One of the defining features of catholic churches (Anglicans, Lutherans, Eastern and Western ancient churches) is a very well-defined idea of church leadership. The so-called “three-fold order” of bishops, priests and deacons is established from early church interpretation of the New Testament offices. Most Protestants go for two-fold. Pentecostals usually embrace five-fold leadership from Ephesians 4. It’s one of the more obvious barriers to the Church reclaiming a visible unity. But what every single one of us has fallen prey to is the notion that ministry is the territory of these leaders. It isn’t true. It isn’t biblical. It’s a medieval innovation that has no place in any Christian’s thinking.I like how the Assemblies of God puts it:
Every member of the body of Christ participates in the ministry of the church; all are called in some way to be ministers. To be baptized into Christ is to be baptized into the ministry of His church. No group of leaders alone can embody the full spectrum of spiritual gifts and provide all the wisdom and energy required to do the work of the church. The ministry of the congregation at large is integral to the accomplishment of the mission of the church. -Assemblies of God Statement on Pentecostal Ministry and Ordination
Hey, look at that…baptismal theology in a Pentecostal position paper. That’s right, folks: being baptized into Christ means being empowered by the Spirit and accepting your role in the mission of God. If you are in Christ — if you have been bought back from sin, the world and the devil by the blood of Jesus and given new life in the Spirit — then you have received a work from the Father: a work that establishes the Kingdom, builds the Church and shows love for God, your neighbors, and your enemies. It means you’re a priest.
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation,God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light (1 Peter 2:9).
People who are way godlier and more mature have written reflections and commentaries on this passage from Peter. Its the priesthood of all believers. It’s a precious doctrine that is too often a sidebar in our discussions about what it is to be the Church. But its meaning is unmistakable: the work of Jesus’ Kingdom is not the property of bishops or any other Church leader. These leaders (three-fold, two-fold and five-fold) are appointed by the Holy Spirit so that we can do those ministries in a submissive, holy way that is Spirit-empowered, God-glorifying and lets everyone know who Jesus is. It is your work. It is my work. It is men’s work. It is women’s work. It is the work of youth and the work of the aged. Everyone of us is a priest. So, are you neglecting your ministry? Or will you hear the call of God with me?
For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control (2 Tim. 1:6-7).