Perhaps an unbiblical approach to ministry exists in many churches because an inaccurate vocabulary has infiltrated the people of God. When most people hear terms like “clergy” and “lay people,” certain images and definitions enter their minds. And these definitions are far from their original and intended meaning.
Churches often think it makes sense to hire “clergy” to do ministry because many believe that “the clergy” are a select group of people, a group able to offer spiritual counsel and insights that mere mortals could never give, a group able to care for others in ways regular everyday Christians could not.
But the word “clergy” is from the Greek word “kleros” and refers to one’s inheritance or lot. In the Bible the word kleros never refers to a select group of people who “do all the ministry.” The opposite is true. The term actually applies to all believers who are “qualified…to share in the inheritance (kleros) of the saints” (Colossians 1:12).
“Oh but, I am not a pastor. I am just a lay person.” Often the statement comes from someone who wants to serve God more, wants to lead and make an impact, but feels second-class and unable to do anything really significant. The person is often searching for a bigger view of life and the mission of God, but the lie that ministry is for the professionals has been reinforced for years.
In the Scripture, the term “lay” comes from the Greek word “laos” and simply refers to God’s special people. The laos are, therefore, not less significant. They are God’s special people, those He has adopted as His own. All believers are “a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people (laos) for His own possession” (1 Peter 2:9).
Biblically both terms apply to all believers. We are all laos, people of His possession, and we all enjoy the kleros, the inheritance, as children of God. Literally, your pastor is a layperson and you share in the clergy.
Clergy and laity have been terms inaccurately used to create an unhealthy, unhelpful, and unbiblical division in the Church. The people of God are often split in two: the “holy clergy” and the “lay people” who tolerate work in unspiritual professions so they can pay the clergy to do the spiritual work. But this must not be; there should be no division in the body of Christ. All believers are ministers. All believers are priests.
Edmund Clowney beautifully wrote:
Spiritual dominion by princes of the church is doubly impossible: Christ the king is with his people; his people are kings with Christ. Can any officer outrank an ordinary Christian who shares Christ’s throne and will judge angels? Christ’s total rule obliterates hierarchy. The Mediator does not need mediators.
If a church hires clergy to “do ministry” rather than pastors who equip God’s people for ministry, likely an unbiblical and unhealthy division exists.