Welcome to episode 15 of The UnSunday Show. In this episode I continue my interaction with Jon Zens’ book, A Church Building Every 1/2 Mile: What Makes American Christianity Tick? as I look closer at the top-down authority structure of the clergy/laity system. In my opinion, this system is not neutral but adds an intentional, built-in layer of division within the body of Christ. The pastor-centric, top-down clergy/laity systems in most institutional churches is a product of church history. There is no New Testament warrant for its existence. In fact, the New Testament clearly mitigates against it.
The result of 2,000+ years of the clergy/laity system is that we can’t function apart from the pastor. The pastor is central to the extent that the identity of the entire local church is wrapped up in the person of the pastor in charge and if he or she fails to show up on a Sunday unannounced, we don’t know what to do. We even assign ownership of our local churches to the one pastor in charge. This expresses itself in phrases like, “I go to pastor John’s church” or “Pastor Jim started a new church.” This system of complete dependence on one person was first introduced by Ignatius of Antioch in the early 2nd century when he said,
“Let no one do anything in the church apart from the bishop. Holy communion is valid when celebrated by the bishop or someone the bishop authorizes. Where the bishop is present, there let the congregation gather, just as where Jesus Christ is, there is the church.”
Here are some links related to this episode:
- Rethinking Religion, Part 3: The Clergy/Laity Distinction
- A Church Building Every 1/2 Mile: What Makes American Christianity Tick? – by Jon Zens