The Other Six Days, Vocation, Work, and Ministry in Biblical Perspective by R. Paul Stevens
The burden of this book by Paul Stevens, a Professor of Marketplace and Theology at Regent College, is “the church is a people without laity or clergy, summoned and equipped by God for the life of the world” (p. 244). Stevens sees no evidence of either clergy or laypersons in the New Testament (pp. 31-32). The clergy, he believes, was created by the church in the second and third centuries (pp. 39, 45) and is not found in the Bible. He does admit that the Old Testament had a system of priests distinct from the people and he does not deny that leadership and appropriate leaders are found and prescribed in the New Testament (pp. 53, 145-152). But clear distinctions between clergy and laity are absent in the church-age Scriptures.
In conjunction, Stevens believes that all Christians are equally called vocationally (pp. 71-88). A vocational call is not limited to those in so-called “full-time ministry;” as a matter of fact ministerial calls such as Paul’s are not prescribed in Scripture as normative (p. 153).
The author discusses work at length, defining it “as purposeful activity involving mental, emotional or physical energy, or all three, whether remunerated or not” (p. 147). He believes that, in the New Testament, any work by Christians is kingdom ministry (p. 116), therefore, the idea that only direct ministry such as preaching, teaching, witnessing, etc., is of eternal value is misguided. All legitimate work, done for the glory of God, is of equal worth. It is not surprising then that the author opposes ordination (p. 212).
There is much found in The Other Six Days which I commend. The sharp distinction between clergy and laity is not drawn from the New Testament. I agree and the concept that only ministerial activity is of any consequence leaves the vast majority of Christians with the idea that they are wasting their lives. Nothing in Scripture supports such a thesis, and Stevens is right to point out these truths. Strangely, however, while the overall theme of the book is excellent, surrounding details and concepts are troubling. A sampling:
- He is egalitarian (p. 17).
- He does not understand Old and New Covenant contrasts (p. 33).
- He misinterprets Old Testament prophesies such as Joel 2:28-32; and Jeremiah 31:34 (pp. 28, 36, 169).
- He is confused about the kingdom (p. 47).
- He supports the Creation Mandate leading to a social gospel (pp. 89-90, 97-103).
- He confuses the millennial kingdom with the eternal state (p. 100).
- He believes all Christians are equipped to prophesy (p. 169).
- He misunderstands the purpose of the church, believing the church is to bring in the kingdom (pp. 183-185, 206).
- He believes missions is about establishing the Lordship of Christ over all creation and thus is wholistic (pp. 192, 201-204).
- He pushes local church ethnic diversity, without New Testament support (p. 207).
- He badly misinterprets Job (pp. 245-255).
- He denies biblical sufficiency (p. 247).
With all these problematic issues I am unable to recommend this volume, even though the overarching idea of the book is on the money.
The Other Six Days, Vocation, Work, and Ministry in Biblical Perspective, by R. Paul Stevens (Carlisle, UK: Paternoster Press, 1999) 289 pp, paper, $16.66
Reviewed by Gary E. Gilley, Pastor-teacher at Southern View Chapel