In regards to officiating a wedding

From the Pastor’s Desk (258)

August 1, 2021

Years ago, I was made aware of a New Life house church shepherd who officiated his own house church members’ wedding. When I heard of the incident, it didn’t sit well with me because something that should not have been done was done. I left it at that because it was or seemed like one isolated incident.

Just recently, however, I was made aware of another incident where not a house church shepherd but a member officiated one’s own family member’s wedding. I was happy for the couple who got married but not the way the wedding ceremony was conducted.

Since I am noticing this trend more frequently in our nation, I would like to take this space to explain to you what a wedding is and who should officiate your wedding.

A wedding is a joyful ceremony conducted in the presence of God and also in the presence of family and friends where one man and one woman who are spiritually, physically, mentally and financially mature exchange their solemn marriage vows to love and be faithful unto each other until death separates them. This marriage between a couple that begins with their wedding ceremony is God’s idea. In fact, marriage is the very first institution that God created. Hence, it is special and sacred.

Our nation is not a Christian nation. However, it is founded upon values and principles that are deeply Christian. This can be seen even from a description of who is qualified to officiate a wedding. If you do any Google search on “Who can officiate a wedding in the US,” you will find this:

“Any ordained minister, priest, or rabbi of any regularly established church or congregation; judges; justices of the peace; and county clerks or their appointed deputies may perform wedding ceremonies.”

Even our state implicitly or subconsciously recognizes the sacredness or spiritual nature of marriage. Otherwise, they would not have put those who are viewed as “spiritual” or “sacred” such as “ordained minister, priest, or rabbi” as the first and foremost kinds of people who can and are permitted to officiate a wedding.

If everyone goes to a church, then there is no problem because he will have a pastor who can officiate his wedding. However, the reality in our nation is that a vast majority of people don’t attend a church, yet many of them need to get married. Therefore, the government came up with a policy that makes the ordination super easy and simple. Therein lies the contradiction. In order to allow people to perform a spiritual and sacred ceremony, the government flippantly gives out an ordination license to just about anyone.

The Bible takes ordination very seriously. In the Old Testament, it was reserved just for priests, prophets and kings. In the New Testament, we see deacons and full time pastors being ordained with the laying on of hands.

“Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands” (1 Tim. 5:22)

Therefore, please do not go online to become a licensed minister for the purpose of officiating weddings or for other reasons. This is against the teachings of the Scripture and against the practices of the Southern Baptist Convention, of which we are a part.

Now, let’s say you are a dairy farmer living in a remote village where there are 30 people who are all VIPs. You start reaching out to them and begin a house church. Now, if a couple in your house church wants to get married in this context, then you can certainly get ordained not through online but by seeking help from our denomination because you are functioning as a bi-vocational pastor. However, you are a part of New Life and New Life is a local church that is made up of 70 plus house churches. And as of now, there is an ordained pastor, namely me, who can officiate all the members’ weddings. Officiating a wedding ceremony is a joyful blessing. However, preparing a wedding message is a hard and time consuming work. Therefore, I think of doing weddings as a sacred and joyful responsibility of being a pastor. 

Let’s not take what is supposed to be “sacred” too casually.

Your pastor, Pastor Eric

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