Acts The Church and Ministerial Training

Kaitiaki's picture

Basically this is just a "what do we learn about the Church from Acts?" thread. As we watch Paul and Barnabas and then Paul and Silas building the Church in Acts, what can we learn about their concept of the Church as a whole? Robert suggested my original plan was too cumbersome so asked me to create new threads.

Thread Moderator: Kaitiaki

There are two aspects to this thread: the training of the local congregation (for the work of ministry - as in Ephesians) and the theological training of ministers (or pastors).

Acts shows us local congregations that trained young men (and women) for every appropriate aspect of Church work. That included the work of ministry and missions. Discuss this statement. Do you think it is valid? What implications (if any) are there for the present system in almost every denomination of sending young men to a seminary to be trained? How does your Church seek to apply those implications in the way they train ministers and missionaries?

CLARK E. WADE's picture

Greetings to you brother...

With all due respect to you brother, I was a bit surprised at your assertion that "there is no clergy/laity priesthood distinction in mainline protestant churches."

I really do wish that was the case. I think the very fact that this particular endeavor here is referred to as a "layman's theology group" is indicative of a real split between clergy and laity.

I dearly love the books and writings of Elton Trueblood and this is something I read today that I thought was pretty good and revelatory of our current situation:

“If in the average church we should suddenly take seriously the notion that every lay member. is really a minister of Christ, we could have something like a revolution in a very short time; it would constitute the big dose and the required novelty. Suddenly the number of ministers in the average church would jump from one to five hundred. This is the way to employ valuable but largely wasted human resources...Let no one have the temerity to say that this is what we already have. It is not! There are thousands of contemporary churches in which nothing of the kind is even understood, let alone demonstrated. Most Protestants pay lip service to the Reformation doctrine of the priesthood of every believer, but they do not thereby mean to say that every Christian is a minister. Many hasten to add that all they mean by the familiar doctrine is that nobody needs to confess to a priest, since each can confess directly to God. The notion that this doctrine erases the distinction between laymen and minister is seldom presented seriously, and would, to some, be shocking, but it does not take much study of the New Testament to realize that the early Christians actually operated on this revolutionary basis.

"How far we have departed from the New Testament practice may be shown by describing a contemporary Christian gathering, the example being taken almost at random. The gathering was organized to strengthen the Protestant forces of the city, a speaker being brought from a distance. The entire affair was conducted by the local ministerial association; one pastor giving the invocation, another reading the Scripture, another praying before the offering, a fourth introducing the speaker and a fifth giving the benediction. The whole service was practically identical with that which most of the at tenders had experienced earlier the same day, except that the professional participants were now more numerous. There was no surprise, no novelty, no real beauty or dignity, and consequently very little attention. It was as though an old record, worn by much use, were being run again and no one seemed to have any clear reason for running it. The hymns were sung, not because some great testimony was being jointly made, but because hymn singing was the conventional thing to do, and the prayers were given, not because of inner compulsion, but because praying was expected.

“On the platform all were professionals. There was not a layman, not a woman, not a young person. In the congregation sat about two hundred people, one of whom was possibly under twenty-one years of age! This seems shocking, and means defeat, but why should we consider it surprising? Even if they had been present, they would have been expected to play the role of spectators or mere audience, watching the professionals perform. Thus the mood of the spectator, which is so destructive of any vital movement, is always encouraged."

Trueblood also says this:

"Langauge is often both a revelation of what men think and a barrier to improvement."

So when you speak of a "ruling elder" as the one responsible for leading the congregation, or that these elders oversee the Lord's supper, I question where this is taken from the writings of the apostles or the gospels. So where does this idea of a "ruling elder" come from? I don't want to attempt to answer this for you but would be very interested in your thoughts on this and this idea of a single person "leading" the congregation in holy things. My thought on this word "overseer" is that as a body of believers matures, there is less and less oversight needed. It's like a three year old who constantly needs "oversight" but as the child grows, there is less and less need for that.

Elton Trueblood rightly points out that the purpose of the pastors, preachers etc. is to "equ9p the saints for the work of the ministry." He says this:

"Ideally, he will not do anything himself if another can be enabled to grow by being encouraged to do it. If the sermon can be given effectively by an ordinary member, the pastor, insofar as he is truly a coach (an equipper), may keep silent while the other person may cost him far more in time and toil than his own preparation for speaing would have cost...The mark of his success is not the amount of attention which he can focus on himself, but the redemptive character which emerges in the entire congregation or team. Fundamentally, he is called to be a catalytic agent, often making a redical difference while being relatively inconspicuous. This is a high ideal...Such an ideal, if generally accepted, can provide a practical starting point for the reconstruction of the Church. It is not the end of the matter, but is undoubtedly a viable beginning."

Thanks brother,