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Priesthood, Inc.
by Cadet Scott Swires

  

Once upon a time there was a local gardening coop.  A wise investor saw their potential and not only supplied the land, but also supplied everything else needed for a thriving local produce spot. It took off. A rival investor was jealous of their success. They decided to woo and win over the coop to capture control of the market. The two models were clearly opposed to each other. One seeking success by giving power, while the other focusing on consolidating power.  God giving Adam and Eve authority in the Garden seems risky. Even today, God’s strategy of directly empowering His people makes leaders nervous.

 

God’s management strategy was lost in the church as it grew older. A system of orthodoxy slowly took power and responsibility from members of local fellowships and began to give it to a select few deemed priests. This could even be seen in the physical layouts of the churches, an architectural separation that is still seen today. As we celebrate the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation, we celebrate Martin Luther’s reforming of this system by declaring the priesthood of all believers. As Luther encountered verses such as 1 Peter 2:9, he began to flatten the ladder of undivine ascent and eliminated the priestly middle man, declaring all could access God’s grace directly. The emphasis that everyone has a ministry is not about guaranteeing everyone a participation trophy— it is a strategy for growing God’s kingdom in the world today by sowing grace. Jesus, Himself, flattened the hierarchical structure of the day by empowering twelve unappealing men that looked at times more like a Monty Python skit than world changers. The world is a big place and everyone is needed if we are to tend our garden of influence.

 

The idea of empowering everyone in an organization is recognized by noteworthy businesses today. Pixar is one example. Its leaders have intentionally cultivated an atmosphere where every opinion is seen as critical to success. Ed Catmull explains in Creativity Inc. how they strive to maintain their emphasis on hearing everyone’s voice and admits that it has its risks. Employees need to be taught how to give feedback, matured in candor, and given the opportunity to make mistakes. Catmull is very clear that mistakes are an aspect of healthy growth. Many groups fear the very thing Pixar finds essential— its people.

 

It makes sense that the Reformers would lead to the empowering of everyone. The Booths embraced what the priesthood of all believers meant by placing ministries in the hands of drunks and prostitutes.  William and Catherine worked their garden. The testimonies of Lawley, Joe the Turk, Brengle, Shirley, and many soldiers in that day confirm that people are a wise investment. If the calling of the church is not just about the church, every person on earth, or stewarding nations, but the entire cosmos, then everyone’s ministry of grace is vital to the salvation war.

 

 

  

 

 

   

 

 

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