Title

Every member a minister? : (re)claiming the priesthood of all believers.

Date of Award

5-1-2015

Document Type

Dissertation

School

Drew Theological School

Degree Name

Doctor of Ministry

Abstract

Who is a minister? What is ministry? This project explores conceptions of ministers and ministry among the laity of Earle Street Baptist Church in Greenville, South Carolina. More specifically, the project investigates how laypeople may or may not understand themselves as ministers, and how they might stay connected with others who understand themselves or conceptualize ministry differently. The paper offers a definition and description of ministry based on an overview of Biblical and historical understandings, paired with cultural expectations and assumptions voiced by a Local Advisory Committee (LAC). The paper also explores the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers, from its conception by Martin Luther through the Baptist tradition to the contemporary church context. To examine the questions of interest above in an intentional and focused manner, the author and LAC coordinated a one-day lay ministry retreat utilizing narratives from participants' experiences, as well as film clips and biblical texts. The author also preached two sermons - one before the retreat and one after - which emphasized the ministry of the laity and encouraged participation in the retreat and subsequent ministry opportunities (for example: serving communion to homebound church members, leading worship at a local homeless shelter, writing notes to inactive church members). Looking for signs of transformation in narrative patterns and relationships, the results seemed to indicate that the shortfall in lay ministry could be due to a lack of encouragement and empowerment. That is, people seemed to understand conceptually that all Christians are ministers but did not seem to think of the services they performed as ministry, per se. The results also suggest that there may be a discomfort with laypeople's taking on certain ministry responsibilities, not only on the part of the laity but on the part of the clergy, as well. The most poignant result of the project, however, was the personal transformation experienced by the author regarding his own ministerial identity, even as he sought to explore that of others.