In the previous installment of “You and God” I discussed, in general, the call to preach. If you are interested in what constitutes a call to “full-time” gospel ministry, specifically to preach or pastor or to be in vocational ministry that involves a teaching/preaching ministry, I encourage you to read that discussion (“You and God,” January 3, 2023). I cited several scriptural references and noted some biblical, early-church precedents. This discussion is organized around four defining elements of the call to preach: Confirmation, Conviction, Commission, and Commitment.
First, Confirmation. It’s one thing for a person to have an experience and announce that God has called him to preach. Well and good and praise the Lord! We would anticipate, therefore, that this person would be, in due season and after a reasonable time to prepare some messages, preaching! When and if that happens, there should be a confirmation. The Holy Spirit, first of all, should confirm that call in the heart of the preacher, and there ought to be a confirmation from the hearers of the message. People to whom the preacher ministers will acknowledge that they were blessed, edified, and stirred by the preaching. If a man has the call of God upon him to preach the Word, the people of God will attest to that by their responses. It does not have to be an overwhelming response, but the people of God will let one know that they are blessed by, and convinced of the call of God upon, the man of God. Often, would-be preachers confuse the “call to preach” with the putting of a man into the pastorate. If you are called to preach, then preach. You do not have to have a pulpit in a well-furnished auditorium with a friendly audience. Preach in a rescue mission, a nursing home, a street corner, a prison—or wherever the opportunity presents itself. If God has called you to preach, you will have a divinely-given burden upon you to share, to warn, and to instruct others of God’s Word and His ways. You will find, or make, opportunities to preach the Word! And, when you do, there will be someone—maybe a few, maybe many—who will affirm to you that God has called you to preach, without a doubt. There will be a confirmation of others to your call.
Second, Conviction. When a young man feels called to preach and announces it to his pastor; or, when a council of august men at the time of “ordination” hears his testimony and listens to his statement of beliefs based on his understanding of scriptures, often someone will say: “So you feel called to preach, to pastor; my counsel is that if you can be happy doing anything else, it would be wise not to pursue ministry as a vocation.” Usually the man being ordained will, without hesitation, let it be known that he is fully convinced that he could not be happy doing anything else, because he is absolutely convinced and convicted that God has called him to preach. This unshakable conviction is a must for anyone who desires the office of a bishop or a full-time ministry vocation. That is why, when a pulpit committee interviews a “candidate” for a vacant pulpit, the applicant for the office is not concerned about the benefits that may accrue with the position. He is convinced that God has called him to preach and that God will, therefore, take care of his needs. Salary and/or benefits are not the “front burner” issues. The issues are, rather, Does God want me here? What is His will for this church at this time? And, am I a part of His immediate plan for this local church? A call to preach, to pastor, must be accompanied by an unwavering conviction that God has issued that call and that nothing that man could say or do would change that conviction.
Third, Commission. Every New Testament servant of the Lord Jesus Christ should be identified with a local, New Testament church. It is to the Church that Christ has given gifted servants to “perfect the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.” (Eph. 4:12). No minister of the gospel, called of God, is a “lone ranger.” He operates as an integral part of the local church of which he is a member. Whether he is an evangelist or a missionary; laboring at home or abroad; independently or under the auspices of a mission or ministry board, his or her first accountability is to the local church from which he or she is sent. The local church commissions pastors, teachers, missionaries, and/or evangelists, either formally or informally, to minister either in the local church or as an extension of that local church as a sending church. Any parachurch laborer would be wise to seek the endorsement of his local church and, when feasible, the financial and prayerful support of that assembly of believers. Christ is the Head of the body, the Church, and most of the instruction and emphasis of the New Testament has to do with the life and labors of local churches. Churches ultimately, in Christ’s name, should commission laborers to do the work of the ministry, providing for much-needed accountability and equally needed prayer support—as well as financial support, when possible.
Fourth, Commitment. A call from Christ through His Holy Spirit to preach the gospel is not temporary. He issues the call, and He alone revokes it. Of one who is called to preach, someone said he is “an ambassador, not a diplomat; an evangelist, not an entertainer; a deliverer, not a quiverer; his business is to preach revelation, not reformation; resurrection, not resuscitation; Christ, not culture; conversion, not civilization; theocracy, not democracy; salvation through the New Birth; sanctification through the Holy Spirit, not through human merit.” (The Good News) To fulfill this great commission, the preacher must have an uncommon tenacity, an unsinkable spirit, an unhuman love, an incomparable motivation, an unparalleled loyalty, and an undying adherence to His Lord and to His Church that will compel him to be faithful to his call until relieved of his assignment by His Master.
So, have you been called to preach the gospel? If so, then “Preach the Word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.” (2 Tim. 4:2)
Nothing will be able to stop you, for with His call has come a confirmation, a holy conviction, a New Testament commission, and a rock-solid commitment. God help you and may He increase your tribe!
“For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.” (Romans 11:29)
“Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall.” (2 Pet.1:10)