And when the Sanhedrin had set Peter and John in the midst, they asked, “By what power or by what name have you preached?” … So they commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered and said to them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge.” And they spoke the word of God with boldness (Acts 4:7, 18-19, 31).
The Apostles Peter and John. John Bunyon. John Wesley. Martin Luther. Aimee Semple McPherson. New Side Presbyterians. American ministers of color. What do these individuals all have in common? Established denominations forbid them to preach.
John Bunyon was found guilty of preaching without a license but continued preaching and writing in solitary confinement. John Wesley, forbidden to preach in Anglican churches, took to the streets and fields of England. Martin Luther continued to preach and teach after being condemned as a heretic by Pope Leo X. Pentecostal evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson took credentials from a Baptist congregation. New Side Presbyterians, supported by George Whitefield, built separate churches and pulpits in support of the Great Awakening. Black men established and funded churches of their own.
This post isn’t about whether or not women can be pastors, or whether homosexuals should be ordained to the ministry. Instead, let’s consider the question of where the call to preach comes from and who has the authority to control that call.
Van Robison, in an excellent article titled, “License to Preach” (http://www.batteredsheep.com/license.html) writes that:
Basically, the world of permits and licenses is a world of control and money. The permit and license is no guarantee. In the Christian world, having a piece of paper that says someone is “ordained” or a “pastor” is no guarantee of spiritual maturity or qualification….
There are innumerable preachers who court the system of man-made ordination, believing that somehow a piece of paper with their name on it qualifies them as “spiritual experts”. Jesus Christ was not ordained by men, or by their institutions as most are today. It is not the “license” or the “permit” or the college “credentials” that qualify anyone to serve Jesus Christ. Christ handpicked mostly “uneducated” fishermen to represent Him, and for very good reason.
Denominations certainly have the right to control or restrict what happens within the walls of their church buildings. They have the right to determine who may pastor or preach in those buildings. But does a denomination have the authority to forbid anyone to preach at all? to speak in a church outside that denomination? to restrict or remove an individual from Christian service altogether and everywhere?
Might there be fewer denominational divisions in Christianity, if the existing denominations didn’t impose their own un-Biblical restrictions on ministry?
If Jesus Christ is the One who calls the individual to preach His Gospel, and the Holy Spirit empowers and gifts that one in the ministry, what authority does a man-made organization have to restrict or revoke that call and gifting?
As always, your comments and ideas are encouraged.