This is another excerpt from one of my papers. It is part of a much larger paper that looks at the ecclesiology and theology of the missional church. Just e-mail me if you want the whole thing.
The ministry of the Church has too often been divided between clergy and laity, with the majority of the responsibility for ministry falling to the “professional” clergy. This fact is responsible for the serious diminishment of the missional presence of the Church in the world, and can be seen in multiple areas of ministry. In this section, we will begin with a look back at some aspects of the church’s history, and then consider what some churches are doing to move forward.
Looking back, the reign of Constantine instigated, or some might say, brought to fruition, patterns of thought and ministry that handicapped the Church and it’s ability to engage in ministry. Even before the Christianization of the Roman Empire, leaders in the church reigned supreme…when they were not being killed or driven into hiding. Christians of the fourth century then formalized what had already begun, namely a separation between clergy and laity.
This separation, according to Bloesch, severely limited ministry, and though the reformers of the sixteenth century re-emphasized, at least intellectually, the priesthood of all believers, they failed to overcome the grip of this perspective’s gravity, which pulled them into its orbit. Guder picks up this same theme when he points out the fact that the Church tends to focuses on “identifying, training and credentialing…the pastor teacher.”, and this at the expense of the other gifts listed in Ephesians chapter four. The effects of a Constantinean perspective on ministry and mission still handicap us today.
The leadership of ministry that is missional, leans on the example of Jesus, and seeks to serve rather than being lifted up to an elevated position. It also takes Christ’s model of discipleship seriously. Having twelve disciples is not necessary, but discipling people is. When we begin to see the church as the “fellowship of believers”, we are much more likely to involve all members in missional witness.
If the church is to minister effectively and missionally, it must do three things: take discipleship seriously, bridge the gap between, and ultimately abolish clergy/laity distinctions, and seek to empower all the gifts of the Holy Spirit for the sake of the church. As these things become increasingly true, the church will become increasingly missional.