the weblog of Alan Knox

Clergy and Laity

Posted by on May 29, 2009 in blog links | 24 comments

Bryan at “aGCb” has published a great quote in his post “Rethinking ‘Clergy/Laity’ (pt. 1)“. Here is the quote:

“The vast majority of Christians have not been helped to see that who they are and what they do every day in schools, workplaces or clubs is significant to God, nor that the people they spend time with in those everyday contexts are the people God is calling them to pray for, bless and witness to. So we pray for our Sunday school teachers but not, for example, for schoolteachers working 40 hours a week in schools among children and adults who on the whole don’t know Jesus. We pray for overseas missionaries but not for Christian electricians, builders, shop assistants and managers in our towns… We have simply not been envisioned, resourced and supported to share the Good News of Jesus in our everyday contexts.” – Tim Chester, Total Church: A Radical Reshaping around Gospel and Community, 36

I’m working on a post now about the relationship between teaching and leadership. I think it is dangerous to associate teaching/preaching with leaders, as if teaching/preaching should be the primary responsibility of leaders.

What would happen – in the spirit of this quote – if teaching/preaching was seen as the everyday responsibility of all followers of Jesus Christ?


Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 5-29-2009

    I couldn’t agree more.

    It is for us all to use the skills we have wherever we go.

    We are all called to spread the good news through our actions, much more than through any teaching or preaching.

    In my experience, I learn much more through witness and experience than I ever could by reading and listening; it’s the living that matters.

    thanks for such an important post.

  2. 5-29-2009

    I think what you’ve pointed concerning the clergy/laity distinction is very important. Too often churches view the ministry as something the staff does while they sit back and watch. I hope there will be more and more churches that recognize what my former pastor in Auburn, AL called “every member ministry.”

    I do find you last statement concerning teaching/preaching a bit troubling though. I realize that you said you are going to post on that particular issue in the future, so I’ll save most of my comments for when you put that up, but my fundamental issue is this: while I agree every member should be ministering, aren’t there different ways in which we do so? IOW, God has gifted particular people for particular tasks, and it seems from 1 Tim 3:2 that part of the calling of an overseer/elder/pastor/whatever-you-want-to-call-it is to be “able to teach”, i.e. gifted in the are of teaching. This requirement is conspicuously absent from the next passage on the requirements for deacons, and is further highlighted by the fact that the rest of the requirements in 1 Tim 3:1-7 really should be the characteristic of every believer. It seems that this ability to teach is particularly important to being qualified for eldership.

    Well, I’ve already said to much without you even posting on it. I look forward to reading and responding to what you put up.

    Matt Emerson

  3. 5-29-2009


    This issue is, in my mind, one of the most important matters to be resolved if we are to see properly functioning local congregations of God’s people.

    I, also “…think it is dangerous to associate teaching/preaching with leaders, as if teaching/preaching should be the primary responsibility of leaders.”

    Further,I think we have to learn that leadership MUST develop, and be recognised, by the congregation, from within the local church.

  4. 5-29-2009

    Emma Major,

    Thanks for the comment. I’ve found that alot of people – perhaps most – learn more from witnessing and experiencing than from reading and listening.


    Why does “able to teach” = “gifted to teach”? Doesn’t Scripture indicate that everyone should teach? Does that mean that everyone is gifted to teach?

    Perhaps being able to teach is different from being gifted to teach.

    I’ll touch on this more in my upcoming post. I look forward to your interaction.

    Aussie John,

    I think this distinction (clergy/laity) is present even when we state that all are ministers. We see it when we limit the service of some or emphasize the service of others.


  5. 5-29-2009

    This is probably my biggest beef with the church today. I think it has done more harm than any other schism in the body.

    It robs believers of their rightful place in the body as minister of the grace of the Lord. For sure there has to be mature men and even women that are able to disciple those younger in the faith. But we don’t need a church full of spectators.

    We need a body of participators who understand that they are sons of the Most High God. 1Jn 3:1. I don’t think this can happen in the institutional church where the clergy is entrenched.

    The body needs mentors that are not self-promoting, but are self-replicating. Saints that come along side of other saints and walk with them and serve them. We don’t need a pulpit-pew relationship.

    Whew! I feel better now that I said that. Thanks Alan once again.

  6. 5-29-2009

    If we have the Spirit of God we are leaders. He has commissioned everyone of us to teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost and teaching them to observe all things that Jesus has commanded us.

    I knew nothing of the Christian Church, clergy, laity, programs, Sunday schools, 3 songs and a sermon when I was growing up in America. I did not even know the Gospel. I was raised Catholic. The Gospel was hid from me behind a veil of darkness.

    Jesus Christ adopted me into His family while I was in the Navy, specifically in the Phillipines. Brought to Him by the influence of Filipino natives.

    I then went back on my ship of 5500 and began to devour the Word of God. In reading the Scriptures, I was led to confess the Lord Jesus to all that I knew as quick as I could. I related my testimony to many Sailors and Marines. Many said, “Rick, I know what you are talking about, I was raised that way.” Through the reading of His Word He delivered me from much wrong thinking that I had learned in the Romish Church. Through His Word, He set me at liberty and gave me Rest. Through His Word and His Spirit He gave me power to witness and He gave me understanding.

    For 2 more years I was on ships in the Navy. I found 20 very serious and faithful brothers in the Lord.

    We had sweet Koinonia. Our Pastor was Jesus Christ. He was our Shepherd and by His Spirit and His Word, He led each and everyone of us. We did the “one anothers” that you have talked about. We did not talk about doing them, we just did them naturally. No offense intended. We just read the Word of God and with simple childlike faith, we acted upon what we read. We wept with one another, prayed, encouraged, built up one another and much more.

    We were always witnessing about Jesus, praying for people and just anything that the Holy Spirit would lead us to do.

    When I came back to the States, I wanted to be a good Christian so I joined a “church.”

    And that is a whole other story. My experience from walking out what the Bible said, everyday, to my experience with Clergy/Laity Christianity. Long story short, I have never fit into the system. I seldom found Jesus in it. Heb 13:13told me that He is to be found without the camp. The religious system in His day pushed Him out and the religious system today has done the same.

    Yes, there are Believers in the system. And there are a lot of men that have been rendered impotent, spiritually. They fellowship with the back of someone’s head on a weekly basis, but any spiritual muscles they ever had have atrofied.

    I have known (and been)young 21 year old sailors only a few months old in the Lord, believing His Word and acting upon it.

    The great sin of America with all their Bibles, their Greek, Hebrew, and shelves loaded with books about the Christian life is that they really don’t believe what the Bible says. The Sin of Unbelief.

    More and more today, the Protestant churches are looking like the Romish church that I grew up in.

  7. 5-29-2009

    By the way, I like your blog and it’s good to see people trying to recapture what the Church is supposed to be….A Family not an Organization.

  8. 5-29-2009

    I agree with your point about clergy/laity, but I think the average person wouldn’t want to do what we define as “preaching.” Maybe we need some posts and discussion on what it means to teach and preach – i.e., make disciples. And, of course, prior to being able to make a disciple of Jesus Christ, we must be one.

  9. 5-29-2009

    Thanks for the response. It will probably be more fruitful if we save the rest of the convo for our next post.

    3 questions I’d ask:

    1) Why do you believe all believers are called to teach, and to whom or in what context does that take place?

    2) What is the significance of “able to teach” in 1 Tim 3:2?

    3) What is the significance of the fact that Paul says that the church has been given, among other things, “pastor/teachers” in Ephesians 4:11 (a ‘spiritual gifts’ passage)?

    Matt Emerson

  10. 5-29-2009

    That should’ve read ‘your next post’ haha

  11. 5-29-2009

    Quite interested to read your input on this topic Alan. I’ve been wrestling with why it seems most cannot seem to “disciple” others without taking on a “pastoral/teaching” role.

    I need mature brothers to help me along but I don’t see the need to always sit “under” their formal teaching.

    Awaiting your blog…

  12. 5-29-2009

    Alan, you wrote, “I think it is dangerous to associate teaching/preaching with leaders, as if teaching/preaching should be the primary responsibility of leaders.”

    I think this is half of the truth, Alan, but not the whole truth. Your shorter comments on this topic, tend to feed the “anti-leadership” mentality, so I hope as you craft your full article, you do not diminish, confuse or conflate the priesthood of all believers with the Gift of Teaching or the role of Elders who are called to Teach, guard, and shepherd the flock.

  13. 5-29-2009


    Sometimes we just need to get things off of our chests. Thanks for sharing your concerns with us.

    A Pilgrim Passing Thru,

    Thanks for sharing part of your story with us! I think it is amazing what God will do with people and through people before those same people are told it doesn’t happen that way.


    Yes, I do think part of the problem is with the modern definitions of preaching and teaching.


    I’ll try to answer your questions briefly here.

    1) Because Scripture tells all believers to teach. It is part of the Great Commission for starters. The context is whatever context God places them in.

    2) It means they are able to teach. They have shown (before they are recognized as elders) that they do and can teach. This alone shows that others besides elders were teaching.

    3) It shows that the church needs those who shepherd and teach, just as the church needs those who are sent, who evangelize, and who prophesy.


    I think that discipleship requires many different types of input – teaching, pastoring, admonishing, exhorting, etc. All of this input can come from the same person and from groups of people. By the way, I think those mature brothers and sisters will be just as interested in learning from you.

    Joe (JR),

    I’m glad that you separated the gift of teaching from the role of elders. That’s the point of this post. I do believe that elders are called to teach and care for people. However, I also believe that other believers are called to teach and care for others.


  14. 5-29-2009

    By the way, just to clear up something… I AM working on a post concerning the relationship between teaching and leaders, however it will not be my next post. I usually write posts days and sometimes weeks in advance. Assuming I finish this post in the next couple of days, I will probably publish it next week.


  15. 5-29-2009

    PART I

    I left the aircraft carrier when I was 8 months in the Lord and because I received orders to go to another ship. I began praying for this ship immediately. When I arrived it had the worst drug problem in the Navy and no Chaplain. Most every ship had a chaplain, this one did not. To be sure, not all chaplains are born again, but I digress.

    An older brother in the Lord, in Japan always told the brothers on the USS Midway (the ship I was on) that wherever we go, if we do not find any fellowship, make it. When I arrived on my next ship, there were not any Christians that I could find. With 400 total men on this ship I was able to find out within a month or two if there were any professing Christians on board. I could not find any.

    I remembered what my older brother in Japan told me. “If you can find any fellowship, make it”.

    I began spending my paycheck on tracts and along with handing them out and leaving them different places I began building relationships with many people. Many stories, but to cut it short, God was faithful and added to the Church. When about 2 or 3 sailors had come to the Lord, I asked Him, “what do I teach them?”

    He said, “teach them what you know. Teach them what I have commanded you.” (Mt 28).

    Well, I knew that we should love the Lord thy God with all our heart mind soul and strength and our neighbor as ourselves. I knew to pursue the Lord and His Word and to give no place to the Devil. I knew that the Holy Spirit leads us to put to death the deeds of the flesh. So, I began teaching them what I had been taught. 17 months later when I had 2 weeks to go on the ship, and our fellowship had grown to 8 brothers, I was awakened one night by an officer. I peeked open my eyes and saw a gold cross on his lapel. He asked me if I was so and so and I said, “yes sir, I am”. He said he was the new chaplain. I asked him if he was born-again and he emphaticlly said YES. I said “Praise the Lord”. We have brothers on board the ship that I would like you to meet. He said, “that is why he had come to see me”.

    You see, God was faithful to take care of these brothers. I had been somewhat worried about them and had been praying for them, but my worries were just wasted emotions. These were the Father’s children and He was going to take care of them.

  16. 5-29-2009

    I guess it never occurred to me to dissect and try to figure out “teaching”. I have 4 kids now. We homeschool them and I have noticed that teaching comes natural to the one that knows something and is trying to tell someone else what he knows. I watch my older kids teach their younger siblings. To me, teaching is like breathing.

    Jesus said, “Go and teach all nations”. No other qualifications.

    So, I did not go to any classes about how to make disciples, or advanced classes on teaching or preaching. I just related to brothers what God had deposited in me the last 8 to 12 months. This took the form of just sharing for hours and hours. Others might call it teaching and I am sure sometimes I preached. I did not get hung up on how to do things. There was no time for that. I had new believers all around me and I just wanted them to experience walking with God. So, I could tell them everything that God had taught me about walking with Him and staying close to Him. But they had the Spirit and the Word which was more important.

    Sometimes, we are our own worst enemy. God’s Word was not given to us to analyze but to do.

    I can recognize “Leaders” as you call them. Because they have a servant’s heart. They don’t desire to be chiefest among you, but rather to be the servant of all. They also abound with love and have a contrite spirit.

    They teach by doing, by being an example of love and sometimes they speak. They can do all things thru Christ who strengthens them. If God wants them to teach, they teach, or preach they will be instant in season and out of season. God is able to make us abound in all things. We should never try to label each othr or even limit ourselves.

    God is always calling us to do things that we don’t think we are capable of doing. That is where FAITH in Him takes over.

    Shalom to you all.

  17. 5-30-2009


    Take a look at my friend, John Bensley’s site. John lives in Georgia and stands in front of the courthouse in his town most everyday to preach the Gospel. Sometimes, he just reads the Word. Have a look at one day in the life of our dear brother and look at all the different responses from the bystanders. Would to God that we would all get out of our buildings and be like Jesus, taking the Good News to the lost.

  18. 5-30-2009

    A Pilgrim Passing Thru,

    Thank you for telling us even more of your story. And, thank you for the link.

    I look forward to reading more from that blog and your blog.


  19. 5-30-2009

    Hi Alan-

    Romans 15:14 Personally I am satisfied about you, my brethren, that you yourselves are rich in goodness, amply filled with all (spiritual) knowledge and competent to admonish and counsel and instruct (teach) one another also.

    I think this verse when put into context is an astounding truth in light of who the individual was who wrote it.

    Mike Hutchison

  20. 5-30-2009


    You’re absolutely right. It’s a great conclusion to a letter that Paul begins by saying that he’s looking forward to visiting Rome so that he can impart some gift to them (1:11), and in turn they can all be mutually encouraged together (1:12). So, apparently, he thought they had something to impart to him as well.


  21. 5-31-2009


    I think it is a stretch to use the Great Commission as a foundation for saying “everyone” is a teacher. The GC is not an individual command, but a command to the corporate church. We don’t fulfill it on our own, we fulfill it as a community–each doing their own part as God has gifted.

    I agree that Elders are not the ONLY teachers.

    I agree that the “Senior Pastor” as ONLY teacher is bad.

    I agree that there are gifted teachers and this does not follow a “lay vs. pastor” model.

    However,your premise that everyone must be a teacher for a church to be faithful to the NT is problematic.

    Paul outlines the uniqueness of the Body in 1 Cor 12

    29Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues[d]? Do all interpret? 31But eagerly desire[e] the greater gifts.

    The answer, of course, is not to all of these. So now I have the Apostle Paul telling me that “not all are teachers” and Alan Knox telling me that everyone is, an should be, a teacher.

    Either one of you is wrong, or you are not using the word “teach” in its NT context.

    I look forward to seeing how you address this in your coming posts

  22. 5-31-2009

    Joe (JR),

    I did not say that everyone is a teacher, as in everyone has the spiritual gift of teaching. Thus, there are those who are teachers, as Paul says. But, this does not negate the fact that everyone should teach.

    Notice that Paul also specifically says that some are gifted at giving (Rom 12:8), but we don’t have a problem saying that everyone should give. Similarly, Paul says that there are those who are gifted at exhortation (Rom 12:8), but we are comfortable saying that everyone should exhort. Paul says that some have gifts of faith (1 Cor 12:9), but we still say that all should have faith. Paul teaches that only some have the gift of service (Rom 12:7), but we also know that everyone should serve.

    Paul also says that some are gifted as prophets (Rom 12:6, 1 Cor 12:10, Eph 4:11), and he also says that all are not prophets (1 Cor 12:29). Yet, in spite of the fact that only a few are given the spiritual gift of prophecy, Paul also says that all can prophesy (1 Cor 14:31), and he exhorts his readers to “earnestly desire to prophesy” (he doesn’t say to earnestly desire the gift of prophesy here).

    So, in the same way, it seems clear to me from Scripture that while only some may have the spiritual gift of teaching, all believers are exhorted to teach others.

    Perhaps the problem is not that Paul or I are wrong (though I would certainly choose me if those are the only two categories), but that we often confuse teaching with the gift of teaching.


  23. 5-31-2009

    yes, thank you for your clarification on how you are using the gift of teaching vs. teaching.

    The confusion, as I see it, is that you consistently write that “teaching” is not just for a few leaders, yet you never make clear that you are not speaking about the “gift of teaching” vs. some other kind of teaching. The impression I am left with when reading is that you see no role for the Gift of teaching that is distinct from or has a special place in the Body. Clearly, the Holy Spirit equips some with a Gift of Teaching because there is a need and a purpose that goes beyond the empowerment of others to “teach.”

    I hope you are able to draw a finer distinction in your short series Alan and that it helps cut out the bad, but does not diminish the biblical necessity for Elders and/or gifted teachers in the Body.

    I would also like to see you address the problem of false teachers and the responsibility of the church to reject false teachers. All may teach, but not all teachers are equally valid. How do you deal with this in your ecclesiology? How does your model of “everyone a teacher” address the problem of false Gospel teachers, deceivers and heretics (all of whom Paul addresses).

    Thanks for reading and blessings to you brother!

  24. 5-31-2009

    Joe (JR),

    Certainly the spiritual gift of teaching plays an important role in the church. Remember that my posts have been about leadership and whether or not leaders are the “primary teachers”. In fact, I do not think Scripture ever equates or assigns the gift of teaching with leadership or elders.

    Yes, absolutely the church should deal with false teachers – that is, those who teach “another gospel” – contrary to the good news of Jesus Christ.