I was brought up in a strong tradition of lay leadership and preaching. Mormons believe that having a paid, professional clergy corrupts the practice and teachings of the church. Growing up Mormon, it was common wisdom that paid pastors preached what they thought their parishioners wanted to hear rather than the truth, because their pay checks depended on it. A play in the Mormon temple ceremony even went so far as to portray Satan bribing a priest wearing the traditional cleric to preach the Devil's doctrines! (I hear that since I have left the fold of the Latter-day Saints they removed this part of the temple play.)
Since leaving the Mormon church, I have been privileged to know many wonderful full-time "paid" clergy. I've never known one who was overpaid (though I've seen a few on TV). All the professional clergy I have known personally have been men and women whose lives are full of compassion and whose primary motivation in life has been to serve God and make a better world.
Yet I believe Mormons are on to something when they insist on a church where the laity take full responsibility for their life of faith. I believe that many main-line Christians have ceded their rightful moral and spiritual responsibility to spiritual "professionals." (See my essay, "Abolish the Laity!") In 1996 I proposed to our church that we develop a ministry of lay preaching.
It took another two years to overcome the objections of those who feared spiritual chaos. Church folks are notoriously resistant to change. But Lyndale United Church of Christ eventually adopted a "lay preaching ministry," and it has become a vibrant, empowering part of our life of faith. Some who initially opposed the idea of lay preaching now see it as indispensable, and others who never saw themselves preaching have since delivered some of the most moving sermons ever heard from Lyndale's pulpit. I would eventually like to see the congregation publish a selection of these sermons. In the meantime, I've posted some of my own sermons here.
On the Day I Called, You Answered Me
Christ is Love
The Rivers of Damascus
Love Against God
Hocus Pocus Theology
From the Depths
With God All Things Are Possible
I Have Become All Things to All People
Waiting for the Great Day of the Lord
A Dialog on the Grace in Coming Out
The Company of the Prophets
I Will Give You an Eternal Name Which Shall Never Be Cut Off