Before You Preach Again
Preaching is no common matter to God. It is not common in the sense that He bestows His favor on just anyone who takes it upon themselves to do so. It is a gift of God, a calling, bestowed upon men of His choosing, an office to be highly esteemed, a place of honor among men, and an activity to be conferred, confirmed and sent by the local church.
Yet the popularity of street preaching coupled with the unbiblical practice of ‘lay preaching’ has done just that in the eyes of many, including the world – it has made preaching – to a degree - ‘commonplace’.
Visit any beach boardwalk in America on a weekend and chances are good you will see and hear street preachers. The same can be said for almost any large metropolitan downtown area. In untold numbers in churches across this country this coming Sunday, somewhere, a lay preacher, perhaps a missionary unsent by a local church, will stand behind a pulpit or a podium and attempt to speak for God as His minister.
Brethren, these things ought not to be.
There are certain requirements that are to be met before one should preach, be it on the streets or from the pulpit. Specifically, one must:
- Be gifted by, and called of God and not of yourself. (Heb. 5:4; Jer. 17:16)
- Licensed, ordained, authorized and sent by the local church. Wanting these things neither authorizes nor makes you suitable or permitted under the authority of the Church to preach or teach anywhere. (Ephesians 4:11, Jeremiah 23:21; Hebrews 5:4)
- Be authorized by the local Church, as a minister of the Gospel, to administer communion (Lord’s Supper), perform marriages and funerals and other duties of one called, gifted and authorized by God.
In short: unless one is gifted by God, called by both God and His Church, ordained, licensed and having been conferred with authority to execute all ministerial duties of the office of Pastor-teacher, then you should not be preaching, either on the streets or in the local assembly.
I am not against street preaching! Indeed, it thrills me to see and hear it. Yet when, from enthusiasm for the Gospel, one takes it upon themselves to publicly proclaim God’s Word or perform the duties of a pastor-teacher, and is not confirmed by the church nor sent to do so, he usurps the office and assumes authority he does not possess. He’s a cowboy, making his own rules.
“It is true, blessedly true, and God forbid that we should say a word to weaken it, that all believers enjoy equal nearness to God, that every one of them belongs to that ‘holy priesthood’ who are to ‘offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God by Jesus Christ’ (I Peter 2:5). Nevertheless, all believers are not called by God to occupy the same position of ministerial honour, all are not called to be preachers of His Gospel or teachers of His Word (James 3:1). God calls and equips whom He pleases to engage in His public service, and bids the rank and file of His people ‘obey them that have the rule over you and submit yourselves’ (Heb. 13:17). Yet, sad to say, in some circles the sin of Korah is repeated. They demand an ecclesiastical socialism, where any and all are allowed to speak. They ‘heap to themselves teachers’ (II Tim. 4:3). This ought not to be” (A.W. Pink, Exposition of Hebrews, p. 374).
“… no one, unless sent by God, ought to usurp the office of teaching in the church, whether a new doctrine is proposed or an old one, because it is always evident that no one ought to assume the part of a … minister unless he is sent by the Lord. And as many as teach in the church without being called or sent are said ‘to teach in their own name’ and not in the name of Christ (John 5:43) (i.e., not sent by God), by themselves and their own authority and thrust in by themselves, who on that account deserve the name of thieves and robbers and not of true shepherds (John 10:8)” (Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, vol. 3, p. 212).
“But the office is honourable; and so are they by whom it is discharged in a due manner. And it is the prerogative of God to call whom he pleaseth thereunto. And there is no greater usurpation therein than the constitution of ministers by the laws, rules, and authority of men. For any to set up such in office as he hath not gifted for it, nor called unto it, is to sit in the temple of God, and to show themselves to be God” (John Owen, Hebrews, vol. 5, p. 362).