Without correct participation, disciples are not made. If they are not developed, then the Church dies from failure to comply with Christ’s Great Commission. It dies and stagnates. – page 47 – New Testament Royal Priesthood: Participatory Shortcuts to Participation Unfortunately, the Church often takes shortcuts to make disciples. One of those is the mistake of ordaining people to get them to serve. Instead of real discipleship and equipping, half elders and half deacons are created to “get the people involved.” This has proved to be disastrous for the Church. Elders are ordained in some churches who can be involved in the spiritual oversight, but they are not ordained to preach and certainly not to consecrate the sacraments. Furthermore, they are not allowed to be a member of the Presbytery, the larger court of the Church to whom the ministers belong, the real Presbyters. They can only attend and participate but not be members. They are half Elders, a totally unbiblical concept! Then there are other churches who ordain deacons who cannot function as Deacons. They cannot preach as Stephen did (Acts 7); and they cannot administer the sacraments as Philip did (Acts 8). Neither are they members of the Presbytery. After all, they are not able to perform any ministerial functions. They are half deacons, and probably not Biblical deacons at all. What is the problem? The problem is the wrong motivation for participation in the Church. The motivation becomes leadership and not service, discipleship. As a result, competition arises and the Church is often thrown into conflict. When the purpose is discipleship, then the Church creates a servant approach to its ministry. It gives the layman a transcendent purpose for the so-called mundane aspects of Church life, which are absolutely necessary. It teaches the laity that they are working as part of the discipleship process, not just doing the task at hand as an end in and of itself. It says to everyone, “Your work in the Church is part of the Great Commission because you are doing this as a disciple with a view to being equipped for the work of the ministry; you, the layman, are doing the ministry.” This is far superior to giving the layman an inferior kind of ordination to inflate falsely his ego so that he will participate. Then there is another problem, the problem of the watchdog layman who is not involved in the life and ministry of the Church. Every church has this kind of person. His motivation is leadership, for that is what he is trying to exercise, but he has no sense of pastoral ministry. So what does he (she) do? He lurks in the background of the Church as the chief critic of everything going on, but he never does anything to bring people into the church nor does he serve in any constructive manner. He usually doesn’t financially support the church much, if any at all. You know the old saying, “Eighty percent of the work is – page 48 – Captains and Courts done by twenty percent of the people and eighty percent of the problems come from twenty percent of the people.” Then, our watch dog friend shows up at the annual parish (congregational) meeting and makes a fool out of himself by causing arguments and commotion, usually making ignorant statements about the ministry of which he has not helped to grow during the previous year, or maybe ever. Much of this could be avoided if someone discipled this individual into real service. If he (she) were involved in the work of ministry and service, he might change his attitude and quit trying to control the church through commotion, If he were not willing to be discipled, then he might find himself disarmed in many of his objections. Do these problems mean that there is no place for lay leadership in the work of the ministry? Not at all. Lay Leadership It does mean, however, that the layman should participate on the basis that he is already a part of the priesthood of all believers. He has spiritual gifts and talents that he offers to the Church to do the work to which Christ has called him, the work of the ministry, to use the Apostle Paul’s words (Ephesians 4:12). The non-ordained layman can also be vitally involved in the work of the ministry, even exercising leadership over certain aspects of the work. In the Episcopal Church, this person is called Vestryman15 because he was the person who historically had the honor of helping the minister put on his vestments for worship, making him “one who helps vest.” In other words, he helped in the physical aspects of Church life to free the pastor to do his equipping ministry. He was called to this important task but he was not ordained. Are there any Biblical examples of non-ordained lay workers who provided this leadership role of service in the Bible? Yes, as a matter of fact, they are so numerous that one might tend to miss the obvious. 15 Other denominations call their leaders the Session (although it differs in function from the Vestry), the Consistory, and the Board (Baptists). Sometimes these groups criticize the Episcopal Church for not having Biblical titles for their leaders. But it should be kept in mind that words such as Session, consistory, and Board are not in the Bible either. So, every group tries to come up with a name for a Biblical or theological concept that they think is in the Scripture. The same is done in other areas of theology, the most notable being the word, Trinity, which although extremely Biblical is not found mentioned anywhere in scripture. – page 49 – New Testament Royal Priesthood: Participatory For example, Bezaleel and Aholiab were laymen who made and oversaw the construction of the Tabernacle. The text says of these mighty laymen of God, See, I have called by name Bezaleel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah. And I have filled him with the spirit of God, in wisdom, in understanding, in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship, to design artistic works, to work in gold, in silver, in bronze, in cutting jewels for setting, in carving wood, and to work in all manner of workmanship. And I, indeed I, have appointed with him Aholiab the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan; and I have put wisdom in the hearts of all who are gifted artisans, that they may make all that I have commanded you (Exodus 31:2-6). These men were gifted. They had been trained and equipped obviously to do what they did. They were given wisdom and knowledge by the Spirit of God. They did extremely important work requiring a variety of skills, serving as foreman under Moses for the project at hand. They exercised lay leadership over the physical aspects of the house of God. They were called but they were not ordained: Granted, they did not perform any spiritual oversight over the people of Israel. Did this mean they were not important? Hardly. They facilitated the establishment of the House of God. There are others too in Scripture who served in similar capacities. Nehemiah was a lay leader who rebuilt the walls around Jerusalem. He was not a priest ordained to teach or offer the sacrifices. But he was used of God to rebuild the city and the place where the people of God met. He was a lay supervisor of the physical side of the work of the Lord. When we come to the New Testament, whole passages of Scripture are devoted to people who functioned as lay workers in leadership capacities. Have you ever wondered why all the lists of names were provided at the end of the epistles? One of the reasons is so that the Church would know that there were active laymen doing the work of the ministry as believer priests. Paul lists some in his letter to the Church at Rome: Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my fellow workers i n Christ Jesus, who risked their own necks for my life, to whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles. Likewise greet the church that is in their house. Greet my beloved Epaenetus, who is the firstfruits of Achaia to Christ. Greet Mary, who labored much for us. . . . (Romans 16:3-6). – page 50 – Captains and Courts Were any of these laymen specifically ordained to do the work that they did? No, except for their general calling as the priesthood of all believers. Yet, they worked and helped in all kinds of various capacities. For their work, their names are recorded. Interestingly, not even the Presbyters and Bishops of the early Church are recorded in as great a number as are the laymen and “Vestrymen.” Doesn’t this tell us something about the importance of lay participation? Yes definitely! In summary, the Jethro model that Jesus adopted was a hierarchical approach to ministry by means of calling disciples, a small group to reach a larger one. This hierarchy produced organizational participation unlike any other organization ever in the history of man. It provoked laymen to offer their services on a voluntary basis for the glory of God. They did the work of the ministry. They carried out the Great commission. They served the lay boards to facilitate the work of the Deacons, Presbyters, and Bishops, indeed, the entire church. It can safely be said that without them the work of the Church could not have been accomplished. Neither can it be today!