A while back, I was reading one of Elton Trueblood’s books, Signs of Hope. (I’ve read just about everything he wrote. I think of him as a sort of Dallas Willard of the last century. He was a philosopher and wrote deeply on living the Christian life). Listen to what he has to say about the nature of the first Christians and their leaders:
“We must never allow ourselves to forget that the Christian religion itself likewise began as a lay movement. Among the twelve whom Christ chose to receive his most intimate teaching and to carry on his message, not one was a priest, bishop or rabbi. Not one was professionally religious in any sense. Some were fishermen and one, at least, was a publican. We might go farther and say truly that the early Christian movement was essentially anticlerical. Those whom Christ denounced most fiercely were not publicans or harlots, but scribes and pharisees. In fact, he was very tender with the unrespectable sinners, but he was fiercely denunciatory of the conventional upholders of pious respectability.” (Trueblood, Elton. Signs of Hope. New York: Harper & Brothers Publishers, 1950, p. 85.)
Of course Jesus welcomed those official religious leaders who came to him (like Nicodemus, Joseph of Arimathea or, eventually, Saul of Tarsus), but he didn’t welcome them on the basis of their human position of religious authority. Like everyone else, they had to come to him for his reasons and not for theirs.
Some have said that if a true revival were to break out in our day, it would almost certainly come from within the business sector and not from within the official church gathered. I have a feeling that’s right, and I say that as one who has been in vocational (i.e. paid) ministry all my adult life.
I think there is an irony that it takes the “unprofessional” Christian to see things that the “professional” Christian has come to overlook. The businessperson does not have as vested an interest in the continuation of a Christian structure like a church, mission or ministry as it has functioned (often poorly) in the past.
We need godly men and women who lead out in kingdom service without being paid for their work. We need their strengths, gifts, experience and resources. We do not mainly need to give these men and women “church jobs” like usher, parking lot attendant and such. They are worth more than this to us.
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