Thursday, May 28, 2015

Why Would Any Christian Need A License To Preach?

This morning Dr. Russell Moore posted a picture on Instagram of his "license to preach". You have to click the link apparently on Instagram, I couldn't figure out how to embed it. He also posted the following statement:

20 years ago today, I was licensed to preach. Grateful for the past two decades of getting to serve the Lord.

What a baffling statement. A Christian needing a license to preach? You might as well issue a license for a fish to swim.

I am not in any way trying to mock Dr. Moore who is by all accounts a wonderful brother in Christ and a godly man who seeks to serve God. He has been a profitable teacher for me from afar and his heart for orphans is commendable. I am sure this means a lot to him, both when he received it and today looking back at 20 years of professional ministry. I imagine it is for a lot of men a major achievement.

Nevertheless, the notion that some ecclesiastical body, distinct from and in competition with the rest of the church, is authorized or required to provide a license for certain Christians to preach is so foreign and does such violence to the New Testament description of the church and the Gospel ministry that it demands we show the false assumptions that it relies upon.

The idea of a license to preach is one of those things that I have to assume most Christians know deep down is ridiculous and quite possible dangerous but we just go along with it anyway. Men who have studied the Bible far more than I accept and grant these licenses and put them in frames on their wall as if to declare that they have a special insight or that they are unique oracles of the Lord. We aren't talking about a brother being sent on mission to a far away land where the fellowship that is sending him is commending him on his journey. This is a license for a regular guy in a permanent part of the gathering being licensed to "preach". There are a lot of reasons why this is unbiblical and two big reasons why it is dangerous and I want to focus on that.

First, it confuses the word "preach" which is typically used in the New Testament to describe telling unbelievers the Good News of Jesus Christ and calling on them to repent. It is never used to describe a monologue sermon delivered to the church but that is what this license is talking about when it says "preach". The holder of this license is permitted to teach in the church. Many Christians reflexively assume that when the Bible talks about preaching it is really talking about giving an engaging talk with an intro, three main points and a conclusion (perhaps with an altar call thrown in). This leads to many of them thinking they can't "preach" which leads to my second point.

The big reason why this is so dangerous is it says to the average Christian that they are unable, unqualified and not permitted to preach the Gospel. It kills me that we have so many clergy that, just being honest, whine about the average church member not sharing the Gospel and yet they hang a "license to preach" on their wall in plain sight that says to the average church member "No license? No preaching for you!" This mindset, not just demonstrated by "preaching licenses" but in myriad subtle and not so subtle ways, has effectively muzzled 95% or more of the church for most of the contemporary history of the church. Christ has commanded His church to spread the Gospel and used the foolishness of ordinary, unlearned men and women to do so but religious leaders, keen on retaining their privilege and power whether intentionally or not, have created false and dare I say anti-Kingdom barriers to the church spreading the Good News.

If you are a Christian, you already have a license to preach written on your new heart with the ink of the shed blood of Jesus Christ. The only one, THE ONLY ONE, who can call you to preach is the One we preach about. Christian leaders, instead of bemoaning the "decline of Christianity in America", how about you let go of some of your power and encourage in word and in deed the church to go out and spread the Good News. The best way to slow the "decline" is to make more Christian via the Gospel proclamation and we don't have near enough professional clergy to make a dent. We do however have the greatest evangelistic force in  the world, sitting mutely every Sunday morning in pews.

Release the church and watch the Holy Spirit move or muzzle the church and cry on social media about the lack of evangelism.

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