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    -Extracts by Philip Lancaster

    The world and the church agree about how you should address me.

    My proper name and title, by unanimous consent, is: The Reverend

    Mister Philip H. Lancaster.

    I am one of the elite cadre of persons who has the right to be

    addressed as Reverend" ("Worthy of reverence; revered. A member

    of the clergy.") This distinction is mine because I successfully

    completed a three-year graduate program in theology (I'm also a

    "Master of Divinity") and passed a theological exam before a body

    of ministers and elders. Upon passing that examination I was

    ordained and granted the privilege of being addressed as Reverend.

    This distinction also entitled me to be the pastor of a church: its

    preacher, the one who oversees the church ordinances, and the

    one privileged to "pronounce the benediction."

    According to the church and the world, I am one set apart. I am a

    member of the clergy, and my title distinguishes me as such.

    Sounds pretty good, huh?

    Yes, it sounds good to modern ears. But there is a little problem:

    the title and what it implies is an affront to Jesus Christ and an

    insult to every other man in the church.

    As an expression of my submission to my Lord I renounce the

    title and resist its implications.

    Jesus said, "But you are not to be called 'Rabbi,' for you have only

    one Master and you are all brothers" (Matt. 23). Our Lord goes on

    to forbid other honorific titles among his people, the church, and

    then concludes, "For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and

    whoever humbles himself will be exalted" (v. 12).

    Jesus explicitly forbade setting any man apart in the church by

    means of a special title-and yet the church has done it since not

    long after the apostolic age. Why is such a practice such an

    affront to Christ? Because he alone is Head and Master of his church.

    The concept of a professional clergy, which corrupted the church

    within a few centuries of the apostles, was a direct expression of

    worldly concepts of leadership and power. Whereas Jesus had

    adorned himself with a towel and became a servant to his followers

    (John 13), "clergymen" began to adorn themselves with special

    robes and collars and assumed a place of superiority over the

    congregation of the church. Although later the Reformation removed

    some of the worst abuses of this clerical system, it retained the

    distinction between the "clergy" and the "laity", a distinction which

    survives to this day.

    Do we see any evidence of a clergy/laity distinction in the New

    Testament? None whatsoever. We see quite the opposite: the

    church leaders were ordinary men who humbly served the flock

    and who neither sought nor accepted any special status, title or

    dress that set them apart from the rest of the brothers.

    Unschooled, Ordinary Men...

    The clergy system is a direct attack upon the very nature of the

    body of Christ. It introduces a false concept of a special spiritual

    class, with the accompanying temptation to pride and abuse of

    power that comes when one man is exalted positionally over

    others. It also leads to passivity on the part of those who are, by

    implication at least, "second class" in the church. Members of the

    body do not use their gifts to carry on ministry since the

    professional "minister" is doing the work.

    Perhaps the worst result of the clergy system is that it stifles the

    spiritual development of the men of the congregation. God's plan is

    that ordinary, unschooled men can become elders, overseers and

    shepherds (pastors) of God's flock. They can grow in grace, can

    learn their Bibles, can develop leadership in their families... They

    do not have to go to Bible college or seminary. They can strive

    through on-the-job training to be leaders in the congregation.

    However, the clergy system removes this possibility from most

    men and smothers the godly ambition to servant-leadership. So

    men are unchallenged, and the congregation is weakened-not

    to mention its families whose leaders are given no practical

    incentive for spiritual growth...

    We must abandon the model that burns out one man and leaves

    the rest unchallenged.