The Church Jesus Is Building: Further Thoughts on the Royal Priesthood

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February 24, 2022

1 Peter 2:9-10 NIV

9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

CONSIDER THIS

So yesterday we delved into the meaning of this royal priesthood referenced by the Apostle Peter. I commented to the effect of how one of the greatest detriments to the priesthood envisaged by the scriptures is the priesthood propagated by our churches. Don’t hear me wrong. The problem is not with our pastors, priests, shepherds, ministers, and whatever else we call the leaders of our local churches. The problem is with an inherited mindset around who a priest is and who a priest is not. 

There is a phrase I hear often in conversation with people about church, Jesus, the Scriptures, theology, the Kingdom and all the things that matter most. Here’s the phrase: “I’m just a layperson.” Please, please, please stop saying this. Banish this from your speech.

Think of your favorite football, basketball, baseball, or (pick your sport) athlete. Now picture them being interviewed before their next big game. Imagine if they responded to a question about the sport by saying, “I’m just a player.” It would be absurd wouldn’t it? It’s the same thing when a person says, “I’m just a layperson.” 

It’s why I loathe the term “layperson.” It has somehow come to mean just the opposite of what they really are—which is a player. Let’s take my imperfect but helpful analogy a step further. In this metaphor, if the laypeople are the players, who are the coaches? Right—the pastors, shepherds, priests, and so forth make up the coaching staff. So here’s the question. When a person says, “I am just a layperson,” which means I’m not a real player here, who do they think the players are? And here’s the irony. They mean the pastors, priests, or professional staff are the real players. You are noticing the supreme irony here, aren’t you? The laypeople have somehow delegated their role as players to the pastors (aka the coaches). So where does this leave the laypeople (aka the players)? They have clearly not taken on coaching responsibilities (OK—some have!). The laypeople have been relegated to the bleachers. They are the spectators. And when the players are sitting in the stands watching the coaches run all the plays—they understandably aren’t the best fans.

This is the absurdity of the moment in which we find ourselves stuck. The coaches are on the field and the players are in the stands. And all too often, if someone emerges from the bleachers and gets into the game and starts scoring touchdowns, the coaches begin to encourage them that maybe they have a calling to the ministry and urging them toward seminary and ordination and you see where this leads. This is not the meaning of the “royal priesthood” Peter declares. In the royal priesthood, everyone is a priest. Everyone is called into the ministry. Everyone plays—even the coaches. And who are the player-coaches in the royal priesthood? See if you can spot them in the way the Apostle Paul announces the lineup:

So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. (Ephesians 4:11-13)

This is what the royal priesthood looks like. This is how it works. This is what it does. Everyone is called. Everyone is a priest. Everyone plays. If anyone is sitting in the stands, it is the Great Cloud of Witnesses surrounding us. See also Hebrews 12:1-2. 

“I’m just a layperson.” . . . Never again. Promise me.

And when I see your next touchdown or home run I won’t try to push you into seminary.

THE PRAYER

Jesus, you are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God. You are the ultimate player and at the same time the ultimate coach. In you we can all see all of our possibilities. Thank you for calling every single one of us. Thank you for anointing every single one of us as a royal priest. Thank you for the apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds and teachers who equip us—who coach us up to play the only game that matters. Holy Spirit, get us all into this game. Praying in Jesus’ name, Amen. 

THE QUESTION

I know the metaphor is not perfect, but does it help you. What kind of thoughts and connections does it inspire in you? Mostly, does it make you want to get in the game? 

For the Awakening,
J.D. Walt
Sower-in-Chief
seedbed.com

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Farmer. Poet. Theologian. Jurist. Publisher. Seedbed's Sower-in-Chief.

4 COMMENTS

  1. JD, you’ve just knocked it out of the park. When what you’ve said here is supplemented with what Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 12, Romans 12, Ephesians 4, and what Peter writes in chapter 4:10-11; you can get the big picture of how the Universal Priesthood plays out. A complete rethink about how we “do church” is what it’s going to take to facilitate the next great awakening. Thank you for your part.

  2. I agree with Mr. Kirsten. There seems to be a reluctance to “get back in the game” after the “Covid layoffs”. The people are coming back, but not willing to step up and serve like they once did.

    • As I am learning, it has to get beyond just “serving” through the church, it has to permeate our everyday lives through everything we speak and do. Furthermore, redemption/salvation is not a group plan, it has to work its way into individual which is not a cookie cutter process. If the historic Christian faith is going to regain its footing in America, then it needs to get beyond “just church” and corporate “serving” it needs to produce people who are living their daily lives confident, conversant and comfortable in their faith.

      The local church lost me during covid because it was too focused on shutting down to be safe rather than focusing on ways to safely gather. After the initial shutdown of my business, I realized that I could not stop living; I would have to find a way to live in the presence of covid. My business was up and running long before the church reinstated worship even though other churches were finding ways to physically gather. The church’s shutdown also confirmed what I had been sensing: physically gathering to worship was no longer seen as being central to what the church does.

  3. Let’s lay aside the idea of layperson. “Having done all, stand.” Let’s be “stand-people”! Part-time Christians live like following and obeying Jesus is only a hobby, not their all-consuming mission!

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