PART 1 - BALANCING ACT BETWEEN THE CLERGY AND THE LAITY? by Doug Krieger (Another in a Series on Ekklesia)
There you go again, Krieger, trying to rearrange chairs on the top deck of the Titanic when we should be getting into the lifeboats and letting this “thing” sink! Yes, I guess I’m guilty of at least trying to move things around a bit because it’s a little chaotic between clergy/laity – pulpit/pew – ministers/congregants – elders/members - I could go on; but I’m not trying to destroy the obvious. Let me explain . . . To suggest that there is not this dichotomy within the Body of Christ (and, consequent “tension”) one simply has either not read the Word of God—especially the New Testament—or (let me be a bit sinister here) has an agenda to have their own “tension system” of controlling the saints (not that the clergy doesn’t), but to say “we’re all the same” without gifted members of the One Body standing out vs. the “average Joe,” well, the one saying we should all be “equal” is often guilty of that which they protest the most—viz., “some are more equal than others.” This (clergy vs laity) is a very “touchy” subject and grossly misunderstood—especially, among the growing number of Christians in America who are so DONE (aka, “the Dones”) with the traditional denominational or even non-denominational “Church-going” system. This perspective may outrage some “who are in control” but, believe me, there’s plenty of blame to go around—i.e., the abuse wrought by ministries/ministers vs. congregant manipulations is endless. Need I say more than what is already known regarding “clergy abuse” either in moral matters or “financial issues” vs. congregants who “hire and fire” - at will - pastors.
“THE RISE OF THE DONES”
CLERGY ABUSE/EXPLOITATION Now, bear with me, we’ve got to get the clutter taken out of the room before we can “rearrange” things. I know, somewhat presumptuous of me to suggest some of these “alternatives”—but someone’s got to do it. Clergy exploitation (e.g., material, moral, psychological, spiritual) is known in the book of Revelation as Nicolaitanism: But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. — Revelation 2:6 Allow me to quote Renner on this: Jesus was proud of the church of Ephesus for their “hatred” of the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which He also “hated.” The word “hate” is a strong word, so let’s see exactly what it means. It comes from the Greek word miseo, which means to hate, to abhor, or to find utterly repulsive. It describes a person who has a deep-seated animosity, who is antagonistic to something he finds to be completely objectionable. He not only loathes that object, but rejects it entirely. This is not just a case of dislike; it is a case of actual hatred. AND . . . The name “Nicolaitans” is derived from the Greek word nikolaos, a compound of the words nikos and laos. The word nikos is the Greek word that means to conquer or to subdue. The word laos is the Greek word for the people. It is also where we get the word laity. When these two words are compounded into one, they form the name Nicolas, which literally means one who conquers and subdues the people. It seems to suggest that the Nicolaitans were somehow conquering and subduing the people. Renner goes into detail wherein Nicolaitans were those who followed the pattern of Nicholas, a proselyte from Antioch with a pagan background who converted to Judaism and then to Christianity and was somehow, as a result of his background, able to bring pagan practices into the congregation of the faithful (Acts 6:5; Rev. 2:14-15) a la Baalim who was hired by the Moabite king to prophesy against Israel, but could not (Numbers 22-24). These “guns for hire” are utilized to wreak havoc over God’s people—aka, “clergy abuse.” Today’s Christianity is fraught, sadly so, by these “Baalimites” who are requisitioned to afflict the people of God (at their worst) or at their semi-best, simply control the laity . . . maneuvering them at their whims. CONGREGANT MALFEASANCE – THE LAODICEANS However, within the seven distinctly different expressions of the EKKLESIA (aka, churches) in Asia as found in Revelation 2-3, I find the most egregious, even disgusting Lampstand, was the Church in Laodicea. Why? Because the very name conjures up a lukewarm condition which is “neither cold nor hot” so that the Lord would “vomit you out of My mouth” (Rev. 3:16)? How’s that? Well, this rather prosperous outcropping of saints found itself in the midst of trade routes where lots of commercialism took place—this Ekklesia had “money issues” big time. And, money is power (in case you haven’t yet figured that one out). “Because you say, “I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked” (Rev. 3:17). So, with “riches” comes control—normally, the clergy treats you differently if you have the big bucks. The Greek words which comprise “Laodicean” are two: λαος (leos) meaning “the people” and δικη (dikay) meaning “justice or fairness” wrought by the people; thus: “people justice.” It has a “judicial context” – the best way to put it would be in a court of law where a “jury of your peers” render a decision, juxtaposed to the “court” (i.e., a judge only) rendering a decision; thus, “people justice” vs. “court justice.” In other words: THE PEOPLE RULE vs. the JUDGE RULES. Put crudely: We, the people (aka, the congregants), will act as “judge and jury”—we control this “thing” – not some judge (aka, the clergy).
THE CHURCH IN LAODICEA
Oddly enough, it was the very Council in Laodicea in 363-364 A.D. of some 30 bishops which solidified the separation between Jew and Christian and forbid worship on the Jewish/Sabbath as well as Hebraic Feast Days, among other things, but also, sought the following:
·Enforcing modest behavior of clerics and laypeople (4, 27, 30, 36, 53–55)
My, my, how the clergy turned things around and sought not only to control the laity but themselves! But I think one can clearly see the extremes represented by the Lord’s hatred regarding the Nicolaitan system and His disgust (vomiting) toward the Laodicean system – amazing how the Lord sees things vs. how we see them, isn’t it? THE “CONGREGATIONAL SYSTEM” Today, the “congregational system” is celebrated where the Board of Deacons or Elders (depending on whether your Baptist [deacons] or Presbyterian [elders] tell the pastors “where to get off” (I know, sounds a bit negative) or on the positive side provides a wide-base of support to said pastor almost to the point of the ridiculous (e.g., “pastor appreciation days” – all sorts of “vacation perks” – inordinate expressions of adulation, etc.); however, sometimes a member of the clergy will “gain the upper hand” and create a “leadership environment” where the congregants are, in the main, subservient to some type of administrative leader, patriarchal figure, nigh cult-like character or the assembled are mesmerized by some charismatic “Lollapalooza or Wallapalooza” -style” leadership (viz. "an extraordinary or unusual thing, person, or event; an exceptional example or instance.”
BALANCE BETWEEN “THE WORK” AND THE “CONGREGANTS” Three things are at stake here: (1) The congregants – the regulars – the “whole Ekklesia” when it comes together. (2) Gifted members – Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors-Teachers – sometimes affectionately known as “the clergy” . . . closely associated with them but a little different are the . . . (3) Ministries – gifted members normally not connected, per se, with immediate “Church leadership” yet having ministries supporting what are known as “churches” (aka, “para-church ministries”). Can we find these three entities in the New Testament? Of course, in some fashion we can . . . known as (1) the “churches” (aka, the Ekklesia); (2) the gifted ones (viz., those who should be equipping the “saints for the ministry” as found in Eph. 4:11-12) or “workers” as per 2 Tim. 2:15 and illustrated by the workers from Antioch “when they were sent off” to Asia Minor in Acts 15:30-41 and (3) the elders/deacons of local congregations (e.g., Phil. 1:1; 1 Tim. 3:1-13 – with all THREE designations found in Acts 15:23: The apostles (aka, gifted ones); the elders; and the brethren (congregants). WHO’S IN CONTROL – WHY I LEFT THE “CHRISTIAN CULT” . . . Herein lies the rub. Somebody must be in control, right? In remembrance of a brother, who once considered himself (as well as others who so considered him) the ORACLE OF GOD (a bit of a stretch but, nevertheless, God’s insurmountable mouthpiece on the earth today, would be more like it—yeah, I know, sounds nigh Papal, and it was/is). Another brother and I after nearly eleven years within the “confines” of this man’s “ministry” knew exactly what we stood for: “We are the OVERCOMERS who are ‘standing on the local ground of unity’ - for within any jurisdiction we may find ourselves—we are absolutely for the Body of Christ for we are the Body of Christ locally expressed; therefore, either we find others who are standing as we are (EXCEEDINGLY RARE TO FIND) or we “take the ground of unity” wherein all other believers who are in confusion (viz., Babylon) and, therefore, must meet with us to express the same ‘ground of unity in that locality’ – otherwise, if they don’t align with us, they abide in division, sectarianism, and sundry factions (especially, the overt denominations).” I generously labeled this, after I was “excused” from this concept/Church the “doctrine of the dirt.” Now, you may think this a somewhat odd “awareness” (shall we say) of “Body Life” – but the “doctrines of demons” are extremely clever and rabidly sectarian (although initially, they present themselves as most benign and gregarious—open to all, said the spider to the fly). Normally, such groups result in some form of “cultic expression”—although, they may be Christian, at least in name. Frankly, you can normally consider something cultic by dent of the fact these beloved members have an intense “superiority complex” and delight they have discovered truth and mysteries unknown by most Christians. Again, the closer one gets to the epicenter of their movement, the harder it is to digress from the dictum which normally are ensconced and/or broadcast by their leader or “ministerial council” – any deviation is at best suspect and at worst pure rebellion and must be excised from the “group.” This sometimes is referred to as “leaven”—in other words, once one is designated as “rebellious” by the “authorities” that person is stigmatized and shunned, lest anyone within the group “touch the unclean thing” and become contaminated [aka, leprous]—forbid!
JOE - I KNOW THE “GROUND OF UNITY’S AROUND HERE SOMEWHERE!”
They “become cultic” because, although they may give allowance in recognition that Christians can be found “all over the place” – there can be little doubt the REAL, GENUINE, COMMITTED ones are found within the wagons they have circled! Those “circled wagons” normally restrict or consign the “ministry” of that group to the singularity of that minister/ministerial council. To leave the group is more than dangerous and can result in some form of “dis-fellowship” – censor – shunning – and in extreme cases “curses be upon you” and even (as was the case with the inquisition) DEATH! So, “Christian cults” can be very large or very small—do you follow? Oh, sure, since YOU are the problem, the group’s members may from time to time see you at “neutral functions” (someone’s going away party known by everyone - or a funeral, aka, Memorial Service or a wedding) but, in the main, stay out of your sight or give you a smile (if you’re lucky) but, other than that, YOU’RE THE ENEMY! SO – HOW WERE YOU EJECTED OR “IT SEEMS THAT ANTIOCH WAS CONTROLLING THEM”? Another brother and I, along with a few other young people, raised up a work (aka, “church”) in, of all places, Berkeley, California back in the heyday of the Jesus Movement (early 1970s). We contended that we were standing on the “ground of unity” and all other believers in Berkeley, CA were just in some form of “degraded Christianity” (derogatorily known as “poor Churchanity”). But, as we continued to minister among the young people, hippies, university students in Berkeley, we realized that many of the “other believers” who were doing similar works in leading young people to Jesus were still in the same “Household of Faith/God” as we—you see, that was “part of our doctrinal belief system” (in theory, at least)—notwithstanding, they still weren’t on the “ground of the dirt” as we were! So, there were Pentecostals doing a work there in the form of a place called Resurrection City, which was an outcropping of the Assemblies of God; then there was the rump-session of Campus Crusade for Christ known as the Christian World Liberation Front (by then) and then eventually as the Dwight House and, finally, as the “Spiritual Counterfeits Project or SCP” (although the latter came “transforming itself” and it was hard to figure that one o