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Why Shouldn't Lay People Preach?

Posted on February 16, 2014 at 11:00 AM

Why shouldn’t lay people preach? Aren’t all Christians priests, prophets and kings? The Holy Spirit is not only on special people?

Thoughts like these might seem right to some, but they miss the point. Yes, all Christians are called to be priests, prophets and kings. The Lord gave each one of us veryspecial talents and gifts – and will hold us accountable someday as to what wedid with them. And yes, the Great Commission calls ALL Christians to go out andmake disciples – which may include preaching and/or giving witness for Christ through word and deed – and prayer. Preaching in a church service, however, isdifferent. To stay with the Catholic Church: She does not completely forbid that. There are circumstances where it may be necessary that for example “viri probati”, that is experienced men, assume that responsibility. Examples: Liturgies of the Word, small services, children services, services where no priestis available or the priest could or can not preach (due to illness, no possibility of preparing or whatever). If that is only a one-time event, the priest can appoint somebody. If it is a longer solution, the bishop needs to send out someone. In a regular Sunday mass, however, only the priest or deacon can preach. Every lay person would stand there in the name of the Church – the priestsand deacons do that in the name of Christ, as they are standing in apostolic succession. To stay with the latter one: Yes, the Holy Spirit dwells in all of us, but Jesus called out His twelve apostles (and their successors who are being anointed and receive the sacrament of Holy Orders by laying on of hands through the bishop). Why? Not because the Church does not believe that lay people can talk and work with the help of the Holy Spirit. Even under certain circumstances where it would be allowed for lay men to preach the sermon has to be read from paper at the beginning of the mass to make absolutely sure that this is not mistaken for an ordinary sermon. There is a reason Jesus called His apostlesfor special services (like the Eucharist). Also the Church wants to make sure that the people who preach in a mass know what they are doing (they studied theology and have ample experience), that they are in apostolic succession and like that responsible for their flock.

To go away from that (as it is sometimes done) means risking the spiritual guidance and protection of this flock. Lay men might mean well, but say things that are heretical and cause great confusion among the assembled Church congregation.The might say things from their own, human perspective – things that sound right to them, but are a far cry away from what the Church teaches.

That does not mean priests of deacons necessarily do a better job. This is unfortunately in many cases not so. Oftentimes you get to hear wishy-washy and lukewarm sermons that do not feed people. Sermons that try not to shy anybody away or touch touchy subjects. Sermons that sound more like Christian wellness or nice esoteric stories, but certainly do not incite a burning fire in the hearts of the faithful, a fire that makes them follow Jesus in that radical way He called usto.

We should not settle for less.

Robert