Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Clergymen II

When the article on Clergymen was published below (see Saturday 13 October 2012) someone asked me “How do you view what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 9:13-14?” This is what the text says: “Do ye not know that they which minister about holy things live of the things of the temple? and they which wait at the altar are partakers with the altar? Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel.” Here is my response.

The problem with clergymen in principle is not their being paid for the work that they do. Being paid for what one does is a biblical principle, and if someone works he deserves to be paid. This goes for Christian ministry as much as anything else. The problem rather is this: (1) ministry is tied to office. Only office bearers can effectively exercise ministry in the Church. (2) Ordination is required for office bearers (ordination means appointment by men). While this is biblical for an elder (which is an office), it is not for the gifts of ministry (Eph. chapter 4). (3) Those in office then set professional qualifications for anyone who wants to enter the field. In other words they restrict entry into their field by creating a guild. This gives clergymen a virtual monopoly. (4) Those in the guild choose those who can enter the guild. They choose those whom they can shape into their own mould. (5) They then restrict payment (the tithe) to those in their own guild. This is the real money problem. Not that people are paid for the work they do, but that the clergy guild attempts to restrict payment for ministry to members of their own guild. They argue that only they should be paid by the tithe. They teach for example that he tithe should only go to the Church—that means to them—not the Christian ministry generally, but to the local church, because they are the chief recipients of it (they want control over your tithe, they want to exercise your responsibility for you, to make sure the whole tithe goes to them). This starves legitimate ministries that are not tied to Church office of funding (even where these are God-given ministries and clergymen have no God-given ministry—see below).

You see from this that what emerges is a profession guild with a closed shop union mentality that restricts access to work to those who are members of the guild and also restricts payment for work to those who are in the guild. In other words what we get is monopoly control of office, ministry and funding in the church. The important point for these people is not whether you have a God-given ministry but whether you are in the guild. Most clergymen I have known I would say show no signs of having been gifted with a ministry. The most prominent feature of the clergy system and of clergymen is the desire to control, which goes flatly against the command of Christ (Mt. 20:25–28).

It is true that Free Churches can circumvent this system if they want to because they are not members of a denomination. But they seldom want to do so. Often they have their own old-boy networks that work just as effectively as (sometimes more effectively than) the denominational guilds, the rules of which are certainly less clear but just as effective and restrictive. The whole point of this system is to maintain control.

This system starves the Church of the ministries she needs because the control freaks who operate the clergy system are seldom equipped with the gifts necessary for effective leadership and ministry in the Church (why else is the Church is such a decrepit state?). What drives them is not the message and the desire for the Church to fulfil her mission, but control of the Church.

This has been the way it has been throughout most of Church history, although there have been times when things have been better, and times when they have been worse than they are now. We have mostly realised now that politicians who bleat endlessly about just wanting to serve their people cannot be trusted, that they are liars (possibly fooling themselves in the first instance sometimes but not the people any longer) and that what they want is power over others. This is what drives politicians. Jesus said this was so. But he said it was not to be so in the Church (Mt. 20:25–28). But this is also what drives clergymen. Power and payment, restriction of access to office and ministry, and restriction of access to the tithe, which is meant to fund Christian ministry, to themselves. They always have their pensions in view when it comes to preaching the message of God’s word. They do as their masters tell them in order to keep their jobs and their pensions, whether their masters are the denomination or their congregations. They will not preach a message that might jeopardise their salary and their pension. They are hirelings. Jesus warned us about this (John 10:12–13). Few of these people have callings from God. I have observed this for nearly 40 years, and you can see it throughout history. If you ask clergymen about their callings nine times out of ten you will get a load of waffle. The prophets and apostles in the Bible never waffled about their callings. For the prophets it is often the first thing they tell us. This is a calling from God, it did not come from themselves, they say. Clergymen’s callings are usually a load of introspective subjective waffle. An elder does not need a calling from God, he needs a calling from men, provided he has met the biblical qualifications for marriage and the upbringing of his children in the faith etc. Ministries are given by God. The same man can exercise both, but they are not tied, and the one does not guarantee the other.

The upshot of all this is that the Church is starved of the vision and ministry she needs to fulfil her mission. As a result the Church atrophies, perishes through lack of nourishment. Clergymen are seldom good ministers of the gospel. At the same time those with genuine ministries (callings from God to the work of preaching the gospel) have to work outside Church office because they are not permitted to minister in the Church by clergy guild members. They are then regularly abused for having “para-church” ministries by clergymen and their dim-witted followers, who are the ones who refuse to let them exercise their ministries in the Church. They are also starved of the legitimate payment they should get for the work they do (and this is where Paul’s statement in 1 Cor. 9:13–14 does apply) because the greedy clergymen, who are usually ill-equipped for the work, spend so much of their time telling us that only they should be recipients of the tithe.

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