Saturday, January 26, 2008

Are we developing an elite

Are we developing an elite group of Baptist pastors and churches? Are all pastors and churches treated equally? Two good questions; thirty-six times in the New Testament the word churches is used, plural, not one church but many churches. Each church is equal before God and each has the same head, Christ. Seven times in the book of Revelation Christ says, “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches;”

Yet today instead of listening to what our churches and pastors are saying the Spirit has told them; we hear from the association. We hear about ethnic churches, niche churches, cowboy churches, youth churches, mega churches, neighborhood churches, ad nauseum. When it comes to pastors we have bi-vocational, fully funded, ethnic, mission, ad nauseum.

When I first accepted Christ and joined a Baptist church I was taught from the scriptures the equality of all believers, and the equality and independence of all churches. Denominationalism was rejected and local church authority recognized. The priestly concept of sacerdotalism[1] was rejected and the priesthood of all believers accepted. What happened? Today we have divided and segregated our congregations. Instead of a multi-cultural model such as the Acts 13:1 church in Antioch we are more divided and segregated than in the days of racial segregation of the late 19th and 20th century. We are not only segregated by race, but by economic and social class. The large moneyed middle class suburban churches have come to dominate. The small and rural churches are marginalized.

Our pastors have become an educated elite clergy. While it is Biblical for ministers to study and train,[2] seminary educations are never mentioned in the scriptures. Seminary training while good does not make a pastor or preacher. God calls and makes the preacher. Many seminary graduates look for the large churches and comfortable salaries that make a career, while small and rural churches struggle to find a pastor. Pastors who work secular employment to feed and care for their families while answering the Spirit’s call to small, struggling, or mission congregations, are treated different and somewhat less that a “real full time pastor”. Baptist pastors are constantly urged to involve the laity in the life of the church. When did Baptists begin believing in a priestly or “clergy class” of Christian?

Churches wake up. Pastors wake up. It is time for Baptists to return to our Biblical and historic theology. All believers are created equal in Christ, and all churches have received the same commission and authority. We must reject the model of church life that is currently being forced upon us by elitist leaders who have rejected clear Biblical teaching. Our churches, associations, and conventions will not see revival until we begin to “hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.”

[1] Religious belief emphasizing the powers of priests as essential mediators between God and humankind

[2] “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” 2Ti 2:15