Summer 2016

Are You Hogging the Priestly Role?

Or do you want to release a priesthood of believers into your community?

by Larry Osborne

Iam often asked by pastor friends if any of my grown kids are in ministry. I always proudly answer, “Yes, all of them.”

Inevitably, the next question is, “Are any of them serving at North Coast?” Again, I’m proud to say, “All of them.”

That usually elicits a third question: “What do they do?”

When I explain that one serves as an executive for a software company, another as a schoolteacher and a third as an estimator for a government contractor, I get some strange looks. And therein lies a major problem.

We’ve co-opted God’s universal call (for every believer to minister in Jesus’ name) and relegated it to a handful of us who serve in vocational ministry. Worse, we’ve created traditions and protocols that limit certain tasks to those who lead the parade.

In short, we’ve become ministry hogs.

Nowhere in the Bible do we find authorization to limit things like celebrating the Lord’s Supper, counseling, teaching the Bible or baptizing to a small group of folks who have jumped through the right hoops.

China’s underground church exploded when Jesus followers were freed up to do everything usually restricted to those who had been properly trained and vetted.

The history of the church shows that God’s kingdom tends to spread most rapidly when ministry is released into the hands of everyone who follows Jesus, no strings attached.

Consider the Church in Acts. It experienced initial explosive growth, yet it also disobeyed the Great Commission by staying in Jerusalem to wait for the Lord’s return. It was only after a great persecution broke out and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria that the rapid expansion of the kingdom began.

We see the same principle at work in modern history. When missionaries were kicked out of China and professional ministry became impossible, the underground church exploded, fueled by Jesus followers who were now freed up to teach, baptize, celebrate the Lord’s supper, counsel, evangelize and do everything usually restricted to those who have been properly trained and vetted.

Admittedly, there were cases where aberrant and even heretical theology gained a foothold. A few rogue leaders rushed in to fill the leadership vacuum. And the church’s theology, ecclesiology and other “ologies” were often immature.

But let’s admit it: The same thing happens everywhere. It’s a product of our sin nature. Allowing a select few of us to hog the ministry won’t put a stop to it.

As our culture becomes increasingly hostile toward Jesus, Christians and biblical values, we must stop merely teaching the priesthood of believers and actually live it out. And it starts with those of us in vocational ministry making a serious commitment to give away every aspect of ministry—even those we enjoy and cherish the most.

Larry Osborne has served as a senior pastor of North Coast Church (EFCA) in Vista, California, since 1980.