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This is why I like church’s without pastors. Every one of my church services is quite different because the “sermons” are all preached by members of the congregation. Two or three speakers are asked to give a talk in the next week’s service. I’ve had my turn a few times. This makes for interesting stuff at times. Some services are good, some not so much, but every week is different. More involved.
Amateur preachers can lead to interesting results. I remember one time at the little Baptist church near where I grew up, they used to allow lay preachers to preach on Sunday nights. One of them, an avid fisherman, chose as his text “I will make you fishers of men,” and to demonstrate the phenomenon, he had brought in his rod and reel, and cast out among the congregation. Whatever he had on the end of the line (hopefully something that didn’t have hooks on it) hit another parishioner, who had fallen asleep, awakening him and causing him to cry out in surprise, which no doubt added to the enjoyment of the crowd.
I’ve heard good preachers, bad preachers, and indifferent ones, but I tend to think, all in all, that I’ll take the professionals over the amateurs. I have been lucky enough to have belonged to a number of churches over the years who had rectors or ministers who were very good preachers. And in the Episcopal church, bishops are often pretty good preachers, and I’ve enjoyed many of their sermons as well. I shudder to think what some of we amateurs would have sounded like.
We have a directive in the Mormon Church which came down directly from the First Presidency: “No visual aids during Sacrament Meeting talks.” Now I can see why! Though a good hook on a fishing line would be handy to make sure everyone is paying attention!
I’ve attended many other church services where professional preachers talked. They are definitely engaging and interesting. Generally much more prepared and obviously know what they are talking about. One pastor of a Lutheran church here, however, kind of bothered me. He would recite stories supposedly from his own life that seemed just a little too eloquently constructed. I guess you run the risk of embellishment a bit when you have to come up with creative sermons every week.
In defense of amateurs though, there is a special spirit that attends the listener when he knows the person giving the talk has struggled and studied and put such humble effort into something they would not normally do. Though usually not eloquent, the speaker can come up with unique insights that can be more relative to a fellow layman than what just comes to be expected from a professional preacher.
John, that reminds me of the time that Huey Long, known to be Protestant, was addressing a group of Catholics, and regaled them with the story that when he was growing up, on Sunday morning he would first get out his family’s team of mules, hitch them up, and take his Catholic grandparents to mass. Then, he said, he’d go back home, and then hitch up the mules again to take his Baptist grandparents to church.
Afterward, one of his aides, awed by the speech, said, “I didn’t know you had Catholic grandparents,” to which Huey replied, “Catholic grandparents? He**, we didn’t even have a team of mules!”