He had told them before, when they squabbled over who would be the greatest in the kingdom, that while the kings and rules of the world lorded their authority over their subordinates, he came not to be served but to serve, and if they wanted to follow his way, then they would have to do the same…

While Jesus calls all his followers to this style of humble leadership, most Christians hold in tension a belief in both the “priesthood of all believers” and the distinct calling of some Christians to specially ordained ministry roles.  In many traditions, these roles — such as pastor, priest, deacon, and bishop — are known as holy orders, and ordination to them is considered a sacrament.

Unfortunately, the difference between the clergy and the laity is often perceived as more vast than it is, which leads to all sorts of trouble, from abusive and authoritarian churches, to the idolization of religious leaders by their followers, to unhealthy and unhappy pastors who struggle to manage the weight of the expectations placed upon them, to Christians who miss the full depth of their own callings because they believe ministry is something other people do.

–Rachel Held Evans, Searching for Sunday, p.115

Feelin’ a Certain perspective on this as someone who used to be an acolyte (you know, the kids who light candles and carry the stick with a cross on it and stuff)… ’cause in a role like that, you feel like you’re part of a distinct group involved in running the show, but you don’t really feel “holy”…  It’s more like… eh, what I imagine it’s like to be the sound guy.

RHE doesn’t usually go as far as I would in her statements and at times she’s a little tepid for me, but boy does she give me some jumping-off spots for my thoughts.

Which is to say,

(chanting) christian anarchism christian anarchism CHRISTIAN ANARCHISM


14 responses to “ministry

  • doubleinvert

    I haven’t read the RHE book you reference, so I don’t know if she addresses this. But it seems there are mainline denominations *cough*UCC*cough* are basically saying that the primary characteristic that determines whether or not one is fit to answer the call to ordained ministry is access to wealth. Seminary is extremely expensive, and it seems that there is rarely is ever financial support for those of us who feel called.

  • S.

    I love Rachel Held Evans! I’ve only read her blog and have liked her Facebook page. I’d love to get and read her books if I get the chance.

  • Libris

    Also, yeah, the ‘being the sound guy’ thing, I feel you there. I got a fair amount of that singing in church choirs, but by far the worst was when I worked as an organist for a while – you’re /constantly/ busy thinking about what’s the next hymn, what do you need to improvise next, are the choir doing okay, what hymns do you need to set out for next week, fuck this hymn has a pedal line you can’t play…. It completely removes any attention from the actual point of going to church. (Also, it means you can no longer ignore Church Politics, which is unhelpful in a completely different way.)

    There’s got to be a way to create structure without hierarchy, as you say.

    • Coyote

      Oh I didn’t mean the “being the sound guy” in a negative sense. It was nice. And I think that’s kind of a semi-decent example, being an acolyte — of separation of roles without the role being a rank. …But uh, yeah, it’s not easy to extrapolate from just that, so I’d have to do a lot more thinking to come up with a church service model overhaul.

      (my sympathies on being an organist, that sounds awful)

      • Libris

        You know, on reflection, I think part of that phenomenon is to do with the kind of theatrics/duality that you get in churches – or rather, I can’t speak for your experience, but it kept cropping up in mine. Like, you have the ~experience of going to church~ (either Highly Experience-based, if you’re Pentecostal, or less so but still religious, if you’re Anglican, those being the two I had the most truck with), and then you have the stuff that I tend to think of as being ‘behind-the-scenes’ – organising the music, having church council meetings, figuring out which readings should be assigned to which week, organising the finances. So you have this divisive split between the congregation, who just kinda show up, and the clergy-plus-extras, who are Higher Up and Do Stuff – and consequentially are seen by the congregation as their jobs, not as fellow people. So presumably a point to start at would be to try and erase the divide, to not see ‘backstage’ and ‘the show’ as so different but as part of the same thing.

        And so yeah, your example of acolyte is a good way of how to set up roles like that, because it’s not necessary A Thing, it’s just a thing – but I guess the next thing to do there would be: how to reliably get people to do stuff without that becoming its own sort of ‘rank’ measurement. Like – the Pentecostal church I went to had, I think, deliberately tried to abandon the idea of having a structure organised by a vicar, because it Really Didn’t Want To Be Anglican – but in practice that led to nothing ever being organised properly, and the people in charge shifting according to some complex popularity politics, which just gives you the same effect without any of the benefits of concrete organisational structure. (Plus, it did things like ‘anyone can get up and say anything whenever they feel like!!’ – which, in practice, led to the same few people always getting up and saying the same things, because, again, popularity politics.)

        But then again, that also had the backstage/show duality – so probably the way to go that removes the duality entirely would also remove the popularity politics, because if you don’t /have/ a backstage, then people can’t compete to be allowed there…

  • Anonymous

    1) I needed to read this thread today, thanks! 2) Christian anarchism! Yes! 3) Now I wanna go volunteer at my church

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