Bishop's Message

We are in the priesthood of all believers: Bishop

Dr Andrew Peh Swee Kian being ordained as a Diaconal Minister by Bishop Dr Robert Solomon. With them is the CAC President, the Rev Dr Chong Chin Chung. – CAC picture by PHILLIP LAM.

‘The pastor is the football coach, lay people are the players’

PASTORS, LAY LEADERS AND CHURCH MEMBERS were challenged by Bishop Dr Robert Solomon to define their role in the “priesthood of all believers”.

The biblical doctrine of the priesthood of all believers, he said, is that we are a holy priesthood (1 Peter 2:5) and a royal priesthood (v. 9), and in essence, it means that we are all servants.

The Bishop was giving his message at the Closing Service of the 36th Session of the Chinese Annual Conference (CAC) at Hinghwa Methodist Church on Nov 17, 2011. e sermon text was based on the passage from 1 Peter 2:4-12.

Later in the service, Dr Andrew Peh Swee Kian, a lecturer at Trinity eological College (TTC), was ordained as a Diaconal Minister by the Bishop. e newly-appointed Dean of Students at TTC was the first Diaconal Minister from the CAC to be ordained and the fourth to be ordained after the Rev Jimmy Wong Phin au, of Trinity Annual Conference (TRAC), was the first to have been ordained in 2007. e Rev Wong was set to retire from active service at the 36th Session of TRAC on Nov 21.

There was also a short retirement service for the Rev Khoo Cheng Hoot, who retired after 31 years of service. He was serving as the Central District Superintendent. He was replaced by the Rev Wilfred Leow Hui Ann, Pastor-in-Charge of Grace Methodist Church.

e Bishop told the congregation that in the priesthood of believers, “we are all servants, and there are some priestly duties all can participate in”.

First, the sanctuary is where each of us can approach God to worship Him.

Second, the altar is where we can offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God; we can approach the altar to sacrifice ourselves.

“ These two are our priestly responsibilities,” he said. Elaborating, the Bishop said the priesthood of all believers means Christian service, and this must be practised in the context of the Body of Christ (1 Cor. 12).

There are various gifts in the form of offi ces or functions in the Body of Christ: Apostles, prophets, teachers, healers, helpers, administrators.

There is a diversity of offi ces and functions, but it is God who appoints who is to serve where, because He is the one who equips with the appropriate spiritual gift.

The priesthood of all believers must not be misunderstood. “Not everybody has the same gifts, but together we minister for Jesus,” he said. “Wherever we are placed, we are to be filled with God’s love as we work together.

“Behind all the human authorities, there is the authority of God.” The Bishop stressed that we must distinguish between the role of ordained ministers and the general role we all share as people of God.

“Some people practise ‘do-it-yourself ’ spirituality. They think they do not need to go to church, or receive Holy Communion from a pastor, but can do it themselves.

“The ministry of the Ordained Elders is ministry of the Word and ministry of the Table. Therefore, we allow licensed lay people to preach but not to preside at the Lord’s Table. There is a place for pastors and leaders in the church. They should not be seen as competing for power.

“If we all know our different roles, gifts and responsibilities, we can work together, complement each other. Not everyone can do one particular ministry. Everything must be done with the chief fruit of the Spirit – love. It is not competition, but complementing, according to divine will.

“God can send you to places your pastor cannot go, to meet people your pastor cannot, or talk to people your pastor cannot meet.” Giving the analogy of the pastor as a football coach and the lay people as a team of players, the Bishop said: “ The pastor trains the team and sends them out. The playing field is the world. During the game, from Monday to Saturday, the pastor motivates, encourages, visits. During the break, on Sunday, the
pastor lectures and loves, and trains, even scolds.

“We all have diff erent roles. We are all servants of Jesus Christ.” The Bishop concluded: “Every ordination service is a reminder that we are all in ministry – the general ministry of the church.”

Peter Teo is the Editor of Methodist Message.