The Lower Lights> Aug 2001|
Alan Jones, Editor
"Brightly beams our
From the lighthouse
But to us He gives the
Of the light along the
Published monthly by the church of Christ, 35900 Palmer Road, P.O. Box
86-233, Westland, MI 48166
The Detroit Free Press
recently did a feature story on a church in the metro area which is going
to great lengths to be non-traditional. According to the newspaper, their
most radical idea is that they have no "clergy".
It is hard to imagine
"Christianity" without the "clergy" (from Greek for "chosen"). In both
Catholic and Protestant Churches there are those who make up a specially
chosen class of Christians. They have special titles (e.g. "Father",
"Bishop", and "Reverend"), many of them wear special clothes (robes and
collars), and they are ordained to serve in the role of a priest, ,
officiating for the church in preaching, baptizing, serving the Lord's
Supper, marrying, praying for the sick, performing funerals, etc. The
"laity" (from Greek for "people") cannot perform these services and they
must depend on the clergy in order to worship and have their spiritual
needs met. Yes, compared to common practice, the idea of "no clergy" is
radical, but is it radical when compared to the New Testament?
In the Old Testament, God set up a special priesthood. Aaron and his sons
were ordained as priests to draw near to God and offer sacrifices for the
people and the rest of the tribe of Levi were appointed to assist them
(Num 18:1-7). But, God set up the Old Testament system to show men that
they needed something better. The priests were weak. Before they offered
sacrifices for the people, they had to offer sacrifices for their own sins
first (Heb 7:27-28). The priests were mortal. They died and had to be
replaced by someone else (Heb 7:23). But Jesus, who is sinless and lives
forever to provide continual service, fulfils man's need for a priest (Heb
7:24-28). All Christians are encouraged to boldly draw near to God through
Him (Heb 4:14-16; 10:19-22).
Why then should we look to sinful, mortal men as
mediators between us and God?
In His gospel, Jesus teaches
that all Christians are priests, capable of offering spiritual sacrifices
(1 Pet 2:5,9). He therefore never required a special ordination at the
hands of men for one to preach, baptize, serve the Lord's Supper, pray for
the sick, etc. He taught the "radical" idea that the subjects of His
kingdom would all be of the same class, "servants" (Mt 20:25-28). He
condemned wearing special clothing to draw the attention of men and the
use of special titles such as "Rabbi" and "Father" which exalt men (Mt
as early as Tertullian (A.D. 155-223), "Christians" had begun to compare
the elders with the priests and the Levites with the deacons and to say
that others should teach, baptize, and serve the Lord's Supper only when
"circumstances required it" (elders and deacons couldn't do it). By the
time of Cyprian (A.D. 195-268), they had begun to use the Greek word "kleros"
to describe those who were financially supported to devote themselves to
spiritual work (as the priests and Levites of the O.T.) as "clergy" (Neander's
History of the Christian Church, Vol 1, p. 195-96). How quickly men
brought into Christianity the Old Testament setup of men drawing near to
God through a special class of men!
Now, after hundreds of years, the clergy system
is so developed, accepted, and ingrained into "Christianity" that to
depart from it seems radical. But to do so is to return to Christianity
the way that Jesus set it up. May more men make this "radical" move to
enjoy the blessing of serving God directly through Jesus and not through a
separate and exalted class of men!! We shine the light of truth through
the fog of error that men may see the truth!
A Church Making
Up It's Own Rules?: Now That is Radical!!
The headline of the Detroit Free Press story about a
church in the metro area (see pg 1) read, "Church excels without rules".
How is it possible for people to worship and work together as a spiritual
body without rules? It isn't.
A closer look at the newspaper article
reveals that the church does have rules. The Free Press
writer reports that "It makes up its own rules, designs its own religious
experiences..." How then are they "without rules"? This church is "without
rules" in that they came together initially without subjecting themselves
to a particular set of previously established rules, as is the case
with most new churches. New Catholic Churches are formed under the rules
of the Catholic Catechism, new Methodist Churches are founded upon the
rules of the Methodist Discipline, new Baptist Churches are set up using
the rules of the Baptist Manual, etc... The way this church has come
together is, as reported, "beyond radical", for, as the article puts it,
"few people anywhere have seen a church like this".
But, given time and human nature, this
church will have set rules and their worship experiences will become
traditional. Perhaps other churches across the country and around the
world will be established using their rules and worship forms. Maybe even
a denominational organization will be formed and a Guidebook will be
written. New believers will come into the Church by subjecting themselves
to the existing rules. Then the once "beyond radical" group will have
become as "traditional" as the Catholics, Methodists, Baptists, etc.
Will it happen with this church? Who
knows? But the 100's of denominations in existence show that it has
happened many times before.
What does the New Testament say
about rules for churches? The people of God belong to the "kingdom of
God's beloved Son" (Col 1:13). Where do the rules in a "kingdom" come
from? From the king, of course. It is not surprising then to find that in
the N.T. local churches were told to follow the rules of King Jesus rather
than to make up their own rules or to follow rules men previously
Paul told the church at Corinth that he
was sending Timothy to remind them of his ways in Christ (the King) which
he taught everywhere in every church (1 Cor 4:17). The apostle scolded the
Galatian churches for quickly deserting Christ for another gospel, really
not another but a perversion of the one true gospel (Gal 1:6-9). He
exhorted the Thessalonian church to "hold to the traditions which you were
taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter from us" (2 Thess 2:15).
A church which makes up its own rules or
follows those already made up by men is "beyond radical" when compared to
the New Testament. Are you a part of a church which is following the rules
of men? Should you be? Why not do something "radical"? Leave that church
and join yourself to a local church which has for its rules only the New
Testament, the rules of Jesus, the King. We shine the light of truth
through the fog of error that men may see the truth!
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