“Father Steve” was a fixture of my childhood. He was the longtime minister of the local Episcopalian church my parents attended. I remember him being kind and funny. I remember the strange robes he would wear on Sunday. I remember he had a daughter named Cathy who was a few years older than me. I had my first-ever crush on her, but that’s another story.
Speaking of firsts, Father Steve was the first person I ever heard use the words “clergy” and “laity.” It’s strange that I would remember this, as I was less than 10 years old, but I do. I remember being confused by those words. (To be fair, I was confused by many of the words I heard at Saint Paul’s on Sunday mornings.)
Father Steve was part of the “clergy.” My parents, and the others who sat on the long wooden benches, were part of the “laity.” I knew there was a difference. I knew who was who. But what did those words actually mean?
As it turns out, they mean basically nothing. Nothing good anyway.
“Laity” comes from the Greek word laikos, meaning “of the people.” It can also mean the “common” people or the crowd.
This clergy-laity distinction is foreign to the New Testament.
This is distinct from “clergy” which comes from the Latin word clericatus, from which we get the words like “cleric” and “clerk.”
The clergy are the “professional” religious class, while the laity are the non-professional, non-authorized, non-sanctioned “common” masses.
This clergy-laity distinction is foreign to the New Testament. The Great Commission is all hands on deck, not just “professional,” “educated,” or “authorized” hands.
While it is true that God has called those in His church to varied ministries and offices (Ephesians 4:11-12), it is also equally true that all are called to something! What is that “something”? The Great Commission spoken of by Jesus in Matthew 28:18-20:
And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
Don’t miss all the “alls”: all authority, all nations, all things, always.
And there is another “all” that Jesus didn’t expressly say, but which is still very much there: all the church. “And Jesus came and spoke to them” (v. 18).
We are “them,” all of us.
David is a speaker/director for Light Bearers and ARISE co-founder and instructor. Since his baptism in 1999, David has traveled the globe preaching and teaching the gospel of Jesus Christ. He and his wife Violeta are the happy parents of two boys, Landon and Jabel.