The above is one section m the Gospel Advocate (GA) classified ad section. In the issue I have, five "ministers" are available for hire. Eight churches "need" or "want" a "Minister." Which implies they do not have one; not one single "minister," in the entire church! What a pity. Do you see what we have done with a perfectly good Bible word -- "minister?" In the NT it is never used as a title or to indicate an ecclesiastical profession or an employee position in a church organization. Yet, it is almost exclusively used in our day to speak of our professional preachers, who are "hired" as "the Minister of the Church of Christ." The word means "servant," "slave," or one who ministers or serves; and in the NT every Christian was a "minister." All of us are to be servants or slaves of Christ (Romans 1:1). Also, we are to be ministers or servants to one another (John 13:14-15).
But in the evolution of our clergy system, this word has gradually become the official title for the one who is employed as "the located preacher," "the full time minister," who is officially called "The Minister of the East Brainerd Church of Christ," for example. This implies that he is the only "minister" in that church. And the corporate church "hires" him to serve in that capacity. It implies that he, by proxy, does the "ministering," for all the others At least, his is the "official ministry!" These ministers are not hired to preach the gospel to the lost; they are paid to "minister to" or "serve" the church organization.
In this same section of the GA, one "minister" advertising for employment, declares that he is "neither anti nor liberal." Do you know what he means by that? Those are some of the labels or brands invented and used by our clergy to identify and mark certain other preachers When used as this brother uses the words, both are labels of derision and rejection The "antis" and the "liberals," whatever those words mean, are bad news and must be avoided at all cost. Depending upon which segment or division (sect) of the Church of Christ a preacher is aligned with, he may be marked as an "anti" or as a "liberal." Preachers are the instigators of all this. They are specialists at it and every "minister" has to be labeled so everyone will know if he is to be accepted or rejected, and by which group(s). Isn't that a shameful, sinful condition?
Preachers invent special names for teachings or practices that they oppose. For example, one of the worse stigmas one can bear, short of being designated as an infidel, is to be branded with "Crossroadism!" Never mind what it means or doesn't mean, if our clergy place that brand upon someone, he is to be avoided like the plague! Such people are to be considered as ungodly, evil and corrupt! No need to check into it for yourself, your clergy has spoken and they are not to be questioned!
In fact, in practice (by the preachers) it appears that once a person is given a label of derision and rejection, it is then "open season" on such people. You can accuse them of anything; treat them like the devil, and there is no need to prove your charges! Repeat all the whisperings and evil surmisings you hear about those branded as "Crossroads," "anti," or "liberal." This is one of the main roles our preachers play. It is ugly, vicious and evil!
Since most of you are merely "the people in the pews," "the laity," you don't really participate in determining who is who in all this marking, branding, dividing, and rejection. You are just the victim of it all and you are moved or led by preachers into a particular "brand" or church alignment, based upon how other preachers "judge" your preacher and/or how he aligns himself. As the "minister" is aligned so the entire church is aligned and branded! See how it works!
It is the "kiss of death" to be labeled as a "Crossroads" preacher or church! In Chattanooga, our preachers in their own subtle ways have decided that there is one outright "Crossroads" church and two or three that are suspect, and they are watching these for further evidence. Just the mention of the word "Crossroads" sends some preachers, and even a few elders and members, into nervous rigors, temper fits, and vicious attacks upon whatever or whoever is thus labeled. I have never seen our people so stricken by fear as "Crossroads" causes. It tells me of their own personal insecurity. Fear is mainly caused by ignorance; and it usually is removed by true knowledge. Do you realize that one of the first "signs" preachers look for in determining a "Crossroads" church is the fact that they are baptizing so many more people than the rest of us; having more Bible studies, more member involvement in reaching the lost, and they are growing in numbers so rapidly? That's right - check it out. Oh, our preachers seek other reasons for opposition to them, but the success of "Crossroads" preachers and churches is embarrassing to so many dead or slowly dying churches and preachers. It is claimed that "Crossroads" has to be a cult, has to be wrong, is surely a work of the devil, or else they could not accomplish what they do. Excuse me, but I say more power to them.
Now I am well aware of the fact that what I have just written above is certain to get me branded as being "Crossroads" or at least a sympathizer. Well, I am neither, but one more label or brand won't matter. I already have so many brands now I can't count them. My only point in the above is to speak out for fairness and honesty in dealing with brethren, even with those with whom we may disagree! Is that too much to expect of preachers?
But back to the ad of the "minister" who claims that he is neither "anti nor liberal." Does he mean that he is not "anti" (against) anything? It appears that more and more of our professionals are less and less "anti" anything, even sin! They preach a "positive" not a negative message! I have noticed that some preachers are "anti" the "antis." Definitely some are "anti" Crossroads. Does that qualify them to be termed "anti"? This brother is just right, he is neither anti nor liberal. As it is sometimes put, he probably can preach it round or fiat; just whatever is popular with the church that hires and pays him. And why not? He is (if he is hired) an employee of the church and the employer should have the right to "call the shots" for their employee.
Another ad was from a "mature preacher, not anti or lib," as he put it, who advertises that he "specializes in building up the church in spirituality, attendance, giving and personal work, good rapport with all ages..." He says nothing about preaching the gospel, teaching the truth or anything of such little value. This brother is a "specialist" and he wants a job. We are getting an increasing number of these "specialists" among us, and this scares me. Generally among the clergy, a "specialist" is someone who can't or doesn't want to make it as a gospel preacher, so he "specializes" in some related sideline activity involved in "growing a church." We have an increasing number of specialists like the Youth Minister, Singles Minister, Minister of Discipleship, Minister of Involvement, Minister of Concern, Hospital Minister and others.
I would recommend to this preacher that he get a job, a real job, where he can earn his living in an honorable fashion like the rest of us. Then he can serve as a real "minister" of Christ along with the other saints.
Another man advertises: "Preacher will locate anywhere." He is desperate! He wants a preaching job. He is already located in Smyrna, TN. Why can't he preach there? He is not looking for a place to preach, he could do that where he is. He is looking for some corporate church to employ him as their "pulpit minister" and pay him a salary and provide a full compensation package -- hospitalization, Social Security payments, house and car allotments, vacation, an office, and proper secretarial help. Many of our preachers do quite well!
He also tells us: "I preached for 7 years full time, but for the last few years have been in secular work. I have greatly missed and desire to get back into full-time work" (emphasis mine, CAH). He asserts that he preached "full time" for 7 years. Now, dear reader, you must learn that preachers have a special vocabulary, it is the lingo of the clergy. You can not take their words literally. He does not really mean he preached "full time," he just means that he had a preacher-job, from which he received his livelihood, what may be called "full time pay." None of the preachers preach "full time!" That is an invented term to disarm and mislead those who provide the money to pay them. Ask them what they mean by "full time" preaching. Very few spend as much as 2 hours per week actually preaching or teaching, yet call that "full time" preaching! It is absurd!
But this brother got out of "full time located work" (see how they use all these special terms, like "located work?" How can anyone work and not be "located" somewhere?), and he thus fell away, from such a high and noble calling as "full time located work," and for the past few years has actually engaged in "secular work!" Do you know what "secular work" is? That is the kind of work that these "ministers" do not do; that is, the "full time located minister." It is the kind that the rest of us have to do in order to earn our living by "the sweat of our brow," as carpenters, engineers, doctors, lawyers, salesmen, secretaries, etc. We must also earn enough to help pay the salary of these preachers so they will not have to work in "secular work" to earn a living. Apparently only "ministers" of our local church institutions, those who are paid employees and who receive their livelihood from such, are engaged in "sacred work!"
This unfortunate brother left the "sacred work" and for several years actually engaged in "secular work." Isn't that horrible? He is apparently like the prodigal son; he has been squandering his time and talent in the swine pen of "secular work." Now he has "come to his senses," and remembering how good he had it in the "holy" or "sacred" "full time located work," as a "man of the cloth," he is ready and anxious to return "home," if he can find a "father" (some local church organization) that will hire him! What a pathetic, unholy situation; but is very common.
To those of you who sit in the pews: Just take a good look at the situation you have helped, even if only by default, to create in our clergy system. Also, consider well the fact that you finance the practice. You have helped turn honest and good men into hirelings, putting them into a role our Lord never authorized. They are victims of a system that has allured and entrapped them. You "hired" someone to do for you what you should be doing yourselves. Especially does the fault and guilt for this fall upon the shoulders of those called "elders." They have the primary obligation to be pastors -- teachers, shepherds of the flock. But most of them can't and won't even try. Therefore, they turn to being nothing but business managers of the corporate church, handling budgets and buildings! But these men, like our preachers, are honest and good men who likewise have been trapped in a worsening corporate church situation.
Brother, sister, you can't hire someone to teach or preach for you! He can't "go everywhere preaching the word" for you (Acts 8:4). You must not confine your life of service to Christ as your Lord to merely being a "faithful member of the church" who sits on a pew at the appointed place, at the appointed times, to do the appointed things, in the pre-arranged appointed way! It will destroy you spiritually! And thousands of you can testify truly that this is what has happened and it is getting worse. You are resigned to your role of (1) be taught, (2) obey and (3) PAY! That is the role of the Catholic laity. I defy you to show any real difference between their role and yours.
The sad, sad thing is that so many members do not really care. They feel secure and safe - if they don't think about it! Therefore, don't bother them, leave them alone, don't disturb them - by telling them of their spiritual slavery that can lead only to their destruction.
It might be a different matter if these "full time" preachers were engaged in "going into all the world" of the lost to preach the gospel to them. If that was the case, then they would need and deserve our support, financially and otherwise. (Can you imagine what glorious results might be accomplished toward the salvation of lost people if all our preachers would become true preachers of the gospel to and in the lost world?) But our preachers aren't engaged in the work of a gospel preacher (2 Timothy 4:1-8), giving themselves to taking the gospel to the lost world. No, indeed! That is not the kind of job they seek. They prefer to be "the Pastor of the local church denomination," just like their counterparts in the other denominations. They have joined the clergy system, gotten a "sacred" job as "the Pulpit Minister" for a local church or organization; to work as an employee of that institution. The primary concern is not reaching the lost with the message of salvation; but to "grow a church organization." The lost of the world can go on to hell! We don't really care. We will keep all these preachers at home, in our pulpits, restricting their "sacred" work to serving us as our beloved local pastor! And we will continue to sit in the pews, drying up and dying spiritually! And, brothers and sisters, we are going to answer to God for our part, even by default, in this anti-scriptural, unholy religious system! Judgment is coming soon!
But a final word to you Christians, men and women, who are so unfortunate as to be engaged in "secular" work (and this includes me!). Did you realize that we are inferior to those who are engaged in the "sacred" or "holy" work? "Secular work" is for non-preachers, non-clergy! We must engage in this "secular work" not only to provide a living for ourselves, but in order to earn the money necessary to hire and pay our clergy to do their "sacred" work. And to pay for all these nice, big luxurious church buildings, with the Family Life Center, places to eat, drink and play; our "headquarters," the center of our activities, where we can attend one to three of the planned and regulated "services" each week and have it made! The Catholics have nothing on us!
Perhaps this is only proper since we "hire" such professionals to do our "sacred" work for us! Since we have hired him - or them, some churches have several "full time" "sacred" work performers -- to work for us, we are obligated to pay him to serve as our proxy to do the "sacred" work we should be doing ourselves. I guess "the laborer is worthy of his hire" even in what we have developed.
Once again it comes out loud and clear that the role of "the member of the Church of Christ Church," as is true in other denominations, is simply to (1) obey and (2) pay. You, my brother and sister, are not allowed to engage in "sacred" work; that belongs only to our clergy. You are merely the laity of the Church of Christ Church! You are "to serve under the control" of "the local church institution," which is controlled by our clergy; primarily the professional "minister(s)" and the official ruling body, the Eldership. In our debates, J.T. Smith affirmed that every Christian is required by the Lord to become a part of some corporate body, functional unit, what is now called "the local church," and "THEREIN serve under the control of that organization." This is more and more the position and teaching of our clergy, in all of our segments or sects, and they are binding it on us as the Lord's will. Well, that is false and evil. It is the same claim that has been perpetrated by the Roman Catholic Church for centuries. In this respect, another editor has correctly identified us as "The Roman Catholic Church of Christ." The entire clergy system, the institutional religious system as a whole, came from that "pattern," not from God's word.
Wake up, my people, before it is too late! The apathy, "let us alone" mind-set, of the people in the pews is appalling! Are you afraid to get involved? Are you fearful of speaking up and speaking out? Are you willing to help us, where you are and in your own way, to try to stem the tide of institutionalism and departure from God? I do not have all the answers. But there are some things that I know are wrong and some dangers that are as plain as day. It is my responsibility to warn you (cf. Ezekiel 3:16-21; 1 Timothy 4:6,11) about them. It is your decision what you will do about such. God bless you and give you courage and faith. -- CAH