God’s people are intended to be a worshiping and witnessing community

by John Stott

God’s people are intended to be a worshiping and witnessing community. And both these duties belong to the whole church as the church. The clergy cannot monopolize them; nor can the lay of the escape them. Neither clergy nor laid he can delegate them to the other; there is no possibility of worship or witness on proxy. Page 30.

It is true that some of the laity acquiesce too readily in our clericalism. That is to say, they plead that they have no time, or that they are untrained or prefer to leave things to the expert, or that they bear a heavy responsibilities of the world and would prefer to be passive and fossil and occupy a back seat in the church. And with such pleas, they hand over to the clergy obligations and privileges, which are theirs by divine right as Christian people. In the words of Sir John Lawrence, “what does the layman really want? He wants a building which looks like a church; a clergyman dressed in the way he approved; services of the kind he’s been used to coat, and to be left alone.” Page 36.

How the clergy are to perform this equipping work is suggested in the combination “pastors and teachers.” Christian ministers are pastors, shepherds of Christ’s flock. This is the only essential distinctness. Of course, they are themselves also Christ’s sheep. But they are also called to be shepherds. The church is a universal priesthood, and also a universal diaconate, for all God’s people are called to be the diaconia. But the church is not a universal pastorate. All God’s people are priests; all are ministers or service; but “the gave some …. pastors and teachers.” Page 50.

Each worshiping community should be a witnessing community as well, and should be witnessing in the very neighborhood in which it gathers for worship. There is something very anomalous about a congregation which claims to be worshiping God, yet ignores the local residents, who do not worship him also. So one of the major aspects of the true “churches service” will be the church’s witness in its own district. Such service is not church standard, since it’s concerned is the secular world outside, but it will be church based. The church is not to sphere in which it is performed, but the base of operations from which it is carried out. Page 56.

The church lies at the very center of the eternal purpose of God. It is not a divine afterthought. It is not an accident of history. On the contrary, the church is God’s new community. For his purpose, conceived in a past eternity, being worked out in history, and to be perfected in a future eternity, is not just to save isolated individuals and so perpetuate our loneliness, but rather to build his church, that is, to call out of the world a people for his own glory. p. 58

~ The Living Church

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