This week I've been attending a conference on evangelism this is put out by our denomination. It's the second year in a row that I go to it and I'll have some post's coming forth regarding it. Yet there is one word that for different reasons has been on my mind and that word is: 'Laity.'
If you’ve been in church long enough you perhaps have heard the term ‘laity.’ For the most part the term is defined within church life as any person that is not a paid clergy. Even in secular circles the term is used, for example, when going to a doctors office. The physician begins to explain some diagnosis to you that’s way over your head, you might say, “doc can you say it in laymen’s terms!” Your basically saying I’m not educated in medicine like you are so tell it to me in a way that I can understand.
Now I would venture to say that anyone reading this post understands the above, yet I want to suggest that to some extent within church life this term ‘laity’ has been misused and misunderstood. Now I also know that this subject is not new and has been discussed for sometime in different circles. Yet as mentioned at the start of this post, recently through different means I have began contemplating this topic a bit more and felt it would be a good blog topic and reminder.
Wikipedia defines ‘laity’ as:
The term in the Greek means: ‘people, people of a certain group or tribe.’ It’s used over 142 times in the New Testament. Now here’s one key point, I personally never see the word ‘laity’ or any of it’s forms being used to denote that a clergy is not also a ‘laity’. Hope you caught that. In other words though we in our present vernacular use it to distinguish a paid clergy from everyone else, the bible doesn’t. As a matter of fact perhaps one of the key texts that gives us a good insight on how this word seems to be used in the New Testament is found in 1 Peter 2: 10 when he says:
"for you once
were not a PEOPLE (the word here is 'laos' root word where we get 'laity'), but now you areTHE PEOPLE (once again 'laos') OFGOD ; you had not received mercy ,but now you have received mercy."
Therefore here’s important point #1 that must be understood by all Christians. We are all ‘laity’, all, including clergy. We as Christians are in this together, a pastor/clergy is not above those he pastors, nor are church members above the clergy we are all one 'laity/laos' or 'people of God' Amen to that.
Now with that said, within the people of God there are different roles, but that's for part 2, stay tuned.
So what comes to your mind when you here the word, 'laity'? Do you believe we use it properly within church culture?