Lay Preaching

Discussion in 'Preaching' started by Tom Hart, Jul 15, 2018.

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  1. Cymro

    Cymro Puritan Board Junior

    Whilst believing in a trained and called ministry after the Presbyterian model, there are times of a paucity of preachers. At such times in the history of my nation the vacuum had to be filled by lay preachers or exhorters, without whom the country would have deteriorated into the former ungodliness. These in time were promoted and ordained to the ministry. Our present state again requires laymen to step into the breach otherwise pulpits will be empty and churches continue to be shut, and the sheep look up and not fed. These of course are extraordinary and needy times. Pergamum’s situation necessitates such a use.
    Interestingly re-reading the Log College I came across this.
    “And though there was such a destitution of ministers in this new country, they never thought of introducing any man into the ministry who had not received a college or university education, except in extraordinary cases of which , I believe , we have but one instance in the early history of the Presbyterian church. This was the case of a Welshman by the name of Evans, who lived in a place called the Welsh Tract, where the people had no public means of grace, began to speak to them of the things ofGod on the Sabbath and at other times. His labours were so acceptable that the
    Presbytery after a full trial of his abilities, licensed him to preach, and afterward ordained him to the whole work of the ministry.”
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  2. Scott Bushey

    Scott Bushey Puritan Board Doctor

    I believe that the reformed emphasis is on order. I don't believe any of my reformed brethren would argue that the lay-person is an integral part in the commission; that being, to witness, exhort, etc. If everyone would call what the lay-person is actually doing by it's proper distinction, it would lessen the friction.

    For example, as I have said a number of times, 'it's all about titles'. (M)inistry vs (m)inistry, (P)reaching vs a proclamation, etc. Akin to this distinction is how the word 'regeneration' is used synonymously by many a theologian to denote the whole of the ordo salutis. It creates problems and is confusing to the reader.
  3. Jack K

    Jack K Puritan Board Professor

    Yes, that is often the best course of action in such situations. Where I grew up, also on a mission field, we had a Reformed denominational structure in place but not nearly enough ordained ministers to fill all the churches. Unless more men are sent, this leaves only three choices:

    1) License men to preach who are not ordained, training them as best you can where you are.

    2) Ordain local men to the ministry despite the fact they have not completed the training usually required for ordination.

    3) Do not preach the gospel.

    Occasionally, these churches were able to send a local man to seminary and bring him back as an ordained minister. But mostly, they chose option #1, giving us many licensed preachers who were not ordained. At times they also fiddled with option #2, making the path to ordination much easier on the mission field than it was elsewhere in the denomination. Happily, option #3 was never considered.
  4. TylerRay

    TylerRay Puritan Board Senior

    I'm not disagreeing with anything you've said, except to add that there is a fourth option: appoint men to read sermons that have been approved by the presbytery or other governing body. That is a practice that has been used in various situations in the past when there was a dearth of qualified men.
  5. Jack K

    Jack K Puritan Board Professor

    In a way, reading sermons might be a fourth option. But that choice always fits better when a pastor is missing occasionally. When a congregation goes years without a pastor, reading sermons becomes not much different than going without preaching, since reading a sermon from a pastor who doesn't know the flock has quite a different feel compared to live preaching.

    There are also cultural considerations. For example, the culture I grew up in is not a scholarship-through-reading culture the way the West is. Learning and encouragement take place orally, person-to-person. So reading is even further removed from actual preaching in that culture than it would be in the West. Plus there's the matter of literacy. We were blessed to have the Bible in the local language, and some believers learned to read in the local language for the purpose of reading the Bible. But no one was composing sermons and then writing them down in the local language. Such writing was neither a skill they had nor a cultural value. So that would have left English sermons, probably translated on the spot while read in the service. Far from ideal.

    At some point, we need to recognize that certain parts of our Presbyterian polity are built on biblical principles while other parts are built on our culture. For example, the principle that pastors are ordained to the task by the larger church and must be answerable to a larger group of pastors is, I believe, a biblical one that's good to follow in all cultures. But the principle that no man may preach unless he's been ordained upon completion of three years in seminary doesn't feel right when you start planting churches in villages where absolutely no one has ever had formal schooling beyond the eighth grade. It seems the church should have some leeway in appointing preachers or determining qualifications for ordination, lest preaching be neglected or the gospel be obscured amid culturally-based polity.
  6. jwithnell

    jwithnell Moderator Staff Member

    OPC has provisions for others to "exhort." In a pinch, we've had elders read through a short book of the Bible. The denomination has actively sought to train indigenous pastors and elders so that all peoples may not only have the seed of the gospel but the full benefits of the means of grace to grow and flourish.
  7. C. M. Sheffield

    C. M. Sheffield Puritan Board Junior

    The Baptist Confession of Faith 26:11—

    “Although it be incumbent on the bishops or pastors of the churches, to be instant in preaching the Word, by way of office, yet the work of preaching the Word is not so peculiarly confined to them but that others also gifted and fitted by the Holy Spirit for it, and approved and called by the church, may and ought to perform it (Acts 11:19-21; 1 Peter 4:10-11).”
    So you will note, the Confession states that a man must be “gifted and fitted by the Holy Spirit for it, and approved and called by the church.” He may not take upon himself this privilege. But neither should the church hesitate to put a man who is gifted for the work, fitted by the Spirit, and approved by the Church (under the oversight and guidance of the eldership) from calling upon him to perform that task.
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