By Jeff Fry
The definition of "clergy" in the dictionary defines "clergy" as: The whole body of men set apart by ordination for religious service(F&W). The world considers these men to be the "pastors", "priests" and other religious designations of "leaders" of different forms of religious bodies. I see "special" parking places, offices, seating, etc. reserved for these "people"(since some religions have women appointed in these "offices") at hospitals, nursing homes and even in "church" parking lots.
In looking up the word "clergy" in my Bible, I can't locate a single use of it or words synonymous with it in this type of use. Do we have positive Bible authority for this practice in the church? When we consider titles, we're sure to say "they are condemned (Mat. 23:1-12)". When we consider our relationship with God, we're sure to say "We're "all" children (brothers and sisters). When we consider roles, we're sure to say we have different roles but are still "equal" in God's sight and each other's. Although elders and deacons are "ordained" in their "offices", they do not have greater accesses to God. All Christians are saints/priests and have the same access to the Creator (1 Pet. 2:5-9, 1 Cor. 1:2, Eph. 1:18).
But now I ask: "What about our practices?" I recall early in my walk as a Christian I was given the responsibility to ask different men to lead the prayers in services. In the process of a series of assemblies, I asked two men to lead those prayers of our local church members. An older member asked two "visiting" preachers (they weren't preaching that evening) to lead the prayers. He told me to tell the two I had asked that others had been asked. He told me he would take care of getting the ones to lead the prayers during the meeting since he knew the "preachers" in the area. Was this just a tradition of men and not a case of right or wrong?
Is there Bible authority that says only "preachers" and "elders"(they are not elders in other congregations, are they?) of local churches be called on to lead prayers during meetings? Could this be a "clergy" by definition? Are meetings just for preachers and elders? Is it their "ordained" work to attend these? Maybe you think I'm being picky on this?
I attended a meeting recently and this is what I heard (These are not "exact" quotes):
Announcer: "We're happy that the preacher from name withheld is here from name withheld, and we'll ask him to lead the first prayer and also, name withheld, the preacher at name withheld is with us and we'll ask him to lead the closing prayer." I know, personally, that there were other "members" there from those congregations. Do we announce the occupations of others (machinists, supervisor, assembler engineer, etc.)?? Are they/we happy the women are in attendance?? Were they glad that they were there??
The man who led the first prayer as said in his prayer: "We're thankful for name withheld who is willing with other preachers to teach thy truth without addition to or subtraction from." Are other "members" not willing to "preach" the totality of truth?? Were any of the "members" there responsible for "planting the seed??"
The man who was preaching that evening: "I'm happy to see names withheld, preachers whom I have known for a while and any others who may be here that I might have missed." Had he not known any "members" there for a while?? Were they not important enough to miss??
The man who led the closing prayer as said in his prayer: "We're thankful for preachers as they labor with congregations to teach them and correct them and admonish them to do right." Who has the responsibility to correct the "preachers" or are they never wrong?? Are preachers the only ones who has a responsibility to correct those in sin??
I do not hold the office of a "clergyman." I do preach publicly from time to time. I respect others who have chosen to "live of the gospel." I do believe we have different roles within the church to fulfill to our utmost abilities. I believe these quotes elevated preachers above others and not just "accidents" of language. I do not believe this particular assembly is an exception rather than the rule. I just kind of felt left out.
I wonder why some believe there is a "clergy" in the church of Christ?? I wonder why meeting attendances seem down from years gone by?? I wonder if I think to highly of some over others?? Are meetings just "preacher" paid social get togethers?? Are these examples just isolated occurrences?? I've heard before that a "preacher" had to do the baptizing for it to be acceptable. Where might some of these ideas come from, practices??
While I know we are happy for the presence of everyone, let's be careful not to elevate any above the others intentionally or otherwise. Think!
Thanks for reading.
[EDITOR's NOTE: Thanks to Jeff Fry for this thought provoking article! Are we guilty of elevating located preachers to a position of "clergymen" today? Let's refrain from such unscriptural activity and try to keep from the appearance of such! If you would like to write Jeff, he can be reached at 2019 Homesite Drive, Dayton, OH 45414, or Email him at JEFRY74@aol.com].
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