A crowd of 130 excited believers and leaders from the islands around Buvuma Island greeted us.

One of the subjects I teach to the leaders of the churches in Uganda is Christian Leadership. I deal with everything from character issues to governmental structures of the New Testament.  One of the underpinnings of the New Testament on Leadership is the doctrine of the Priesthood of all Believers. This subject is new revelation for Ugandan churches, though it is considered by most western Christians to be a fundamental teaching of the Protestant Reformation, a doctrine restored to the church when average people finally regained access to Scriptures after 1,000 years of relative spiritual darkness.

For those readers who may be rusty on their understanding the priesthood of all believers, here is a quick overview of what I teach on this subject. References:

Isaiah 61:6 (NKJV) 6 But you shall be named the priests of the LORD, …

1 Peter 2:5 (NKJV) …5 you also, as living stones, are being built up…a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

1 Peter 2:9 (NKJV) 9 But you area royal priesthood

Revelation 1:6 (NKJV) 6 and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father…

Revelation 5:10 (NKJV) …10 And have made us kings and priests to our God…

Revelation 20:6 (NKJV) 6 Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection…they shall be priests of God and of Christ…

We are here tonight…

I ask them what a priest is, since priests have been around in all religions since the very beginning of civilization. Priests are the ones who, in each religion, stand between God and the people – they speak to God for the people, and they speak to the people for God. In primitive religions, they are the shamans and witch-doctors. In the Hebrew religion they were a well-organized tribe of servants who served in the Tabernacle/Temple. Organized priests tended historically to have a High-Priest to oversee the work.

In the New Testament, it is taught that Jesus became the High Priest who serves in the true temple in Heaven. As the scriptures listed above indicate, the believers in Christ have become the priests who serve under the High Priest Jesus Christ. Here are some basic implications for the church of this teaching from the New Testament:

  • All Christians are priests,
  • As such, all Christians are equal,
  • The New Testament knows nothing of two classes of Christians in the church:
    • No upper-class clergy of special Christians, appointed to rule over the lower class of lay-people,
    • No lower class lay-people, made up of common Christians,
  • All Christians are equal,
  • All Christians are ministers of the Gospel,
  • All Christians are gifted,
  • All Christians are called to service,
  • Moreover, Christian leaders are supposed to be servants to the church (perhaps another post can elaborate on this.)

The earthly clerical system was the order of the Old Testament when there was a Temple on earth, a high priest in the Temple with his servants who were the rest of the Temple priests. These priests did the priestly work of standing between God and the other tribes of the Hebrew people. But all this was transformed with Christ when He became the High Priest (virtually the entire book of Hebrews teaches this), and as in the referenced verses, the New Testament clearly declares that all Christians are now priests in service to the Lord, our High Priest.

I ask my students, in helping them to grasp such new ideas which none of them have ever been taught, “If this is true, as the Bible says, and you are priests, who then is your congregation? Who are the people you are supposed to be speaking to for God and who are the ones you speak to God for?” This question perplexes them. “The Christians in the church?” they typically answer. “No, according to the Scripture, the Christians are all priests. So who is their congregation who needs to know God, but who can’t approach Him without the help of a priest?” Slowly it dawns on them – “The lost people. Those who don’t know Christ need someone to speak to God for them by praying for them, they also need someone to speak to them for God by telling them about His salvation.”

While this discussion of doctrine may seem a little dry to you, in practice, when this truth breaks like a sunrise into the minds and spirits of the Ugandan believers, it carries the weight of revelation, and many suddenly understand for the first time exactly who the church is and what it is supposed to be doing here on Earth until Christ returns.

Last week on Buvuma Island, after I finished teaching and answering questions, Gail asked to speak to the students. She asked them what they had learned from the teaching on leadership.

One after another they came up to the front and testified things like,

“I never knew this. Now my eyes are open. Things in my church will now change because we are all priests of our High Priest Jesus.”

The students excitedly gave testimonies of what they had learned.

“For the first time, I understand that we are all equal, we are all ministers responsible to minister for Him.”

“Now I know who I am and what I am to do in my church.”

“When I return home, I will begin to serve my church members instead of lording over them.”

“As a pastor, I will no longer sit in a special chair above the people as I have been traditionally taught, but now I will sit with the other priests and be equal with them.”

We pray this “revelation” of church practice will actually happen at the church level. We are beginning to see it in the reports of churches where the leaders are focusing on training their people to do ministry instead of just doing it all themselves. One pastor, a man who has planted more than five churches himself in the last several years, told us that church work used to be “heavy” for him, but now it is easy because he trains the other priests to do the work of the ministry, they all share it equally, and it does not become a burden for any one person.

This is the best application of Truth we could hope for.