The Evolution of the Clergy (from "Missional Church" Ed. Darrel Guder. Eerdmans, 1998)

"The term priest was not applied to Christian clergy until around the year 200 [no wonder since the limited priesthood ended with the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost]. But thereafter a theology and practice were forged that created a priesthood of sacramental, holy orders in which the power of Christ's presence resided. The emerging priesthood removed chruch leadership from ordinary existence, as priestly leaders were expected to practice a specialized order of life different from everyone else... rank and role increasingly displaced the New Testament experience of gift and charisma.

"Constantine's sanction of Christianity.. accelerated these changes as the church forged a new relationship with the state.. Images of the body of Christ as a minority band following in the footsteps of an alternate Lord from the margins of society disappeared.. The emergence of celibacy among the clergy futher accenturated the division between leader and people.

"As the church took over pagan basilicas or built worship centers with similar design, liturgy and order too thsape to fit the baslica and the social appropriation of power implicit in the form. ..

"Membership in the church through baptism was concomitant with citizenship in the state. Thus mission was politicized and missio Dei comleted. The church was a static poeple focused on worship, sacrament and spiritual care. Leadership had a settled and pastoral identity. The apostolic, as in missional, nature of the church evaporated.

From Priest to Pedagogue

"The Reformation did not substantively alter the role or understanding of clergy developed in earlier centuries.. New definitions of the "true church" based on the markes of pure doctrine, pure sacramental administratoin and pure disciple shaped the Protestant-Christendom conception of church and clergy...

"The Reformation challenged and reformed the inherited priestly categories of leadership only to create a more pedagogical identity for the the clergy in which such leaders became keepers of the Word. The clerical paradigm remained embedded..

"The Radical Reformers created alternative [visions of the church]. Rejecting the state church, they sought to recover a more apostolic and functional leadership based on neither a priestly nor pastor-teacher model...

From Pedagogue to Professional

"The Enlightenment challenged the church and its place in the social context. The church and its theologians sought to respond to the new demand for a foundation rooted in reason. The place of theology and the training of clergy were significantly altered by these efforts. A University education provided the cognitive foundations for law and medicine, and so it should provide the same for church leadership...

"This paradigm continued into the twentieth century; seminary training remains firmly committed to the model of preparing a professional clergy for a set of tasks considered to be "ministry." In the twentieth century the clerical paradigm as shaped and determined the curricula and ethos of seminaries in North America.

"[The concept of] leadership functioning as specialized professionals .. effectively eclipses the gifts for leadership in the non-ordained contingent of God's sent people, those known as .. the laity. Ministry remains identified with the static roles of clergy as priest, pedagogue, or professional, all dispensers of spiritual resources. Even where the priesthood of all believers stands as a theological conviction of the community, it is rarely practiced ..

More Recent Shifts

"The North American perception of living in a churched culture has collapsed under the weight of change. The identity of religious leaders at the center of society was lost as clergy found themselves in a social context that did not recognize, honor, or require their function except in the passages of life. In like manner, the church was decentered as its role shifted from public cultus to private vendor of spiritual resources.

"This decentering resulted in an anxious search for new identities and roles. A rediscovery of the laity returned to the agenda for future church leadership, but the symbols that continued to dominate leadership indicated that the North American churches still sought to restore themselves to the public square. Clergy leadership paradigms were reformed but not replaced... The three revisionist images of counselor, manager and technician illustarate that the churches appropriated without question modern images of the leader as their primary means of equipping their leadership for a return to the cultural center. In doing so, they missed the opportunity to receive their marginalization as an opportunity to recover a missional [or apostolic] identity.

Leader as Counselor

Privatized Christianity moved from a God focus to a focus on humanity, with an understanding of the church that was similarly human centered. Pastoral identity was thus reframed into psychological categories, with a gospel centered on meeting individual potential. Clinical and therapeutic models then dominated pastoral education.

Leader as Manager

Technique and rationality root modernity and have become paradigms for church leadership. Modernity required leaders shaped by management and organizational skills; but those skills are not value free. Rather, they are rooted in assumptions and how the world is constructed and about our ability to exercise control of that world. One of the chief assumptions regards effectiveness. In late modern society, effective ends are defined in terms of market, consumption, and privateized personal need. The good manager maximizes organizational effectiveness in resource capacity and market growth.

[Operational understandings] of the church have come to be based on managerial models. The church renewal movement emphasizes inner organizational design. The church growth movement focuses on effectively reaching target groups of people. At denominational levels the management model dominates thought on leadership development.

Leader as Technician

The technical application of scientific rationalism assumed that it is possible to control life by manipulating our environment to achieve the ends we desire. With the right tools and skills it is possible to get the job done. The reign of God becomes achievable with human ability. Numerous seminars offer church leaders methods on "how to ____ ." What we have lost in the process is openness to mystery and [the importance of surrender and dependence on the Holy Spirit].

As the professional model rose among us it became the an operational ecclesiology that dominated the agenda of church leadership. The marginal reality of the church in our culture is an opportunity to recover the character of the Gospel as God's reign in Christ through the power of the Spirit. But leaders have little preparation for a marginal identity..

For such communities to emerge, leaders will have to become like novices, learning to recover practices that are alien to current experience..

Forming Missional [Apostolic] Leaders

Missional leadership will require skills in evoking a language about the church taht reshapes its understanding of its purposes and practices. The practices of a disciplined community will require a language different from that of a voluntary society. The practices of missional life call forth a people who live by standards of judgment and action quite different from those of the culture in which they are set. Leaders will enable God's people to give voice to this laguage of the reign of God as a way of living into such practices.

These leadership gifts will not be found in a single individual. God never intended the church to function that way. The roles of pastor-teacher and apostle function in a plural leadership. Pastoral gifts are important, but in the current setting in North America, the apostolic gifts need to be called forth and equipped. While Ephesians 4 outlines a series of leadership gifts, the contemporary church focuses most of its energy on identifying, training, and credentialing that limited section of those gifts related to the pastor-teacher.

Apostolic, missional leadership wil be learned through apprenticeship within communities. Such leaders will learn firsthand how to live out the practices of community formation that require a profound involvement of the self and deep roots in Bible and theology. Becoming a people who are a sign, foretaste, agent, and instrument of the reign of God, who embody the life of Jesus through the Spirit, and who function as a city on a hill, calls for leaders schooled in such communities.

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Last Updated on August, 2005