Is COVID-19 Killing 'Clergy'?
7 Minute Read
Over the past weeks, there have been many articles announcing the death of pastors who have died from the coronavirus. One denomination has been hit very hard with several of their bishops dying. From the articles I have read, this has impacted several denominational streams. Catholic, Pentecostal, Baptist, Nondenominational, Charismatic, have suffered losses of ministry leaders. No group can claim its doctrinal stance protected them more than some other group.
Is there something we need to understand? Is God saying something that we refuse to hear? My own thoughts on this run the gambit. I have learned however, that my opinions mean nothing outside of the Word of God. Therefore, I want to approach this delicate matter from what I can glean from scripture.
A pastor’s death is newsworthy. It makes good headlines in a secular society when a prominent pastor dies. But let us put this in perspective.
There have been over 56,000 deaths attributed to the coronavirus as of this writing. Pastors, ministers and Bishops are only one segment of the total. I would suggest they represent much less than one percent of the total deaths. There have also been doctors, nurses, policemen, schoolteachers, postal workers, military personnel, and other such categories that have suffered their share of COVID-19 related deaths. Singling out ‘clergy’ simply makes for good headlines.
At the same time, as believers, the death of a ministry leader hits home. It strikes at the soul of religious hierarchy. Suddenly our iconic view of them becomes distorted in an unspoken way. . Something in our hierarchal pecking order makes this feel out of place.
I am reminded of Isaiah who saw the Lord after Uzziah died (Isaiah 6:1). Please, please, please don’t think that I am suggesting that ministers who have died were willfully drawing people after themselves. In fact, the opposite is true. Most of these ‘clergy’ leaders would point their congregation to Jesus Christ.
My point is that the church system as we know it has elevated the role of ‘clergy’ to the point that people subconsciously see their pastor as invincible. Thus, when a pastor dies, people suffer a dual loss. First, there is the loss of the leader. Second, there is the loss of emotional contact. Not only is the leader gone, but also the ability to lean on them for ‘spiritual’ support.
Is COVID-19 killing ‘clergy’?
The reality is that this has taken the lives of some ministry leaders. I am saddened like everyone else about this. Yet, the question to be answered is whether COVID-19 is killing ‘clergy’ – not Bishops, pastors or ministry leaders. Confused? Let me explain.
In Chapter three of my book, Leaving Church Becoming Ekklesia, I outlined five necessary transitions that will impact ‘church as we know it’. This chapter I titled Necessary Transitions, dealt with the coming changes to the infrastructure of the ‘church’ system. In chapter five, I presented six characteristics of a major transition. I wrote that this was written so that you don’t have to be blindsided by the coming changes.
What is changing, and what are we transitioning to? I believe we are entering the early stages of ‘the day of the saints’. There is a coming shift when God will raise up ordinary believers to impact the earth from the Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 6:10; 16:18-19). Remember, the ministry gifts in Ephesians 4 were given to equip the saints for the work of ministry. When you read all of Isaiah 61, the passage Jesus read in the synagogue (Luke 4:18-19), it declares a people called ‘trees of righteousness’. More importantly, they are empowered to build, raise up and repair (Isaiah 61:3-4).
This transition has a direct impact on what we have called ‘clergy’. The church as we know it today has two classes of people, the clergy and the laity. Greg Ogden wrote in his book, Unfinished Business:
Like ekklesia was mistranslated as church, by the 12th century, the ‘clergy’ became a word erroneously used to denote a class of people who were more spiritually astute than the so-called laity. Today we refer to Bishops, pastors and ministry leaders as clergy.
However, a study of the Greek word that clergy was supposedly translated from, reveals a different story. Kleros in Greek never implied a distinction between an upper and lower class in the kingdom. Kleros conveys the full inclusion of the Gentiles as equal partners in the benefits of the gospel. Kleros refers to the inheritance in all the saints (Acts 26:18; Colossians 1:12; 1Peter 5:1-3).
COVID-19 has shaken the ‘church system’. More and more believers are waking up to the reality that God has design and purpose for them. The concept of ‘clergy’ has begun to slip. The hierarchal system that sustains the contemporary clergy concept has suffered a powerful blow. As the Lord’s ekklesia rises, leadership will become aligned with divine patterns. As the Lord’s ekklesia rises in the earth, clergy will shift from being a spiritual upper class to kleros, which is a body of believers who have inherited the benefits of the Kingdom of Heaven. Are you ready for this transition?
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8 Minute Read
Adversity brings out things often hidden in the heart. The coronavirus pandemic is exposing some dangerous things in an already divided ‘church’.
Before the pandemic and the subsequent lock-down, the church as we know it was already divided by three things.
Ideology – this is the division created by churches who follow conservative or liberal politics. Churches have lowered themselves to follow Democratic or Republican views. Many have become the mouthpiece for political candidates rather than the Kingdom. The result is a ‘church’ divided by religious groups bowing to worldly thoughts.
Race – In some ‘churches’ this is blatant as some pride themselves as catering to a specific racial group. Others speak of racial unity, but every week they worship in services predominately filled with one particular race. Some congregations are more integrated than others, but isn’t is sad we are still referencing today’s churches as predominately Black, White, Hispanic, or some other racial group.
Doctrine – At Antioch, the believers were first called Christians to identify them as separate from the world. Today, we call ourselves Baptist, Methodist, Lutheran, Pentecostal and the like to separate ourselves from each other. In the first century, the only thing that divided believers was geography. Today we camp around our doctrinal positions and defend them against intrusion from other belief systems
At Antioch, the believers were first called Christians to identify them as separate from the world. Today, we call ourselves Baptist, Methodist, Lutheran, Pentecostal and the like to separate ourselves from each other.
Even within the categories of ideology, race and doctrine there are deeper divisions too extensive to cover in this blog.
As this coronavirus pandemic has spread, it has awakened another line of division created by pride masquerading as faith. Many states have issued ‘stay at home’ mandates. Nationally social distancing has become a new phrase previously unheard of. This shuts down places where large amounts of people gather. Schools, restaurants, bars, casinos, shopping malls, factories, and of course ‘churches’ have been impacted.
n the midst of this, there are church leaders who have chosen to continue to have their regular services. I am not here to judge their decisions, but I do want to highlight a new form of division further fracturing the Body of Christ. There are three categories I have noticed in the past few weeks.
First, there are the ‘faith’ groups. These are churches who continue to meet as usual claiming their faith in God protects them from the coronavirus. Implicit in what they claim is that churches that do not gather are lacking in faith. Even within the churches that continue to meet, some of their parishioners chose to stay at home. Unfortunately, they found themselves being referred to as having a lack of faith, weak, or at worst disobeying their leadership.
The second group are the politically defiant. They believe the government has overreached its authority when churches are required to limit their gatherings. I have heard such proponents of this line of thinking claim a myriad of political views to justify their beliefs. Like the faith group, the politically defiant imply that those who follow anything suggested by the government are acquiescing to governmental control.
The third group are those who are following state and local guidelines. They choose to ‘social distance’. Because of this, the surge in use of some social media platforms has quadrupled in the last few weeks. Pastors who were never on Facebook before are now broadcasting LIVE every Sunday. ZOOM, Free Conference Call and the like have added thousands of new subscribers. Outdoor drive-in services are being held all around the country. In other words, this final group is looking for ways to ‘gather’ within the guidelines given. But this group is also succumbing to a form of division. Some are claiming that by following the social distancing guidelines, they are proving to be ‘wiser’ than those who don’t. In other words, they have subtly made themselves an elite group of people who have faith, understand government, but who use ‘common sense’.
The coronavirus pandemic has added more division to an already weak and divided church system. It really saddens me to hear one side demonizing the other.
Finger pointing proves that it is both structurally weak and far off its foundation in Christ. You may ask me, “What would Jesus do in this situation?” I don’t have a perfect answer to this, but one thing I do know, the growing divisiveness in the ‘church system’ created by this pandemic is not of God (1Corinthians 1:10-13). Something is amiss when all these fractions are claiming their view is the Godly response. Somebody, somewhere has missed it.
When we read Matthew 12:25, our focus is usually on the results of division in the kingdom, city and house. But I took note of how this passage began. “And Jesus knew their thoughts...” In John 2:24, Jesus did not commit Himself to those following Him because “...he knew all men”. And we know that the Word has the ability to discern between the thoughts and intents of the heart (Hebrews 4:12).
It appears that the pressure of this pandemic has exposed the hearts of many in the church world. It has exposed those who are shallow, prideful, and fearful. We all need to examine ourselves, but more importantly allow the Lord to examine us (Psalms 26:2; 2Corinthians 13:5).
Where does the ekklesia fit into all this? I believe this pandemic is training ground for the emerging ekklesia – the Lord’s original intent for His people. Rather than taking political, religious or prideful views of our choices, we must sit at the feet of Jesus. When you consider the authority entrusted to the ekklesia to bind and loose – to prevail over hades – and to have use of the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven – this is a perfect moment for the ekklesia to have impact. The ekklesia must learn to be the voice of the Lord in this difficult time. Is it possible? I believe it is
Don’t be blindsided by current events. Learn more about the ekklesia and God’s plan for you!
5 Minute Read
Church as we know it’ will not be the same when this is over. The question is, ‘should it remain the same’? Regardless of the ‘source’ of this virus, it has served to shake thie foundations of economic, social, political and religious structures. This is something I have been sharing (in writing) since 2010. We need to take a good look at 'shaking' according to the Word of God. It has some interesting and possibly uncomfortable ramifications.
Think in terms of Noah for a moment. What he built had the capacity to float in the flood. Remember, the flood was not sent by the devil, and that God gave Noah the design of the ark he was to build (Genesis 6:13-17). The ark was not of Noah’s design. Today we are facing a ‘virus flood’ that many church systems are finding it difficult to stay afloat. If the existence of what we have built in the past is being challenged in this crisis, it may suggest that what we have built was not designed for the flood we are in.
I believe we are in the early stages of a global realignment of the church as we know it. I struggle with trying not to sound like a doomsayer. I am really a positive guy. The reality is that I believe the coronavirus is the first of several global things that will unravel the church system as we know it. It is time to set our eyes on the purpose and design of the Kingdom. It is the only source of stability we can depend on in the days to come (Hebrews 12:28-29). Blessings!
Don't be blindsided again!
I can honestly say that I love the people serving in what we know as ‘the church’. But the fact remains that Jesus never said or intended to build a church.
Even now as some read this, I am sure there are questions as to why this is such a big deal. This writing cannot delve into the depths of this subject, rather this serves to alert us to an issue that must be addressed. For deeper study on this subject,
I encourage you to check out some of the Study Starters on my website www.TheEkklesiaCenter.org,
or get a copy of my book LEAVING CHURCH BECOMING EKKLESIA.
Here's my point...
God was not caught off guard by the coronavirus. The current pandemic in the earth has served to expose the flaws in many earthly systems – religious and secular. The inability to gather has impacted churches around the country. Many are scrambling to survive. What will happen when this is over? Will the church go back to business as usual? Or, is it time to revisit what Jesus actually said and meant when He declared He would build His ekklesia? Maybe it's time to rethink what we know as church! Blessings!
The coronavirus blindsided the church. As a believer, you should never be caught off guard. Don’t be blindsided.
The coronavirus blindsided the church. As a believer, you should never be caught off guard. Don’t be blindsided.
About The Author
Tim Kurtz is the Founder of The Ekklesia Center. The purpose of this blog/vlog is to explore subjects that show how the mistranslation of ekklesia to church has impacted the Body of Christ. He has served in ministry over three decades amd is the author of several books. He and his wife Carolyn have been married 46 years and live in SC Michigan.