Christianity Today had a post last week that shouldn't set well with many church leaders. It was written by John Knapp, also the author of a book, How the Church Fails Businesspeople (And What Can Be Done About It). The post had the provocative subtitle:
It's wrong to elevate an ecclesiastical elite over the money-making members of the body of Christ.While I am not sure I agree with the "money-making" theme of this as opposed to the "ecclesiastical elite" who, by inference, don't make money, there is a truth in this statement. I knew of a young person once who as one point in his life had thought seriously of entering the church's "ministry" as a profession/calling. When later, for many reasons he did not, people were disappointed. It was as if he had betrayed them, and even God. What a waste, some said.
How sad! say I, that the real ministry happens only in the church. Yes, I know, we pay lip service to the idea that people have a ministry wherever they work, but it is usually thought of as a lesser calling. To serve the church is to serve Christ. Anything else is well, inferior.
I have herd pastors say, and I am sure I have said it in one form or another (head hanging in humble contrition),
we need people to shovel the walks this winter, or cut the grass this summer. What a great way to serve your Lord.I am not sure I believe that anymore. I have discovered that real ministry is done as often in the factory or boardroom, Wal-Mart or classroom. I am convinced that ministry is done when we feed the hungry, visit the sick, clothe the naked. I am certain beyond any shadow of doubt that ministry is done when people care for each other, lend a hand or celebrate a joy.
I spent many years ignoring my own call to do ministry on the front lines, outside the ordained ministry, beyond the ecclesiastical elite. That work is not wasted, of course, but it is not the end of ministry.It is wrong, I agree to elevate the "church-based" ministry elite to any pedestal. We are all, no exceptions, called to ministry.
Maybe someday the Reformation can continue when we realize in fullness the priesthood of ALL believers.