From Pagan Christianity? By Frank Viola
How the Pastoral Role Damages Body Life
The unscriptural clergy/laity distinction has done untold harm to the body of Christ. It has divided the believing community into first and second-class Christians. The clergy/laity dichotomy perpetuates an awful falsehood – namely, that some Christians are more privileged than other to serve the Lord.
The one-man ministry is entirely foreign to the New Testament, yet we embrace it while it suffocates our functioning. We are living stones, not dead ones. However, the pastoral office has transformed us into stones that do not breathe.
Permit us to get personal; we believe the pastoral office has stolen your right to function as a full member of Christ’s body. It has distorted the reality of the body, making the pastor a giant mouth and transforming you into a tiny ear. It has rendered you a mute spectator who is proficient at taking sermon notes and passing an offering plate.
But that is not all. The modern-day pastoral office as overthrown the main thrust of the letter to the Hebrews – the ending of the old priesthood. It has made ineffectual the teaching of 1 Corinthians 12-14, that every member has both the right and the privilege to minister in a church meeting. It has voided the message of 1 Peter 2 that every brother and sister a functioning priest.
Being a functioning priest does not mean that you may only perform highly restrictive forms of ministry like singing songs in your pew, raising your hands during worship, setting up the PowerPoint presentation, or teaching a Sunday School class. That is not the New Testament idea of ministry! There are mere aids for the pastor’s ministry.
The contemporary pastorate rivals the functional headship of Christ in His church. It illegitimately holds the unique place of centrality and headship among God’s people, a place that is reserved for only one Person – the Lord Jesus. Jesus Christ is the only head over a church and the final word to it. By his office, the pastor displaces and supplants Christ’s headship by setting himself up as the church’s human head.
For this reason, we believe the present-day pastoral role hinders the fulfillment of God’s eternal purpose. Why? Because that purpose is centered on making Christ’s headship visibly manifested in the church through the free, open, mutually participatory, every-member functioning of the body. As long as the pastoral office is present in a particular church, that church will have a slim chance of witnessing such a thing.
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