7.12 The Other Six Days: Vocation, Work, and Ministry in Biblical Perspective
The Other Six Days: Vocation, Work, and Ministry in Biblical Perspective R. Paul Stevens
This is a disturbing book! It brings a completely different view of the pastoral ministry as did Willemon’s The Pastor. It was probably good that Eerdmans changed the original title, The Abolition of the Laity. However, after reading Stevens, it is hard for me to understand why we continue to perpetuate ordination except for cultural reasons and tradition. Being a missionary and involved in theological education, I am also challenged by his comments in those areas. Our present view of the church sending out missionaries into the world not only elevates the missionary to a role that not everyone should have but it also leaves out our Trinitarian God being the one who reaches out into the world and that we merely join with him. God’s mission is something that all believers should be involved in. He also suggests that theological education that does not prepare students for orthodoxy, orthopraxy and orthopathy is wrong and perhaps even heretical (241-254). He is challenging us to bring about a “marriage of theology and everyday life.” (254) I myself have been dissatisfied with many aspects of our approach to theological education in Asia and agree with him that major changes need to be made. But how? Are there good models out there? This is a topic that I would like to study further.
In the first half of his book, Stevens demonstrates why the clergy-laity distinction should be eliminated and also shows how Protestants have for the most part perpetuated this system, despite proclaiming the priesthood of all believers. Since laity implies second-class, untrained and unequipped Christians, he suggests eliminating the term (5) and inserting service in place of ministry, I have been called into service in the church.” (134) All of God’s people are called “to belong to God”, “to be God’s people in life” and “to do God’s work” (88).
I have been bothered by some time about this clergy-laity distinction and yet I can now see that I have been involved in its perpetuation. In our church, we have just begun to talk about mobilizing the entire church to reach out into their worlds with the gospel using small groups and other methods. However, this is likely to fail unless we change the way we do and think about church. I like Stevens idea of putting different types of people up front and interviewing them each week to hear stories of how God is using them in ministry in the work place. I am quite tired of being put on a pedestal as a missionary and hearing people tell me, “I could never do what you do.” Stevens is not saying that we do not need leaders in the church but our offices and roles of pastor diminish rather enhance the equipping of the saints for which Christ has given us all responsibility. I can change the way I talk about my service and encourage others to see their work is also a place of service. Perhaps the Lord will also use me to help our church and the pastors I work with to see how our theological blindspots in this area hav led to a failure to empower the entire body for the service of God.