The Priesthood of Believers – Unleashing the Millennials!
So the masses should minister, and paid clergy should train and empower them? Is there Scriptural precedent for this? Naturally! The entire New Testament. Paul made tents for a living, he wasn’t a paid pastor. He made it his purpose to disciple others and raise them to do likewise, spreading the good news and creating micro-communities of believers in every village and city. Christians met in homes to shared life and study Scripture, tell stories of Jesus and read letters by early leaders like Peter, Paul and Jude – and even Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. The New Testament constantly keeps before us the idea that evangelizing is everyone’s job (the Great Commission ring a bell?) and that we, the people, are royal priests enabled to show others the goodness of God (1 Peter 2:9).
Get this: We don’t go to church to “meet God.” If you aren’t already meeting with God daily, there’s a serious problem – a problem that starts with YOU, not with the church you attend. Going to church on Sundays isn’t our only chance to meet with God each week. It’s a family reunion to meet with other believers. Will you meet God there? Yes. Will you praise him there? Of course. Will you learn about him there? Yes. Might you experience him there more powerfully than in your noisy home or busy office? Very possibly.
But is church the only place and time we should experience him? ABSOLUTELY NOT! The curtain in the Temple was torn from top to bottom to remind us that God no longer resides in a building. He’s with every one of us every moment of every day. Practicing the presence of God is a daily spiritual discipline available to anyone, not just paid clergy or ministers who have a degree or preachers who were ordained.
While having a church to attend can often be a positive influence in your faith life, being a member and regular attender and contributor to a church is not necessary for salvation, intimacy with God, or fulfilling your spiritual purposes – doing good works, loving God and neighbor, being his hands and feet, or any other spiritual endeavor. In fact… it’s quite possible that being completely immersed in an institutionalized church or entrenched in a church business mindset could even hinder your personal day to day faith walk, growth and personal ministries – but that’s another post for another day.
Imagine Paul’s “Body” analogy. All believers are different body parts of the collective whole, the Church. Our paid clergy are the “Brain”, leading the operation by sending tasks to each body part to keep the whole functioning in a coordinated fashion. The crisis in the American church today is this: a Brain without hands and feet and heart and spleen and nose and eyes can’t get a whole lot done. The Brain of American Christianity is pretty much just keeping the body alive, inactive as it warms its pews and not doing much outside the church walls. We’ve lost our purpose and given over all ministries to the Brain. And the Brain has lost its purpose, letting all the other Body parts atrophy. Church leaders should teach and empower flock members to pursue their own personal callings and ministries. And then church members need to get out there and get busy.
Why? Church leaders can’t be in the community meeting everyone and doing everything – and frankly everyone in the community isn’t going to show up at church buildings to get what they direly need, a connection with God and salvation. It is the role of church leaders to empower church members to go out into the community to do God’s work. But the pew has become, for many, the extent of their faith – they come to get fed but don’t go out to feed others. And ministers have likewise compromised their role – they serve food to those who show up on Sunday but don’t teach them how to cook and feed others Monday through Saturday. The extent of most believers’ spiritual experience today is what they have gotten while sitting down at church on Sundays – instead of what they’ve accomplished with God throughout the week before dropping into church on Sunday for a refill.
The Church (uppercase!) has forgotten its role and has paid a few clergy to do all the heavy lifting. The clergy and church (lowercase!) businesses have forgotten their role and have taken on the Church’s role of ministering instead. This should convict church leaders and church attenders. Church is not a business that we give money to in order to purchase religious services – we aren’t customers. Church is Battle School. Church is where we go to get encouraged to spend another week representing God at our job. In our family. With our club. Among our friends. In our neighborhood. Sunday church is where we go to learn – about God, about ministry, about putting Kingdom values into practice. We gather to learn from people who we’ve set aside to prepare us and we gather to learn from fellow Christians who have been serving throughout the week.
As the Millennial generation has come into its own as free thinkers, some (if not most) of us have recognized this stagnation and have gotten up and stretched a bit. We have heard what the “Brain” has preached, we have seen what the “Brain” is doing to maintain their church businesses, and we have realized that the Kingdom of God should be so much more. So we went out and started doing God’s work elsewhere. We like going back on Sundays for a little bit of a pick me up, because let’s be honest – working in the trenches is troubling, exhausting, painful, draining, dangerous.
Our goal is to light a fire under the rest of the pews. We re-imagine Church to be so much more than filling your Sunday morning religious observance two hours a week. We aim to overhaul Christianity by reminding all believers to pursue ministry daily in whatever unique ways God has enabled you, through whichever doors God has opened for you. Ask him every day how you can be a part of what he is doing. How much greater would the world be if all of Christianity – the entire Body – actively worked to show God’s love and meet the world’s needs and reach the lost instead of just the 1% we pay to do our job for us? Imagine.
Image: Millennials doing Church out of church – if fact, out of country!
Catch parts 1 & 2 here:
For further reading: “Practicing the Presence of God” by Brother Lawrence