THE CALL TO PREACH

This article appeared in the July 2009 issue of the Baptist Anchor, the publication of
Emmaus Baptist College

     I sometime hear people say something like, "My nephew is going to college to become a preacher." Colleges, Bible colleges or seminaries do not make preachers. God calls preachers. What does that mean? What in the world is a call to preach?

     To answer that question we must first see what the call to preach is not. The call to preach is not a business decision, like, I could be a brain surgeon or a fry cook or a preacher. I think I'll be a preacher. Some even think that becoming a preacher means a lot of "easy money." If that is the case, he needs to become something other than a Baptist preacher.

     Neither is the call to preach some outward manifestation. The old story is that a man saw the letters GPC in the clouds while he was plowing. He took the letters to mean "Go Preach Christ." After several attempts at preaching he was told that GPC stood for "Go Plow Corn." God isn't going to give you some kind of sign or send an angel to announce your call.

     Preachers are often looked upon with a great deal of admiration and respect. Some men are simply seeking the "glory" when they decide to become a preacher and do not really have the desire in their heart.

     Sometime a person is very faithful to the church and very dedicated to the Lord and takes their desire to serve the Lord as the call to preach. In time this kind of "call" will lead to total frustration.
Some men are mother called or pastor called and some preach just because everyone expects that "some day he will be a preacher." These seldom last very long and everyone is disappointed.
The call to preach is difficult to describe. It is simply a burning desire to preach that will not go away. It often goes against reason and against the plans we, or others, have made but we simply must preach.
I have heard of a young man that went to his pastor and told him that he thought he was called to preach. The pastor told him to just forget it. Later he came back to the pastor and again told him he thought he was called to preach. The pastor again told him to forget it. He finally came back and told his preacher that he couldn't forget it, he had to preach. This wise pastor made sure that this man's "call to preach" wasn't some passing fancy that would go away when things got tough. The call to preach is a burning desire to preach that won't go away.

     If God has called you to preach, you will preach or burst. I am amazed at a man who announces that he is called to preach and then can be satisfied to sit in church and never preach. We sometime hear, "But the pastor won't let me preach." It is not your pastor's responsibility to give you a place to preach. If you have been called to preach, you will find a place to preach! It may be in a nursing home or jail, but you will find a place. If you can be happy not preaching, I doubt that you have been called to preach.

     Often when a man is called to preach he tries to "scratch the itch" some other way. He may volunteer to run a bus route, or teach a Sunday School class or even become a deacon, thinking that will satisfy his inward calling. It doesn't and eventually he must surrender to God's will for him to preach.

     When God calls a man to preach and the man surrenders to that calling from God, he is as much of a preacher as he will ever be. He may not be able to preach his way out of a paper sack. (The first sermon I preached in church was less than ten minutes long. As people were leaving the church and shaking my hand, one man said, "One good thing I can say about your sermon, it was short.") He doesn't know or understand all that it means to be a preacher. The new responsibilities may overwhelm him at times. He will spend the rest of his life learning to be a better preacher.

     It is somewhat like a man getting married. As soon as the preacher says "I now pronounce you husband and wife" the man is as much of a husband as he will ever be. That does not mean he knows or understands all that it means to be a husband. The new responsibilities may even overwhelm him at times. He will spend the rest of his life learning to be a better husband but he is no more of a husband on his 50th anniversary than he was on his wedding day.

     After a person decides he has been called to preach, the next step is to announce his call to the congregation. People will be happy and hug him and tell him how wonderful his first sermon was. But, announcing the call to the ministry is not the same as surrendering to the ministry. When a person surrenders to the ministry he surrenders his hopes and plans to God and his life heads off in a different direction. Money is no longer an issue. Distance is no longer an issue. He has surrendered to go when and where God chooses to send him, trusting God to supply his needs. He never passes up an opportunity to preach, regardless of where God may lead him.