Christian Life 

A Warning from Wick

A Highland township of 7000 people is virtually minister-less and gives a fore-warning of a looming crisis elsewhere as a generation of preachers approach retirement. An article in Sword magazine outlines how the call of leaders is to train the body of believers to take up the work of ministry.





Vacant ChairAS a post-war baby-boom of preachers and pastors approach retirement this demographic is posing a severe challenge regarding the building up of the people of God.

However there are other factors which have contributed to this growing problem which date back to the Reformation and even before it.


A crippling distortion


The so called 'Ministry of Word and Sacrament' is an invention which has no biblical authority, but it has become so entrenched over the centuries that it is has created a false perception at all levels within the body of Christ that the clergy/laity divide has a scriptural mandate.


In fact nothing can be further from the truth, but a 'critical comma' inserted by the translators of the King James Bible has (wrongly) taught that the five-fold giftings (given incidentally not so much to 'men' as to 'mankind' '– anthropos in the Greek) of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers each have a role and that the rest of the body are merely passive recipients of the formers' ministries. This has left the priesthood of all believers severely disabled in terms of exercising whole-body ministry when in fact all believers should become fully-equipped to perform works of service (i.e. ministry) irrespective of gender (for the majority of roles) and right across the age spectrum.


An article in the current edition of Sword magazine contains a short rhyme which the late Rev. David Watson used to cite to illustrate the problem:


'The vicar is late, he's forgotten the  date,

so what are the people to do – poor  things?

They'll sit in the pew with nothing to do,

but sing a selection of hymns – poor things.


The rhyme encapsulates a situation which is prevalent throughout the church of a man-dependant and hopelessly passive body of disciples which is, in total contrast, called by the founder of the church to undertake the Great Commission in a fully-orbed fashion.




The term 'vacant' can properly be used of car parking lots, apartment blocks, conference rooms and facial expressions but is totally inappropriate to be used within the body of Christ. Every single believer has a gift (of one type or another) which should be fully employed in the power of the Holy Spirit and under the oversight of the local church to the winning of souls and the extension of the Kingdom of God.

Christians Together, 15/09/2009

Aberdeenshire Minister (Guest) 19/09/2009 20:22
If (as I suspect it is) being hinted that anyone can conduct worship (and celebrate the sacraments) - then what is the point of "vocation" and "ordination"??

Just a question.
George Orr 20/09/2009 12:24
Good Point.

My view would be that "vocation" and "ordination has become a man made embellishment to the biblical 'priesthood of all believers'.

What starts as relationship ends in religion. What begins as revelation ends in stagnation.

The 'officers' of the church are there to serve and equip the saints. They are not a replacement priesthood.
Eddie Hallahan 21/09/2009 11:39
well said George.
a h 26/09/2009 03:13
Vocation and ordination are fine, if they are taken up or given to someone who truly feels called by God and and whose calling is recognised by others.

In reference to the calling of David to be King, by Samuel, when he had seen all the sons of Jesse except David, he was told there was another - tending the sheep; the old preacher Campbell McAlpine said,
"where else would you find a shepherd, but amongst the sheep."

Ministers of the Church and even those in politics, should already be about the business of tending the flock already! Not sitting in a Uni somewhere looking for a career.
John Parker (Guest) 26/09/2009 09:36
In terms of tending the sheep it would indeed be an enfeebled church which would only have one pastor (i.e. one person who is gifted with pastoral abilities) yet this is the inference that flows from the use of titles like "Pastor".
a h 27/09/2009 01:13
John, if ten people say they have Pastoral leanings and leading's then ten Pastors it is. However, if the church has only ten members, then God will not call ten pastors; if one is sufficient.

Jesus says, "Blessed is he who hears the word of God and observes it!"

Hearing from God is vital and sadly, many who enter the pulpit have neither heard God nor even know him personally. I have said before on here about a friend of mine who was 'saved' at seminary as he trained for the Anglican Priesthood. How bizarre that one should pursue a career in the church as coldly as one would pursue a career in architecture or bricklaying?
Penny Lee 27/09/2009 14:55
Alan says:

'How bizarre that one should pursue a career in the church as coldly as one would pursue a career in architecture or bricklaying?'

Sadly, this is very much in evidence now. Perhaps more in some denominations than others, and particularly those with powerful hierarchies.

Being a pastor is a difficult and stressful calling at the best of times and I can't understand what the appeal is to those who don't seem to have a genuine relationship with God and, therefore, are acting in obedience to His will. What do they get from delivering a service, copied prayers and all, which is spiritually dead? It can't even be assumed to be because it carries a certain prestige or pays well - neither of which are now true.
John Parker (Guest) 01/10/2009 08:59
Hi Alan, the point that I was making is that the single "Pastor" (capital P,single leader) is not a biblical model. Additionally (as Andrea rightly points out) a 'career' in 'ministry' obliges individuals to be BOTH pastors and teachers. There are many in pulpits who are gifted in one of these ministries but not in both. But its not their fault - it's the system.
Sandy Shaw (Guest) 04/11/2009 04:47
I am writing this while speaking and teaching at Pastors and Leaders Seminars, so it has to be brief! Today I hope to be dealing with "Church Unity" and "Leadership" - topics given me by the men out here.
When will people in Scotland come to understand that Pastor/Elder/Bishop/Shepherd/Overseer are all interchangeable translations of the three Greek words - Presbuteros - Episkopos - Poimen? A pastor is an elder is a bishop is a shepherd! If we understood that we would soon see there are no shortages! Of course, these leaders must be fully and properly and adequately 'Born Again' - which includes Repent - Believe - be Baptised in water - and Receive the Holy Spirit.
In the book of Acts that is how people came into the Church of Jesus Christ and from these disciples Leaders and Elders emerged and were chosen and appointed.
Sandy Shaw (Guest) 04/11/2009 04:55
Just in case you might be wondering where I am - I am teaching at a well attended Seminar in Nairobi, Kenya, having been involved in a similar Seminar last week in Kisumu. I am teaching three one and a half hour Sessions each day and these Pastors/Elders are so HUNGRY for the Word of God. Yesterday we dealt with "The Place of Israel in the Purposes and Economy of God - a Biblical View and Perspective" and "Giving and The Christian Use of Money" - at their request.

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