"How do you feel about lay leadership in the church?"
Here is an area where I will go ahead and stake a controversial position. The historical development of a professional clergy that is viewed and treated as a kind of superior class, and which does most or all the work of a church body, is in fact something that evolved over time, partly out of necessity, but is not something that was commanded in sacred scripture. For certain reasons of necessity in our unique day and age, it may be time for faithful lay people to "take back our churches" so to speak, and for would-be pastors to look for ways around the dominant academic seminary training system to learn and be equipped for ministry.
The Darkness Engulfing The Church
The sad fact is that the existing system has been failing. (I say this while offering my deepest thanks and respect for those pastors who have remained faithful to the Gospel). The academic seminaries, which are the traditional training ground for most of the professional clergy, have been poisoned by a variety of heresies. This poison has subsequently been spreading to the churches. I would say that my Grandma, even in her dementia, probably has a deeper faith and more bible knowledge than a good chunk of the professional clergy that are loosed on our churches today.
Don't just take my word for it, though. George Barna, described as the "Gallup pollster of Evangelical Christians" has noted in 2004 that only half of protestant pastors have a Christian worldview. Furthermore, "The survey brought to light some unexpected differences based on pastoral background. The most intriguing of those relates to theological training. Educationally, the pastors least likely to have a biblical worldview are those who are seminary graduates (45%). In contrast, three out of five pastors who have not attended seminary operate with a biblical worldview (59%)."
A Brief Argument for Lay Leadership
My main argument here is that the Bible allows for this interpretation. Peter tells his readers that they constitute a "Royal Priesthood" (see 1 Peter 2:9). He is addressing ordinary Christians, not a super secret sect of clergy. The earliest church leaders were not seminary graduates, but rather fishermen to whom Jesus said "follow me."
When pressed on this issue, most established Christian denominations would allow that sacraments administered by lay persons are valid, even if it should only be a rare occurrance. Even the Roman Catholic church warmed to the idea during the ravages of the Black Death.
Not everyone is called to a preaching ministry. To those who are contemplating this, I do not advocate ignorance. Be educated, but think of education as a means for equipping rather than as obtaining a credential. It is necessary to become properly equipped. Seek out faithful mentors, be well read, and steep yourself in God's word. Your path may even lead to seminary; not all seminaries are fallen into darkness, but it is important to choose wisely.
Everyone has a ministry of some sort. A much longer article could be devoted to enumerating these. Each person should discern what his or her ministry should be, based on his or her own gifts and talents and interests, and above all, hearing the call of God. To all who are baptized, I say: You are in the sandals of those first century fishermen to whom Jesus said, "come and follow me," and you have already said "yes." Now, where is he leading you?
Not everyone is going to be happy with these ideas. I will try to soften the blow to those who may be reeling in horror, and hasten to add that I have no gripe with existing churches that are proclaiming the Gospel with a paid professional staff and seminary trained clergy. In the near future, there may come a need to think outside the box, and many of the old distinctions will blur. This website is mainly for the "Underground Church" after all, and I am not intending to knock down or replace any faithful and thriving "overground church" (as if I even had such power).