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.

  1. June 12, 2008 at 10:44 am

    Comment and reactions:
    I have not yet read that book but I would comment and react on what you have wrote “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? ” I believe he is right -one difficulties I have in ministry is how can I mobilize people to reach out to people and share the gospel,– one of their excuses ‘ you are the pastor , you have enough time to do that, we are workers and members only , we do not know how and have no time to that . Pastors are trained to do church work but failed to equip people do the work of ministry. I am part of that. Maybe for some reasons why we do that, because of fear- of losing power , job , title-’ we diminish our office and roles’ . There is fear of losing the comforts we enjoy – My wife and kids are afraid of losing some privileges and comforts we have like free-housing[we are living in parsonage] free water supply and electricity and of course salary. And that should not be . Another is the fear of church member to lose ‘church caregiver’ . Honestly , in my heart and I think I already said this to our leaders – ‘I can work same as you do and lets do the work in the church together, not anymore having the title of the pastor. I want to be at your level and let me show you how we can serve the Lord in our everyday life, in our work place.according to our giftings and talents’ But people wants to see a leader and believing that the pastor is the only gifted person in the church – he is on top, one who is fully dedicated to a full time work in the church- one who do the work of the ministry for them. The ways and system of the world has deeply penetrated the church …missionaries, pastors are in the pedestal and they are the only ones who can do ministry.

  2. June 12, 2008 at 3:53 pm

    Well, we are called to a counter-cultural lifestyle and I think that includes counter-cultural within the church against unbiblical thinking about leadership and church structures. It also requires us as leaders to risk losing some of the respect and adoration that others give us when they think we are so great and are the only ones who can do the ministry. But, as we decrease and He increases, the church grows! Thanks for your insightful comment

  3. Harris
    January 23, 2009 at 7:18 pm

    Wow! I am excited at the way the holy spirit teaches believers the same thing ,at the same time but at different locations of the world.I have been meditating on this issue of the church been a training place for the work of ministry.I have also been a full time minister for almost 16years now.But i have just realise that the work of ministry is for every believer.I am glad to see how the so called laity are doing the work excellently and the professionals are only doing the talk.A seminary degree that fails to prepare one for orthodoxy,orthopraxy and orthopathy is truelly wrong and heretical.

    • January 24, 2009 at 9:36 am

      I think I would be careful throwing the “h” word around. I was part of a seminary for 12 years and it has a role, ideally shaped by the needs of the local church. But, the “academic game” forces seminaries into answering questions no one is asking and not preparing people with the character and formational training that is needed “out there.” Lots of men and women in vocational ministry are hurting out there and one reason is because they are perceived as the “specialists” rather than as the equippers. My thoughts anyway.

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