By Ron Halbrook
For The Truth’s Sake, each one of us should render to God that “faith which worketh by love” (Gal. 5:6), “without benefit of clergy.” God knows nothing of a “clergy” and “laity” among His people; therefore, they should abolish all such distinctions among themselves. Forsaking all religious titles of honor, elevation, and reverence, Christians should recognize the words of Christ: “one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren.” He added, “But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted” (Matt. 23:10-12).
Much work done by churches today is unauthorized by Christ; whether elevated or unelevated. Christ said nothing of the “Youth Minister” or “Recreational Director.” The church’s mission is spiritual, not social, political, economic, or recreational (1 Tim. 3:15). But even the work he does authorize-elders, deacons, preachers, teachers-offers no positions of reverence, honor, or prestige. The only “position” involved is the work, office, or position of a servant among brethren. One may be set aside for a given work for which he is best suited, but rather than being elevated to receive special honors he is only humbled to render service to others! God intended “that no flesh should glory in his presence,” but men “have sought out many inventions” of rebellion heaping to themselves honor, glory, and reverence which belongs to God alone (1 Cor. 1:29; Eccl. 7:29).
Apostles and prophets were inspired by God’s Spirit in the first century to reveal His will, yet they glorified “God that giveth the increase” rather than themselves (1 Cor. 3:7). Elders are overseers (bishops) or pastors (those who tend the flock), but not “as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock” (Acts 20:17-28; 1 Pet. 5:2-3). This is not a seat of authority over great regions, but only a service limited to “the flock of God which is among you.” Some are quick to exalt the evangelist or preacher as the “Reverend” Somebody, and to expect special powers, blessings, and access to God through him. But he does “the work of an evangelist” only when he serves others in this way: “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke., exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine” (2 Tim. 4:1-5).
Denominations have long depended on their clergies; now, shamefully, some apostate churches of Christ are developing theirs, too. Preachers are being called “Reverend,” “Pastor,” and “Doctor,” rather than simply “brethren.” Professional clergymen are needed to run the social, recreational, economic, and political projects unauthorized in Scripture. Churches are hiring men trained in psychology, counseling, administration, business management, social work, and “youth” work. God’s people must resist the clergy system both without and within, while laboring as servants together in the work of the gospel.
Truth Magazine XXI: 33, p. 518
August 25, 1977