Can churches meet without one person dominating the meeting? History says they can!
When the Protestant Reformation broke with the Roman Catholic Church, one of the doctrines they embraced become known as “the priesthood of the believer.” The Reformers acknowledged the New Testament teaching that Christ-followers are a “holy priesthood” and a “kingdom of priests” (that believers can directly approach and relate to God without a human priest) and the New Testament “one anothers” (commands for believers to serve, love, confess to, pray for, help, and otherwise minister to one another and to the world.
Unfortunately, as Peter Wagner points out, although “the priesthood of the believer” was accepted as doctrine, it was rarely put into practice in Protestant churches: “Martin Luther permanently changed Christendom when he rediscovered the priesthood of all believers. Still, Lutheranism retained much of the clericalism of the Roman Catholic Church.” Protestants continued to divide Christians into two groups, using the nonbiblical words: “clergy” and “laity.” The idea of “the priesthood of the believer” remained primarily an idea on paper.
However, that has been changing. Quaker Meeting, the early Methodist “class meetings,” and the Layman’s Prayer Revival of 1857 all demonstrated that Christians could successfully meet without one man dominating and controlling everything.
Since 1948 when the Chinese Communists imprisoned most of the pastors in China, the church there has learned to function by ministering to one another. During the Jesus Movement of the 1960s and 70s in the USA, Ray Stedman began a Sunday night meeting where church members ministered to one another, and then wrote the book Body Life about it. In the past few years, more and more believers in the USA and around the world are meeting in small groups that allow the members to minister to one another (this has been called the organic church movement).
One example of that is The Salvation Army Berry Street in Nashville, Tennessee. Begun in March 2008, it has sermon-free Sunday morning meetings where everyday people, as led by the Spirit, show and tell what God has done. Check it out on Sundays at 10:45, 225 Berry St., 37207.
“The priesthood of the believer” really works! All we have to do is allow the people of God the freedom to function in church meetings.