Those who are truly sent by God…are marked by the fact that they are faithful to the message of the Gospel, exalting the Lord Jesus Christ, proclaiming to men the good news of salvation through Him, and bidding men to turn from their sins and come to Christ as Savior and Lord. They back all of their proclamations by the authority of the Bible, the Word of God, and they call Christians to lives of holiness while they themselves are living examples of holiness. Unless a man is divinely sent to preach the Word, his ministry will be ineffective to produce faith and life in those to whom he ministers. God must do the sending. I always tell young men who ask me about entering the ministry that they should never become ministers if they can possibly help it. If a man could be satisfied as president of the United States, as president of a bank or a college, as a pitcher for a big-league ball team, or in another position of honor or distinction, he has not been called to the ministry. God has not sent him. When God sends a man there is a yearning, churning, burning inside him. Like Paul he must cry, “Woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel” (1 Cor. 9:16). This must be the heart feeling of everyone who has been sent with the Gospel.
Let every preacher take note: Amid the frustrations and hardships of ministry, the most Christ-like thing is to stay focused on your calling, give thanks to God, and go on preaching the Gospel.
To labor in the dark, without an assured commission, greatly obscures the warrant of faith in the Divine engagements; and the Minister, unable to avail himself of heavenly support, feels his “hands hang down, and his knees feeble” in his work. On the other hand, the confidence that he is acting in obedience to the call of God — that he is in His work, and in His way — nerves him in the midst of all difficulty, and under a sense of his responsible obligations, with almighty strength.
If one is to be considered a true minister of the church, it is necessary that he consider the “objective or external” of the church and the secret inner call “conscious only to the minister himself.”
The true doctrine of calling is that the man whom God has designed and qualified to preach learns his call through the Word. The Word is the instrument by which the Spirit teaches him, with prayer, that he is to preach.
David Brainerd prayed with fasting for the Lord’s leadership regarding his entry into ministry. He said of his experience during that day, “I felt the power of intercession for precious, immortal souls; for the advancement of the kingdom of my dear Lord and Saviour in the world; and withal, a most sweet resignation and even consolation and joy in the thoughts of suffering hardships, distresses, and even death itself, in the promotion of it…. My soul was drawn out very much for the world, for multitudes of souls. I think I had more enlargement for sinners than for the children of God, though I felt as if I could spend my life in cries for both. I enjoyed great sweetness in communion with my dear Saviour. I think I never in my life felt such an entire weanedness from this world and so much resigned to God in everything.
The gifts rather describe the what of ministry, and the call then designates the where of ministry.
You are not your own; you are a man under orders. And the One who has drafted you and signed your orders expects that you carry them out in a manner worthy of Him, and in such a way that His authority and His kingdom cannot be ignored. Now go, labor, work, and do your duty well knowing that it is the greatest privilege under heaven to be in the personal service of the Almighty.
Even as God is at work shaping desire and growing a man in the areas of knowledge and ability, the first and most visible mark of the called man is godly character. While great gifts and broad knowledge are certainly a blessing in public ministry, no amount of academic or ministerial brilliance matters if the man is not first known to be conspicuously holy.
It must be seen that…the spirit of love in the minister arises not so much out of natural personality, but is a gift of God. This love, then, will be a reflection of God’s love and will demonstrate itself not only in a man’s sincere love for God and His truth, but also a deep compassion for people accompanied by a loving compulsion to seek after them, aid them, and extend the grace of Christ to them. How insightful is the comment often heard that “one should not take the job of shepherd until he learns to love the smell of sheep.”
In evaluating a man’s ability to teach it is necessary to inject some objectivity into a largely subjective task. The communication of God’s truth by a man appointed and duly gifted by God will at least be recognizable as being: clear and understandable; winsome and arresting; and life-changing.
When I was a child I heard my father say, “If God has called you to preach, don’t step down to be the President of the United States. But if your heart will let you do anything besides preaching, do it!”
If a commission by an earthly king is considered an honor, how can a commission by a Heavenly King be considered a sacrifice?
It was Mr. Spurgeon, I believe, who used to say to young men – “If you can do anything else do it. If you can stay out of the ministry, stay out of the ministry.” I would certainly say that without any hesitation whatsoever. I would say that the only man who is called to preach is the man who cannot do anything else, in the sense that he is not satisfied with anything else. This call to preach is so put upon him, and such pressure comes to bear upon him that he says, “I can do nothing else, I must preach.”
A man who feels he is competent, and that he can do this easily, and so rushes to preach without any sense of fear or trembling, or any hesitation whatsoever, is a man who is proclaiming that he has never been “called” to be a preacher.
I have always felt when someone has come to me and told me that he has been called to be a preacher, that my main business is to put every conceivable obstacle that I can think of in his way.
This is something that happens to you: it is God dealing with you, and God acting upon you by His Spirit; it is something you become aware of rather than what you do. It is thrust upon you; it is presented to you and almost forced upon you constantly in this way.
It was God’s hand that laid hold of me, and drew me out, and separated me to this work.
God’s call is an inner conviction given by the Holy Spirit and confirmed by the Word of God and the body of Christ.
I don’t see how anyone could survive in the ministry if he felt it was just his own choice. Some ministers scarcely have two good days back to back. They are sustained by the knowledge that God has placed them where they are. Ministers without such a conviction often lack courage and carry their resignation letter in their coat pocket. At the slightest hint of difficulty, they’re gone.
[Pastors] are initiated by the Holy Spirit, confirmed by prayer, and qualified through the consistent testimony of a pure life in the eyes of all.
Nothing is more needed among preachers today than that we should have the courage to shake ourselves free from the thousand and one trivialities in which we are asked to waste our time and strength, and resolutely return to the apostolic ideal which made necessary the office of the pastorate. (We must resolve that) we will continue steadfastly in prayer, and in the ministry of the Word.
None but He who made the world can make a Minister of the Gospel. If a young man has capacity, culture and application (it) may make him a scholar, a philosopher, or an orator; but a true Minister must have certain principles, motives, feelings, and aims, which no industry or endeavors of men can either acquire or communicate. They must be given from above, or they cannot be received.
No church is better able to confirm a call to the ministry than a man’s home church – it is the natural and appropriate proving ground. He should submit himself, therefore, to the spiritual leadership of his church fellowship, asking them to test his call (Derek Prime and Alistair Begg).
He who would be a faithful minister of the gospel must deny the pride of his heart, be emptied of ambition, and set himself wholly to seek the glory of God in his calling.
Those whom God calls to the work, He usually so strips and empties, so pulls down, humbles, and abases, so shows them what the ministry is, and their own unfitness for it—that they shrink back from so arduous and important a work, and can scarcely be persuaded that they are called to it. We need hardly remark how different this is from the forward, pushing, bold, if not presuming spirit which so many manifest in their ambitious aim almost to force their way into the pulpit.
The way also in which texts are brought to his mind, opened up to his understanding, or applied to his heart; the light cast upon a passage when speaking from it, the suitable Scriptures which are brought to his memory to confirm his views upon it, and the sweet enjoyment which he has himself in or after the time of speaking from it; the secret prayer and meditation on the word which he has before he goes into the pulpit, and the holy savor which often rests on his spirit after the labors of the day; the sense which he has of the blessedness of the work, and his willingness to spend and be spent, labor and suffer, live and die in the Lord’s service – these and similar experiences confirm him in the persuasion that the Lord has called him to the work, and is with him in it.
If the preacher is called by men, he may sensibly give those who called him what they want, but what if the preacher is called by God? How can he dare speak less than all the truth of God?
I felt shut up to do it and saw no other course of life open to me.
That hundreds have missed their way, and stumbled against a pulpit is sorrowfully evident from the fruitless ministries and decaying churches which surround us. It is a fearful calamity to a man to miss his calling, and to the church upon whom he imposes himself his mistake involves an affliction of the most grievous kind…(if anyone) could be content to be a newspaper editor, or a grocer, or a farmer, or a doctor, or a lawyer, or a senator, or a king, in the name of heaven and earth let him go his way; he is not the man in whom dwells the Spirit of God in its fullness, for a man so filled with God would utterly weary of any pursuit but that for which his inmost soul pants. If on the other hand, you can say that for all the wealth of both the Indies you could not and dare not espouse any other calling so as to be put aside from preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ, then, depend upon it, if other things be equally satisfactory, you have the signs of this apostleship. We must feel that woe is unto us if we preach not the gospel; the Word of God must be unto us as fire in our bones, otherwise, if we undertake the ministry, we shall be unhappy in it, shall be unable to bear the self-denials incident to it, and shall be of little service to those among whom we minister.
He that can toy with his ministry and count it to be like a trade, or like any other profession, was never called of God. But he that has a charge pressing on his heart, and a woe ringing in his ear, and preaches as though he heard the cried of hell behind him, and saw his God looking down on him- oh, how that man entreats the Lord that his hearers may not hear in vain!
A man must not consider that he is called to preach until he has proved that he can speak. God certainly has not created behemoth to fly; and should leviathan have a strong desire to ascend with the lark, it would evidently be an unwise aspiration, since he is not furnished with wings. If a man be called to preach, he will be endowed with a degree of speaking ability, which he will cultivate and increase. If the gift of utterance be not there in a measure at the first, it is not likely that it will ever be developed.
That none of you can be pastors without the loving consent of the flock; and therefore this will be to you a practical indicator if not a correct one. If your call from the Lord be a real one you will not long be silent. As surely as the man wants his hour, so surely the hour wants its man. The church of God is always urgently in need of living ministers; to her a man is always more precious than the gold of Ophir. Formal officials do lack and suffer hunger, but the anointed of the Lord need never be without a charge, for there are quick ears which will know them by their speech, and ready hearts to welcome them to their appointed place. Be fit for your work, and you will never be out of it. Do not run about inviting yourselves to preach here and there; be more concerned about your ability than your opportunity, and more earnest about your walk with God than about either. The sheep will know the God-sent shepherd; the porter of the fold will open to you, and the flock will know your voice.
Whatever “call” a man may pretend to have, if he has not been called to holiness, he certainly has not been called to the ministry.
It is a marvel to me how men continue at ease in preaching year after year without conversions. Have they no bowels of compassion for others? No sense of responsibility upon themselves? Dare they, by a vain misrepresentation of divine sovereignty, cast the blame on their Master? Or is it their belief that Paul plants and Apollos waters, and that God gives no increase? Vain are their talents, their philosophy, their rhetoric, and even their orthodoxy, without the signs following. How are they sent of God who bring no men to God? Prophets whose words are powerless, sowers whose seed all withers, fishers who take no fish, soldiers who give no wounds-are these God’s men? Surely it were better to be a mud-raker, or a chimney-sweep, than to stand in the ministry as an utterly barren tree.
The trials of a true minister are not few… Let no man who looks for ease of mind and seeks the quietude of life enter the ministry; if he does so he will flee from it in disgust.
How may a young man know whether he is called or not? That is a weighty inquiry, and I desire to treat it most solemnly. O for divine guidance in so doing! That hundreds have missed their way, and stumbled against a pulpit is sorrowfully evident from the fruitless ministries and decaying churches which surround us. It is a fearful calamity to a man to miss his calling, and to the church upon whom he imposes himself, his mistake involves an affliction of the most grievous kind.
Churches are not all wise, neither do they all judge in the power of the Holy Ghost, but many of them judge after the flesh; yet I had sooner accept the opinion of a company of the Lord’s people than my own upon so personal a subject as my own gifts and graces. At any rate, whether you value the verdict of the church or no, one thing is certain, that none of you can be pastors without the loving consent of the flock; and therefore this will be to you a practical indicator if not a correct one.
I should not complete this point if I did not add, that mere ability to edify, and aptness to teach is not enough; there must be other talents to complete the pastoral character. Sound judgment and solid experience must instruct you; gentle manners and loving affections must sway you; firmness and courage must be manifest and tenderness and sympathy must not be lacking. Gifts administrative in ruling well will be as requisite as gifts instructive in teaching well.
Mark well, that the desire I have spoken of must be thoroughly disinterested. If a man can detect, after the most earnest self-examination, any other motive than the glory of God and the good of souls in his seeking the [pastorate], he better turn aside from it at once; for the Lord will abhor the bringing of buyers and sellers into his temple: the introduction of anything mercenary, even in the smallest degree, will be like the fly in the pot of ointment, and will spoil it all.
If God has called someone to ministry He will provide the grace to meet the qualifications for it. The biblical criteria for those in church leadership pertain not only to intellectual and theological skills but also to character, with an emphasis on moral and spiritual maturity. Any effort aimed at identifying those called to church leadership and providing encouragement to them must entail appropriate steps at character development [according to 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1].
There is a primary sense in which all Christians are “called”, for Jesus Christ is Lord over all of life, over every task, over every endeavor. But there is another sense in which only some are “called” to fulfill those special responsibilities and ministries set forth in Scripture on which the life and order of the church directly depend.
Whether young or old, rich or poor, learned or unlearned, should presume to dispense the mysteries of Christ without the strongest of all possible reasons for doing so – the imperative, invincible call of God. No one is to show cause why he ought not to be a Minister: he is to show cause why he should be a Minister. His call to the sacred profession is not the absence of a call to any other pursuit; it is direct, immediate, powerful, to this very department of labour. He is not here because he can be nowhere else, but he is nowhere else because he must be here.
The true doctrine [of the call to gospel ministry] is that no man, whether young or old, rich or poor, learned or unlearned, should presume to dispense the mysteries of Christ without the strongest of all possible reasons for doing so – the imperative, invincible call of God. No one is to show cause why he ought not to be a minister; he is to show cause why he should be a minister. His call to the sacred profession is not the absence of a call to any other pursuit; it is direct, immediate, powerful, to this very department of labor. He is not here because he can be nowhere else, but he is nowhere else because he must be here.
You have been called to speak into the confusion with gospel clarity and authority. You have been called to give glory-bound hope to those who have become hopeless. You are called to speak liberating truths to those who have become deceived. You have been called to plead with disloyal children to once again be reconciled to their heavenly Father. You have been called to give glorious motivation to those who have given up. You have been called to shine the light of the glory of God into hearts that have been made dark by looking for life in all the wrong places. You have been called to offer the filling glories of grace to those who are empty and malnourished. You have been called to represent a glorious King, who alone is able to rescue, heal, redeem, transform, forgive, deliver, and satisfy. You have been called.
You are called to be public and influential ambassador of a glorious King, but you must resist the desire to be a king. You are called to trumpet God’s glory, but you must never take that glory for yourself. You are called to a position of leadership, influence, and prominence, but, in that position you are called to “humble yourself under the mighty hand of God.
For a truly God-called man, one of his greatest fears is of his life not counting for Christ, all his efforts making little difference for the sake of the kingdom.
My calling is sure. My challenge is big. My vision is clear. My desire is strong. My influence is eternal. My impact is critical. My values are solid. My faith is tough. My mission is urgent.My purpose is unmistakable My direction is forward. My heart is genuine. My strength is supernatural. My reward is promised And my God is real. I refuse to be dismayed, disengaged, disgruntled, discouraged, or distracted. Neither will I look back, stand back, fall back, go back or sit back. I do not need applause, flattery, adulation, prestige, stature or veneration. I have no time for business as usual, mediocre standards, small thinking, normal expectations, average results, ordinary ideas, petty disputes or low vision. I will not give up, give in, bail out, lie down, turn over, quit or surrender. I am a minister. That is what I do.
Certainty of the call of God is not only necessary for sending you into the ministry; nothing is more essential for keeping you there. Regardless of the blessings and fruitfulness God grants to your service, there will be dark, heavy days when you would walk away from the Gospel ministry if it weren’t for the bedrock of assurance that you are doing what God Himself has called you to do. Not having an unshakable sense of divine call is one of the main reasons why so few who begin to preach stay devoted to it for a lifetime. But preachers who, like Jeremiah, are sure of the fire of God’s call in their bones (Jer. 20:9), can, as Jeremiah did, endure glaciers of opposition and icebergs of discouragement.
You can no more send yourself into the pulpit than you can send yourself to China as an official ambassador from the US. A Gospel minister must be God-called.
None of the following, as desirable as many of them are, should be the reason why you believe God has called you to the ministry of preaching: Ambition to be noticed, to prove yourself, or to “make a difference;” confidence that you could do well in the ministry; compassion for hurting people; confusion about a mystical experience; fluency in public speaking; knowledge of the Bible; failure at all other types of work; belief that ministry would be the best means to an easy life, study and intellectual pursuits, or wealth; acquiescence to the expectation of a parent or the selfish opinion of others; conviction that the church needs you. Do not enter the ministry if one of these is your main motivation. You must be called.
The work of the ministry is too demanding and difficult for a man to enter it without a sense of divine calling. Men enter and then leave the ministry usually because they lack a sense of divine urgency. Nothing less than a definite call from God could ever give a man success in the ministry.