I sometimes wonder just how much I could get away with as pastor of the congregations I’ve served. There are times when the “voice” of pastoral authority carries a lot of weight in decision making and also in the life of the congregations. People are always asking me what shall we do here and if it is right to do this there. There are times when such power could go to a person’s head and there might be the occasional temptation to decide on what I want and not on what God wants or what is good for the congregation. So what stops me from falling into such temptation? It is the “Priesthood of All Believers” and the power of the Holy Spirit that makes that Reformation phrase a reality.
At a time when all the power of the church rested with its ordained members, Luther saw that the responsibility of the mission of Jesus Christ could not rest with only a portion of the church. The gifts of Christ, such as the Bible and the Sacrament, were not just for the few, but for all God’s people. The responsibility of spreading the Good News was for both the laity and the clergy working together. So Luther translated the Bible into German so all the people could understand it. He once more gave the sacraments to all the people of God and he gave back the responsibility, the priesthood of the Gospel, to all believers. No longer would they only be spectators watching others do God’s work.
What this means for us today is that no one person, a pastor or anyone else controls the ministry of the church. It is the responsibility of all church members to own that ministry given to them by Christ. Today, none of us are denied our rightful place in God’s work as happened in pre-Reformation time, but I wonder about those who have turned over their part of the ministry to others. Maybe we have forgotten why the Reformation was so needed when we freely give up the freedoms and responsibilities that the reformers gained for us. What about you? Is Christ’s church your church or are you only a spectator? Is the Reformation alive in you today?