According to the writer and in my experience, there are at least two major ways of thinking on how we might use our spiritual gifts as members of the body of Christ.
One of the models is that of the Saddleback/ Willow Creek megachurch model (which I'll refer to as the Willowback Model) where every member is encouraged to volunteer for service opportunities in the church by using their strongest gifts as a way of becoming mature disciples. The other model is a reformed model introduced by Martin Luther as the doctrine of vocation, and adopted by other early reformers, such as John Calvin. I'll refer to this model as the "Caluther Model." If you are not as familiar with this one, think "Protestant Work Ethic."
Under the Willowback Model, the way church members become mature disciples is essentially by being put to work by the church. Based on their S.H.A.P.E. (spiritual gifts, heart, abilities, personality, and experience), members are 'plugged into' ministries where they can contribute to the mission of the church's voluminous programs. A member's spiritual growth and maturity is linked directly to his or her participation in or leadership of various ministry opportunities.
When the Caluther Model is practiced and taught, the emphasis is on church members living as members of four various estates: the church, the home, the state and work (initially work was grouped under state, but was later separated from the state and includes school and other such 'occupational areas.' )
Under this model, there are two significant differences with regard to church ministry and the understanding of "the priesthood of all believers." Under Caluther, the priesthood of all believers primarily means direct access to God for prayer and forgiveness through our Mediator and Savior, Jesus Christ. And even though the priesthood of all believers in the reformed model rebukes the idea of papal authority, it does not mean that every single Christian is called to (or trained for) ministry leadership. Some men are called and ordained to lead and teach and maintain the purity of the Church. They are responsible and hold the authority of these positions, whether in full-time or voluntary status. As members we gladly submit to their authority and their shepherding. This is very unlike the Willowback Model, where the "priesthood of all believers" defers teaching and leading within the church to essentially anyone willing to volunteer and commit their time.
The second outworking of the "priesthood of all believers" under the Caluther Model emphasizes the equipping of the members of the body of Christ to serve in all four of the estates where God has sovereignly placed them. Think about the radical nature of this concept in the context of today's pragmatic churches. For instance, when I think of utilizing my abilities, talents, and gifting to serve God, am I immediately thinking: "Maybe I should teach that Bible Study that I was asked to teach?" Or "perhaps I should say yes to that committee that I was asked to lead?" Or "Should I be going to the homeless shelter to serve with other members of my house church?"
NO. I should be built up in the faith by the gospel and the Word in order to be a steward of the grace of God in how I:
- serve my family and at home.
- perform, serve and honor my boss and coworkers in the workplace (or teacher and fellow students in class.)
- participate as a citizen in the city, state and nation where I live.
- participate in and support the mission of my church.
Unfortunately, the Willowback Model sucks energy and time from people to support all of the programs of the church and very often causes them to de-emphasize the other three estates of life, resulting in broken families, poor job prospects, and apathy with culture. Or, on the other hand, the model can also promote a program-heavy style of ministry that tries to take on all four estates, creating a sort of "Christian Ghetto" in the process.
I wonder (and this one is really out of left field, I know), has the Willowback Model perhaps actually created the conditions whereby ordaining women does look like a good idea? In other words, 1) if the priesthood of all believers means that every believer can and should serve and lead in ministry, why should only men be ordained? Or why should we even ordain anyone? And 2) if the church creates a subculture so that members have a place to exercise all of their gifts and talents, then it becomes a home away from home, a work away from work, a community away from culture, whereby leaders must be good at more things than just teaching the Word of God, preaching the Gospel, and administering the sacraments and church discipline. When that happens, why not ordain women? Who else is better at administering the affairs of the home, keeping the workplace running, and creating a lively society and community?
Rather, I think the Caluther Model is correct -- which stays focused on the Church's core missions and acknowledges their members are sovereignly called into all four estates of vocation where they are specifically placed to live as neighbors, brothers, sisters, friends, and co-workers as they are built up in the knowledge of Christ.
Nuff ramblin' Thanks!! Off to shoveling more snow.