“The priesthood of all believers also means that since every Christian is a priest, every Christian is also called to be a minister and has a ministry which must be performed under the judgment of God. This, in turn, means two things. First, the call to salvation and the call to the ministry is one and the same call. That is, when one is called by God to be a part of his people, he is also called into the ministry. Young people often struggle with the question as to whether or not they are “called into the ministry.” From one perspective, this is a completely irrelevant question. If a person has been called by God to be a Christian, then he has been called into the ministry.
Let us see how this relates to God’s basic call discussed earlier. God’s basic call is a call to mission. This mission is redemptive, and redemption is both personal and social. Every Christian is called to this mission. He fulfills his mission through this ministry. This is his ministry; he cannot evade it; he cannot avoid it; he cannot get someone else to fulfill it for him.
We now have the two answers to our fundamental question: What really does it mean to be the People of God? It is a people called to be a mission and called to a ministry. This is what God is about, and this is what he calls us to be about.
This leads us into the second important meaning growing out of God’s call to ministry. In the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers and God’s call to ministry we find the key to understanding the plan which God ordained to accomplish his redemptive purpose in the world. Namely, he is calling a people to be the ministers through whom he may work his work of redemption in the world. Here is the key. This means that the primary responsibility for God’s ministry in the world is the responsibility of the laity and not the clergy.
The primary responsibility for doing God’s work in any given time place rests upon the shoulders of the congregation—the People of God—rather than upon the church staff. This is a revolutionary concept which the majority simply do not believe and certainly do not practice. Most church members feel that they fulfill their “work for God” when they contribute their money to pay the salary of the clergy, who thus are freed from other work and are able to do the work of God. There are, of course, those who have become aware that they have a responsibility in addition to the giving of money. They teach Sunday School, work with youth groups, visit, etc. But the basic attitude which persists is that the primary responsibility for doing God’s work rests upon the shoulders of the clergy.
A hypothetical illustration will prove my point. If, in a given church, attendance at Sunday school begins to decline, if attendance at worship services fall off, if the number of baptisms or church additions decrease significantly, if money for the budget fails to come in, one or two of the most influential members will quietly contact the presiding bishop about his next appointment for the church. Or in those churches that have congregational polity, the deacons will get together in a secret meeting. The topic for discussion will be, “Maybe we need to change pastors.” Why do the elders and the deacons feel that the problem focuses in the pastor Because, they say, “That’s his job. It’s what we called (or hired) him to do. If he can’t do it, let’s get a man who can.” Thus we see the basic attitude of the clergy revealed.
I am not trying to defend ministers. Sometimes churches do need to change pastors. But what I am saying is, here is a tragic misunderstanding concerning the nature of the ministry. In the situation mentioned above, what is needed is not so much a change in ministers but a fundamental change in the congregation. Actually, what happens for God in that place is primarily the responsibility of the laity, the People of God who have been called by God to be ministers in that place. If God’s work is not being done, then it is because his ministers, the laity, are failing to carry out their ministry!
What we all need to understand at this point is that this is not a devious plan which a group of scheming preachers worked up to try and trap the laity into doing work which preachers don’t want to do. Neither is it a malicious program planned in some denominational headquarters to tap a vast source of manpower. This is God’s design for the accomplishing of his redemptive mission in the world, and we have missed it! It is God’s plan, and we have been trying some other way. Regardless of what our theology may be theoretically, in actual fact and in practice we have been relying upon the wrong place as ministers of God.” [Findley B. Edge, The Greening of the Church (Waco, TX: Word, 1971), 38-40.]