Lay Preaching

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

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  1. Tom Hart

    Tom Hart Puritan Board Senior

    See the thread here, which was meant not to turn into a debate on the propriety of lay preaching:“approved-and-called-by-the-church”.95937/

    When is lay preaching permitted in public worship?

    Never, according to the Westminster Standards. (See the Larger Catechism, Questions 156 to 159.)

    Are the Standards wrong here? I don't think so. I see nothing in Scripture that could be taken to permit anyone other than an ordained minister to preach.

    My question, for those who think lay preaching acceptable in public worship, is simply,

    What biblical warrant is there for lay preaching?
  2. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    First, can you define what preaching is first?
  3. Edward

    Edward Puritanboard Commissioner

    I'd appreciate a definition of "lay" as well in this context.
  4. Tom Hart

    Tom Hart Puritan Board Senior

    I referred to the Westminster Larger Catechism on public worship. I'll include that clarification in my question.
  5. Tom Hart

    Tom Hart Puritan Board Senior

    I thought it was clear from my question, and the citations which refer to ministers being called and ordained.

    How many definitions of "lay" are there?
  6. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    Some would define "lay" as just anybody preaching who is a Christian. Others would define it as non-ordained but examined men sent forth by a local church.

    Huge difference in meaning. Few would say that just anyone can preach, but many of us would say that select men examined by the church may preach.
  7. Tom Hart

    Tom Hart Puritan Board Senior

    What you are defining is two different ideas of "lay preaching". In either case "lay" refers to unordained members of a congregation.
  8. iainduguid

    iainduguid Puritan Board Sophomore

    It's not quite so simple. All of our Books of Church Order allow for candidates for the ministry to preach, as does the Westminster Directory of Public Worship. They are unordained, but could be licensed. Ruling elders are ordained. Does that mean that all of them may preach? None of them? The PCA's licensure provision regularizes a procedure for ruling elders who desire (or are needed) to preach regularly to be examined by presbytery more extensively than a normal ruling elder, both theologically and in terms of their preaching gifts.

    If we allow candidates for the ministry to preach, when do we do so? Before they go to seminary? Or only at the end of the process? How do we (and they) have some sense that they have the gifts that justify pursuing seminary if we have never seen them exercised? I preached my first sermon in a liberal church at 15, which was clearly wrong (though the content was probably better than what they were used to, poor though it was). But when should I have had that opportunity? Only after seminary graduation? I run a "preaching club" for our interns that gives many of them their first opportunities to minister God's Word in a setting that is smaller than the whole church but mimics it more closely than the classroom. When students have done that a few times, I assess whether they are ready to preach for the church. Some of those students are licensed; others aren't yet. Since preaching a sermon is one of the tests for licensure, it would be odd for me to recommend a man without hearing him preach.

    Then there is the need of the church which in some cases requires an "irregular" approach. In immediately post-reformation Scotland, Knox encouraged the lay office of "Reader" due to the scarcity of ministers. In 1580, that office was abolished as things became more regularized. We are so overrun with ordained pastors here that we often forget it isn't that way everywhere. What should a church do if there is no pastor, and no regular availability of visiting pastors? If they have a ruling elder who has some teaching gifts, may he preach for them, if licensed by presbytery, even though he doesn't feel called to be their pastor?

    None of this is to say that anyone can and should preach. We have a high view of preaching, and believe that the church should regulate those who fill her pulpits. But there are mediating positions between that idea and "only ordained pastors can preach".
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  9. Edward

    Edward Puritanboard Commissioner


    Q. 158. By whom is the Word of God to be preached?

    A. The Word of God is to be preached only by such as are sufficiently gifted,[1015] and also duly approved and called to that office.[1016]

    Seems a broader net than you allow. Nothing about ordination.

    It also appears that candidates should pass through the diaconate, but that's a different issue:

    1016 - ...1 Timothy 3:10. And let these also first be proved; then let them use the office of a deacon, being found blameless....
  10. Tom Hart

    Tom Hart Puritan Board Senior

    See also The Directory for Public Worship, the section entitled "Of Public Reading of the Holy Scriptures":

    "Reading of the word in the congregation... is to be performed by the pastors and teachers.
    "Howbeit, such as intend the ministry, may occasionally both read the word, and exercise their gift in preaching in the congregation, if allowed by the presbytery thereunto."

    So, not only ordained ministers, but not ordinary laymen either.
  11. Tom Hart

    Tom Hart Puritan Board Senior

    Thank you for your reply. You're helping to clarify my own opinions on this, especially regarding candidates for ministry.

    However, I have more in mind the notion that a man, neither ordained nor a candidate for such, may preach in public worship, merely on the basis of his gifts and the encouragement of the elders. That is what seemed to be under discussion in the other thread (which I linked above). And it is that which I find particularly problematic.
  12. Tom Hart

    Tom Hart Puritan Board Senior

    Just to be clear, is a candidate for ministry considered to be a layman? I did not have that in mind when I wrote my question.
  13. Jonathan R

    Jonathan R Puritan Board Freshman

    I would say yes, because otherwise is to create an additional office in the church.
  14. iainduguid

    iainduguid Puritan Board Sophomore

    Clearly candidates for the ministry are laymen, since they aren't ordained. On the other hand, they are not ordinary laymen, especially since the Westminster DPW envisages some form of Presbyterial permission (perhaps the equivalent of being under care and/or licensed? I don't know the historical situation clearly enough).

    I think there are a spectrum of views on this subject, as the interesting article by Dabney, cited above, makes clear. Some think anyone and everyone with gifts may preach anywhere anytime. D.L. Moody is the classic example of this in Dabney's context. At the opposite end is the position that only ordained ministers (and ministerial students) ought to preach, which is where Dabney is. He thinks that any ruling elder who has the gifting to preach should be pressured to become a teaching elder. There's a certain logic to that, though I'm not entirely convinced by it. But the exception for those preparing for ministry is important because it demonstrates that there is nothing inherent in preaching that requires ordination. We don't let ministerial students administer the sacraments to get practice, because we think ordination is important to that task; but we do let ministerial students preach.

    Personally, I'm much closer to Dabney than I am to Moody. The fact that he refers to licensure extending more broadly than candidates for the ministry being a new innovation in (the Southern Presbyterian church of) his day explains why it shows up in the PCA BCO but not in the OPC or ARP. I don't think preaching is a place for anyone who seems gifted: churches and presbyteries are supposed to be exercising proper oversight in this matter. But I guess I still think there might be irregular situations where it is useful to have the possibility of a ruling elder who is not called to be a pastor but who nonetheless preaches regularly be examined an licensed by presbytery for that task. It provides for proper examination, accountability and oversight which Dabney rightly points out as issues with someone like Moody.
  15. Dachaser

    Dachaser Puritan Board Doctor

    was Moody considered to have been a real pastor then?
  16. iainduguid

    iainduguid Puritan Board Sophomore

    What is a "real pastor"? He was never ordained by anyone, but he started his own church and acted as one.
  17. earl40

    earl40 Puritan Board Professor

    I think he may have been improperly ordained. :)
  18. Gforce9

    Gforce9 Puritan Board Junior

    Self-ordination is par-for-the-course in pop-Evangelicalism.....totally dislodged from it's Reformation roots, where everyone is a pope, "minister", evangelist,...........
  19. G

    G Puritan Board Junior

    Please correct me if I am wrong, because I am new to the PCA and I am reading through the book of church order as one aspect of my Deacon officer training currently.

    I was under the impression that within the PCA :that under the oversight of the session a man, who is neither licensed nor ordained, could technically preach a sermon as long as it is not more frequent than once per month. Is this technically true according to the PCA BCO?
  20. Ask Mr. Religion

    Ask Mr. Religion Flatly Unflappable

    From BCO 18.5, candidates (18.1) under care who may or may not be licensed at the time,
    "...when entering on his theological studies, should be authorized and encouraged by the Presbytery to conduct public worship, to expound the Scriptures to the people, and to engage in other forms of Christian work. These forms of service should be rendered under the direction of Presbytery, and also with the sanction and under the guidance of the candidate’s instructors during the time of his being under their instruction."​

    How often? From 19.1:
    "19-1. To preserve the purity of the preaching of the Gospel, no man is permitted to preach in the pulpits of the Presbyterian Church in America on a regular basis regular basis without proper licensure from the Presbytery having jurisdiction where he will preach."​

    There is nothing in the PCA BCO that explicitly levies the not more than once per month restriction you mention. What you are assuming may be something the local presbytery has defined "regular basis" to mean from 19.1 above.

    It is best that an actual serving PCA pastor, e.g., @fredtgreco review the above and set us both straight, just in case. ;)
  21. G

    G Puritan Board Junior

    Thanks that is what I was thinking. So it would seem that technically it would be possible within the PCA on an irregular basis. I agree with this.
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 16, 2018
  22. Ben Zartman

    Ben Zartman Puritan Board Sophomore

    Hope this isn't off topic, but Phillip was a deacon, and it seems he went around preaching. Are deacons allowed to preach in Presbyterian circles?
  23. G

    G Puritan Board Junior

    See Post 21 and 22.... I think as long as the session and presbytery approved then yes.... technically they could be allowed (under specific circumstances) in the PCA. But Of course the most normal and regular preaching should be an ordained Elder. If a qualified deacon is showing that he has a stronger gift for teaching and/preaching, he may need to consider becoming a ruling elder or even a teaching elder (in my opinion).
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 16, 2018
  24. TylerRay

    TylerRay Puritan Board Senior

    Josh is correct:
    "And the next day we that were of Paul's company departed, and came unto Caesarea: and we entered into the house of Philip the evangelist, which was one of the seven; and abode with him" (Acts 21:8).

    As an aside (lest we get off on a rabbit trail), contrary to the contemporary use of the term, in the New Testament, the evangelist is among the teaching offices (not a self-appointed guy who holds rallies and such):
    "And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ" (Eph 4:11-12).
  25. Ben Zartman

    Ben Zartman Puritan Board Sophomore

    Thank you, sir. That makes perfect sense.
  26. Florida Reforming

    Florida Reforming Puritan Board Freshman

    The one extreme cited was Moody, a non-Reformed. In the Lutheran tradition (also non-Reformed, but with structure) there has been allowance for laymen to preach in a dire emergency. Also they allow for an elder (defined differently than in Reformed tradition) to preach in the absence of a pastor. In some cases the pastor may allow him to compose his own sermon albeit approved by the pastor; in other cases the elder reads a sermon from an approved book. I don't know if any Reformed, perhaps Continental, have ever had this custom.
  27. DTK

    DTK Puritan Board Junior

    Of course, there is an old rule that holds non-ordained men never "preach," (Rom. 10:15..."sent" there as meaning properly commissioned to do so), but can be given the opportunity to "exhort" under the oversight of a church's governing authority.
  28. Jack K

    Jack K Puritan Board Professor

    This was the custom in the Christian Reformed Church when I was young. So yes, this practice is known in the Continental tradition.
  29. Jake

    Jake Puritan Board Junior

    Definitely quite common in certain Dutch Reformed groups; this also occurs in some (Scottish) Presbyterian churches as well.
  30. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    We have over a dozen remote jungle posts and several thousand people and only 2 ordained ministers. So we have trained some as local evangelists to spread the gospel throughout the region (whether they are ordained or not), and they do a reasonable job.

    The evangelicals here spread the faith a lot quicker here whereas "the truly reformed" never expanded all that much and their area of influence remains small.

    Likewise, on the American frontier, there were a good amount of Puritans early in the history of America, but as the nation spread Westward, it was the Methodist and Baptist circuit-riders that did the most to spread the faith out West. The stricter ecclesiology of the Reformed allowed them to fall behind in this expansion. I think now in America there are more baptists than Presbyterians.

    The Non-conformists in England often led the most lively and expanding segments of Christianity. Presently in China, those churches are led often by laymen. And in the early church, many churches met in houses and were led by laymen. In fact, in the early letters of Paul like Thessalonians, I am not even sure if they had a bishop/elder installed at that point, for there the word "brothers" is written five times, with no reference to elders or bishop or pastor. I am not sure if they even had a leadership at that point, it is vague.

    I don't think Presbyterian ecclesiology on this point has helped when the faith has expanded quickly. I am not about to call the expansive work of God to be illegitimate or out of order just because it doesn't fit with Presbyterian ecclesiology on this point. These are to be counted as true churches. Maybe later a Truly Reformed Elder will come and tell them they are deficient and need to get with the proper system, but I will not...I would only thank God for them.

    I have always found it irksome on the Puritanboard that every time evangelism is mentioned or preaching, there is usually an emphasis on who cannot evangelize and the thread revolves around the Truly Reformed trying to restrict people from spreading the Gospel. Meanwhile, it is the Pentecostals and not the Presbyterians that have reached much of the world and YWAM and not the Truly Reformed who send out thousands of missionaries to our mere dozens.
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