It came as no surprise to find that in most local churches only 20 percent of the people are involved in their work. This ranges from stewarding to preaching to praying to leading worship and the whole host of practical tasks in between. These tasks enable the organisation to function at a basic level of effectiveness. The remaining 80 per-cent’s input is limited to consuming what’s on offer week after week.
In the USA, the evangelical researcher George Barna has found that, ‘80 percent of the leaders in America today are talking about the ministry of their people, but only 20 percent of them are actually providing the people with opportunities to get involved.’ The situation is probably much worse in Scotland’s evangelical churches, where moving from the position of ‘pew warmer’ to active contributor to the work of the church, is at best a tortuous and uncertain process.
Yet this is not how things should be. As a historian, I am acutely aware of the doctrine of the ‘Priesthood of all Believers’ which the leaders of the 16th century Reformation derived from the Bible.
The reformers saw this as a buttress against the clericalism of the medieval Catholic Church. For individuals such as John Calvin and Martin Luther, Biblical truth opposed the existence of a special, elite, self- perpetuating priestly/leadership class within the church.
According to Martin Luther, Christians: “are truly of the spiritual estate, and there is no difference among them, save of office alone. As St. Paul says, we are all one body, though each member does its own work, to serve the others. This is because we have one baptism, one gospel, one faith, and are all Christians alike.”
Sadly this ‘elite’ and its exclusive culture, continues to underpin areas of Scottish evangelical life. Expert at perpetuating and promoting its own small exclusive circle while denying opportunity to the many believers who are clearly gifted by the Living God, such elitist behaviour patterns are the opposite of the ‘priesthood of all believers’.
The Apostle Paul in his first letter to the Christians in Corinth shows that God has a key role for everyone in His Church:
“For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot should say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body,’ it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, ‘Because I am not an eye, I am not a part of the body,’ it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye where would the hearing be? If the whole were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired. And if they were all one member, where would the body be? But now there are many members, but one body.”
In an article entitled “NO PEW WARMERS” Or “The Priesthood of Every Believer”, the preacher, James Hamann writes: “If a church is normal, the number of people saved should also be the number of people serving. This needs to be the mindset of every local church. In the New Testament, all the saved ones are priests; therefore, all the saved ones should serve.
The appendix in the human body was once thought to have little significance or function, so surgeons cut it out almost at the drop of a hat. They’re more cautious now. God, the Creator, doesn’t waste anything. He’s the supreme economist. Everything He creates is to purpose. Every part of a human body has a necessary function. In the body of Christ, all have a function and ministry -- everyone is special. The church should have no peripherals, no pew-warmers, no casuals, no spectators, and no “passengers only” on the gospel bus.”