Preaching Articles

My first preaching experiences were in nursing homes and rescue shelters. I learned to preach with proper volume preaching to people with hearing aids and to preach with proper conviction for life change preaching to what were often drunken men.

One evening I actually experienced a plainly inebriated man stand up in the middle of my sermon to argue my interpretation of the text. Thankfully, a very large man who enjoyed my weekly visits to the rescue shelter stood, towering over him, and “asked” him to sit down and be quiet. He did. I continued.

Many denominations and associations of churches have a level of ministerial licensure specifically for the lay preacher. While I never pursued it in those days, that’s exactly what I was. Unfortunately, in my experience very little emphasis is placed on the lay preacher in the life of most local churches.

This is unfortunate because when we neglect to develop and maintain active lay ministry in the life of the local church our churches miss out on at least these blessings:

1. Lay preachers are an excellent resource to preach and lead the worship service when the pastor is ill, unavailable or on vacation. In the last church I shepherded I had just such a man who normally preached and led worship in my absences. 

Besides the base benefits, like saving the church or pastor the trouble of finding someone to fill the pulpit, it offered internal support that I valued very much. I knew I could count on this man to preach the truth, and it was very helpful.

2. Lay preachers offer something that many pastors struggle with. Because the lay preacher normally has a secular job, secular friends, and so on, he is not insulated from the day to day concerns of people in the pews the way that many pastors are. All preachers should war against irrelevancy in this way, but the lay preacher has less of this battle to fight. People probably don’t change their conversation as much when he walks in a room. Older ladies don’t dote on his children and bring him canned sweet pickles as often. And he is generally not as insulated as the pastor.

3. Lay preachers can become—and usually do become—vital leaders in the life of a local church. The man I’m referring to at my last pastoral charge served routinely as the chairman of the board of Deacons and as moderator of the church executive committee. Because we were active in leadership matters of the church, his preaching was more reflective of the direction God was leading the church. Lay preachers become vital to the overall leadership of the church.

4. Lay preachers go where the pastor often cannot go. When I preached in nursing homes on Sunday mornings my pastor was busy leading a worship service. In a very real sense, I and the other lay preachers whom I worked with on a rotation in local nursing homes were a force multiplier for the local church.

We ministered at times when the pastor couldn’t possibly be available in ways that greatly enhanced the ministry of the local church. “The harvest is great, but the workers are few. So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask Him to send more workers into His fields.” (Luke 10:2 NLT)

5. The professional clergy mentality robs many people in the pew of the joy of doing the Lord’s work. Too many people in the pews have the attitude that the pastor was hired to do ministry on their behalf.

When we neglect to tap into the potential gifts and talents of the people in the pews, we rob people of their blessing to be a blessing in the work of the proclamation of the Gospel.

In addition to shepherding the flock as Pastor of Liberty Spring Christian Church in Suffolk, Virginia. Chris Surber is also Founder and Director of Supply and Multiply in Montrouis, Haiti. 

Talk about it...

Irene Allen

commented on Aug 22, 2013

I believe there is an awakening happening in church leadership to return to equipping the saints, the generation that sits before them to do the work of the ministry. The purpose of the church must be clearly defined once again. Only then will the blurriness dissipate from the eyes of those who misunderstand why God placed the kingdom of the church in the earth. The high places, the obstacles that crept into the church causing blindness must come down and will. God made us a promise that when He returns, his church will be without spot or wrinkle, that no gate in hell will prevail against his bride, the church. We, the church, may appear in a weakened state, and indeed we are in many cases, but God will see to it that He makes firm his church to stand. Romans 14:4.. I trust God to make good his word no matter what we look like right now. This article is indeed one of the many pointers, from the intervention by the Holy Spirit, leading the church of Jesus Christ back to its original purpose in the earth!

Gene Cobb

commented on Aug 22, 2013

Good thoughts. I probably like it because my ministry began exactly that way. As a young woman I felt a call to Pastor and being a lay minister gave me time to grow and seek that calling. I lead the church when the Pastor was traveling and it gave me a wonderful opportunity to learn and grow. Now I have been in the Pastoral ministry for 30 years and a Pastor for many of those years. Working in my church allowed me to grow and know! Thank God for leaders who encourage others to lead!

Jay Clason

commented on Aug 22, 2013

Cris, great article, the second one that I have found recently on the use of layman. Most of my ministry has been in this capacity. Because of my ID card, (Army Reservist) I could gain access to military bases, hospitals, campgrounds, and housing that the local pastor couldn't. I also got a decent salary (officer). There has been an attitude that if you weren't "full-time minstry" you weren't dedicated. Paul would have had a cow!

Michael Winnett

commented on Aug 22, 2013

What is a "lay preacher"? I couldn't find it in my Bible. I assume that its a man called amateur fill in for those whom God has called, set apart and equipped? Follow this at your peril. Its probably why we have lots of speakers and very few teachers in this generation.

Bill Williams

commented on Aug 22, 2013

Michael, I agree with you about the term "lay preacher" not being in the Bible; and personally I tend not to use that term, preferring simply to use the term "preacher." Neither can one find the whole "clergy-laity" distinction in the Bible, nor the idea that the pastor of a congregation has the sole responsibility to do all the preaching in the congregation, for that matter! However, I strongly believe you are mistaken to assume that what the author means by "lay preacher" is "a man called amateur fill in for those whom God has called, set apart and equipped." You are right that such a suggestion would be perilous, but I don't see anything in the article to suggest that that is what is being talked about. In our own congregation, those of us who participate with the pastor in the preaching ministry, while we may not be paid by the church for our ministry, are by no means "amateurs." We are members of the church who have been called by God and whom the pastor has trained and equipped. In fact, according to Ephesians 4, that equipping is the primary ministry of the pastor, not preaching. He preaches, of course; but more than that, he also equips others to preach as well.

Chris Surber

commented on Aug 22, 2013

If you don't get hung up on the term you dislike, I've made your point in the article.

Bill Williams

commented on Aug 22, 2013

Mr. Surber, thank you. Just to make sure I was not misunderstood, I have no problems with the term "lay preacher." I simply prefer "preacher" for a variety of reasons. The point I was trying to make to Michael is that "lay preacher" does not mean amateur. I agree with you, that the preaching ministry should not be limited solely to the "paid pastor" (whether full-time or part-time). Wonderful article!

John Daly

commented on Aug 22, 2013

At our church the Lay Pastor IS the pastor.

Diane Barnes

commented on Aug 22, 2013

In 2004, our church (Presbyterian) had been without a full-time pastor for several years. We simply couldn't afford one, since our denomination has a minimum salary that must be paid. I began to feel God calling me to become a Commissioned Lay Pastor, and the urging from members of our congregation confirmed that calling for me. I took 3 years of classes to become a CLP, but our Presbytery let me pastor the church while I took the classes. I've been the "pastor" of this church for over 8 years now. I may be an "amateur", but no one will ever love these people like I do, for I grew up in this church. I believe God will call more lay members to lead their churches.

Bill Williams

commented on Aug 22, 2013

I agree very much, although I'd like to elaborate on the first point, in that not only should lay preachers be used when the "real" preacher is absent. Lay preachers are an excellent resource to preach and lead the worship service EVEN WHEN the pastor is present. In our congregation, our pastor typically preaches between 22 to 24 weeks each year. The rest of the weeks, even when the pastor is there, we rotate between four of us lay members, including myself. It has worked very well, and is a blessing to our congregation. We get the opportunity to hear the word from different voices and different perspectives, and it has made our worship time so much richer! And the best part is that even if something were to happen to the pastor, the preaching ministry would continue as normal, without skipping a beat.

Chris Surber

commented on Aug 22, 2013

Absolutely. Of course, the article makes the points it makes; its not exhaustive. This is a primer for discussion, not a complete treatise. Thanks Bill.

Bill Williams

commented on Aug 22, 2013

Yes, thank you. I certainly understand that not everything can be written in one article, and I appreciate your contribution. We need more articles like this!

Elias Adeniyi

commented on Aug 22, 2013

Lay ministry is healthy but we must be wary of false teachers. Apostle Paul warned his spiritual son, Timothy most seriously about false teaching and human philosophy which is wide spread in our present age. By the way, is there any form of mentoring or peer preaching? I aspire to be a lay preacher/teacher since I am convinced that it is the will of God for me. We must avoid mistakes or taking things for granted. Let us earnestly seek the guidance of The Lord of the harvest. Let us "askthe Lord ... To send out workers into his harvest field" Matt 9:38 NIV.

Chris Surber

commented on Aug 22, 2013

Personally, I like to see those with a desire to preach, whether as a vocation or as a part of their life in the churches, equipped for teaching. Preferably with a formal training tool, today there are so many available at low cost and by distance education, and mentored by an experienced preacher.

Doug Bower

commented on Aug 22, 2013

Before there were institutionally ordained preachers, there were "lay" preachers. As far as I can tell Paul himself, would be turned down for the "ordained" ministry of the institutional Churches (most of which are declining in membership under the cumbersomeness of their bureaucracies). The Holy Spirit working in the laity and its willingness to proclaim Christ is essential. Have we as clergy discouraged the laity and has also the laity resigned itself to expecting the clergy to be the go to "experts" of the faith and thus has the laity become too passive?

Chris Surber

commented on Aug 22, 2013

To be clear: This article is PRAISING people other than the Pastor preaching. If anyone has an issue with the term "Lay Preacher," I'm sorry for that unfortunate concern. Its what I used to call myself when I WAS ONE. I'm here praising laity (again if you don't like the term take it up with Webster not me...) using their gifts, not only the Pastoral leadership in a Church.

Larry Branch

commented on Aug 25, 2013

I'm a lay Preacher however our pastor doesn't train us up for the future. Some of us want to move forward as leader over a congregation. I feel I being rob of my calling. I plan to leave.

Jerry Rittenhouse

commented on Aug 23, 2013

In the early 1800's when there was revival (Jonathan Edwards), it was due not to the pulpit but to the laity. Chris as made a perfect point. Let's equip the saints for the work of ministry and multiply ourselves for the harvest.

Ojang Ngwa Stephen

commented on Aug 27, 2013

We have discovered that no Church ever existed without 1 or 2 lay preacher. That is unquestionable. Lay preachers have always been useful to Churches and congregations.The Apostle Paul left many lay preachers behind him in most of the churches he passed through.

Ojang Ngwa Stephen

commented on Aug 27, 2013

We have discovered that no Church ever existed without 1 or 2 lay preacher. That is unquestionable. Lay preachers have always been useful to Churches and congregations.The Apostle Paul left many lay preachers behind him in most of the churches he passed through.

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