Monday, November 1, 2010

How Important Are Lay Preachers?

Last week I attended a Reformation Conference at Reformed Bible Church near Rutland, Vermont. Phil Johnson, Executive Director of Grace to You, was the speaker. Of the many things he said, the one that spoke to me the most was about Charles Spurgeon's conversion to Christ. Though both Spurgeon's father and grandfather were pastors and Spurgeon himself was quite religious, Spurgeon had not yet been personally converted to Christ.

As Phil tells the story, on January 6, 1850, a terrible snow storm hit the village that Spurgeon lived in. Young Spurgeon was unable to make it to the church he normally attended, so the 16 year old slipped into the back of a Primitive Methodist church on a small side street. There were only 12 people present and because of the snow storm, the regular preacher did not make it to church that day. When it became obvious that the preacher was not coming, a layman from the congregation made his way to the pulpit. That layman was untrained and unprepared, but he was a godly man and ascended to the pulpit with only the Spirit as his guide. He read a scripture and then spent a few minutes explaining it.

When writing about the experience some years later, Spurgeon recalls that the layman "was a stupid man who could not even pronounce the words correctly." But his simple sermon was about the need to look to Jesus alone for salvation. Spurgeon realized he had been trying to earn his salvation by doing all kinds of religious deeds. At one point during the simple message the layman looked right at Spurgeon and said "Young man, all you need to do is look on Jesus for salvation." After hearing those words Spurgeon was gloriously converted and eventually became one of the greatest evangelists in modern history. Though his many writings, Spurgeon continues to influence people for Christ. God used a "stupid" layman as the means through which He brought the great Spurgeon to Christ.

This powerful story reminded me of the importance of lay preachers. While I believe in the value of formal education, we must never underestimate the power of layman filled with the Spirit. God can used a Spirit filled layman in the pulpit in far greater ways than a prideful educated clergyman who is preaching in his own strength.

If America is to experience another great awakening, laymen will need to pick up their Bibles and start sharing in nursing homes, prisons, schools, the work place, the church and anywhere else the Lord opens a door.

Dr. Terry W. Dorsett is the author of Developing Leadership Teams in the Bivocational Church which contains six easy to use lessons to train lay people to preach and provide pastoral care alongside their pastors.


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