Acts 6:2, The Day Clergy Were Born

So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables.

//Today’s post might not be appreciated by all, but it’s something we should think about.

Here’s the story. Christians in the early church felt a keen responsibility to care for others, even to the point of donating all their belongings and holding all things in common. But the number of disciples was growing too fast, and not everybody was getting the daily distribution of food. So, the bigwigs got together and chose seven other people to take care of mundane duties, like waiting on tables. That freed the bigwigs up to “give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.”

But this separation of clergy and laity may not be what Jesus had in mind at all. Read, for example, Luke 22:26-27:

[T]he greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves. For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves.

Thus Jesus expressly taught the Twelve how to be good waiters. The very men who later disdained that role, feeling they were too busy to bother, so as to take upon themselves the responsibility of ministry, instead.

On this day the clergy was born.

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2 Comments

  1. I have problems with this, though I see your point of view. First of all, the distinction between clergy and laity as described is anachronistic. For example, a Bishop in one congregation would not necessarily be recognized as such in another in the early Church, and the Bishop was often elected from a council of elders. Secondly, if that term has to be used anachronistically, it could be argued Christ appointed “bishops” when he “commissioned” the 12, and other “clergy:” when he “commissioned the 70, and sent them out to minister among the “laity. However, to the verse at hand – in most Denominations, this is seen as the institution of the Office of Deacons, and it could be argued that this Office is the first “clergy” (the early church would not have seen it this way) as we now know it, as the Apostles were not yet functioning as Bishops nor were there many appointed Bishops (and, such as there were, they did not function as they now do), and the Office of Elder/Presbyter?priest was yet to come, in the sense we now know them. Therefore, whether Deacons are seen as clergy, as in some Denominations, or not, as in others, the Order of Deacons is the oldest Office still operating as it did in Biblical times.

  2. Hi John, thanks for responding! Many of my posts derive from the books I review, and this one stems from a John Henson book, though I’m not certain I recall which one.

    Regardless of the titles presented, on this day the idea was born that certain Christians should reserve their time for ministering, while others should care for them to free their time. I recognize it’s uncomfortable to think of this distinction as being clergy vs. laity. The image hit me particularly hard because of the Christian group I grew up in…so while it doesn’t hold true for all or even most churches/denominations, for some, it speaks truly.

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