By Israel Galindo, Associate Dean for Lifelong Learning and Director of Online Education.
May 2, 2016—R. Paul Stevens, Professor Emeritus of Marketplace Theology and Leadership at Regents College, Vancouver, BC has provided what should be required reading for seminarians, clergy, and the informed congregational leader. In The Other Six Days: Vocation, Work, and Ministry in Biblical Perspective (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co, 1999. 289 pages. $24.00. ISBN 0-8028-4800-1) Stevens calls all believers back to a biblical understanding of the nature of calling and ministry. He calls for no less than the dismantling of “clergy” and “lay” theological and ecclesial distinctions of the people of God and offers a vision of the often trite and unrealized blurb printed on church bulletins: “Every member a minister.”
The book is organized into three parts. Part I: A People Without ‘Laity and Clergy’ lays the theological and biblical groundwork for Stevens’ interpretation of the People of God and vocation. He provides a concise historical overview of the development of significant theologies of the laity. The section concludes with a vision for a Trinitarian theology of the People of God in which there is no distinction of clergy and laypersons.
In Part II: Summoned and Equipped by God, Stevens treats the concepts of calling and vocation. He provides a thorough survey of the biblical passages relating to the Christian vocation in the Old and New Testaments. He argues that calling in the Old Testament is used primarily for the people of God—necessitating a communal understanding of the term. Further, he claims that the New Testament includes no teachings that facilitate “a doctrine of calling to a specific ministry” (p. 87). Rather, in the NT call is used for the invitation to salvation through discipleship to Christ and to corporate and ethical personal ways of life and service. “All are called. All are called together. All are called for the totality of everyday life” (p. 88).
In Part III: For the Life of the World, Stevens examines the vocational biblical concepts of prophet, priest and king related to the calling of the People of God. He argues for the idea that “the community as a whole is the royal priesthood, and that the community has this priesthood only in Christ” (p. 176). Stevens examines the implications of his understanding of call, vocation, and ministry for a re-framing of the mission work of the Church. Working from a Trinitarian theology, he retraces the biblical concept of mission in relation to a new understanding of a called and sent People of God without distinctions of clergy and layperson. This section of the book concludes with a bold treatment on anticipated resistance to the ways of being and doing he advocates. The book suffers from the lack of an introductory chapter and a summary conclusion.
Despite the radical challenge to which the book aims, Stevens is a responsible scholar who treats this critical subject with a sober prophetic voice. Very helpful are the chapter study questions suitable for small group or class discussion. The book contains a substantive thematic bibliography, an index of authors, a subject index, and a scripture text index.
Israel Galindo is Associate Dean for Lifelong Learning and Director of Online Education at the Columbia Theological Seminary. Formerly, he was Dean at the Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond. He is the author of the bestseller, The Hidden Lives of Congregations (Alban), Perspectives on Congregational Leadership (Educational Consultants), and A Family Genogram Workbook (Educational Consultants), with Elaine Boomer and Don Reagan.
His books on Christian education include Mastering the Art of Instruction,The Craft of Christian Teaching (Judson), How to be the Best Christian Study Group Leader (Judson), Planning for Christian Education Formation (Chalice), and A Christian Educator’s Book of Lists (S&H), and Theories of Learning for Christian Educators and Theological Faculty.