Called To Preach?

If you were to ask most seminarians what their calling is, they would probably respond with something like, “I am called to preach.” For most seminarians this is true; however, I have had some recent experiences that leads me to question what it means to be “called to preach.”

I am not saying this is inherently wrong, but I have discovered (and have been found guilty myself) that because most of us are “called to preach”, we fail to see the other opportunities for ministry that come available. For example, I have been in a two month interview process with a church regarding a children’s ministry. When I was first approached about this ministry, I thought “no way! I am called to preach. I am not called to baby sit.” However, as I had more and more opportunities to preach from the pulpit for churches looking for a pastor, I have realized that God wanted me to look more closely at the children’s ministry.

Something funny began to happen the closer I looked. For the first time since my first time in the pulpit, I began to feel a little uncomfortable preaching. Next, I discovered I had a heart for the children (especially in the particular neighborhood of the church) and wanted to reach out to them and their families for the gospel. As I began to pray more for the children’s ministry, God poured such a deep love into my heart that the children’s ministry began to consume my every thought. The next thing I knew, I turned down an opportunity to preach at a churchlooking for a pastor because “God was taking me in another direction” is what I told the man on the phone.

I wish I could say that I came to this understanding of ministry and seminary life during a quiet time or time of communion with God, but that would be lying. No, it took an off-hand comment by one of my wife’s girlfriend’s as we were leaving her houseafter dropping our children off for the evening so we could interview with the church for the children’s ministry. She told me that she and her husband had been looking all over the Louisville area for a children’s ministry to no avail (I know of a couple good ones, but they have only become a major focus of the church in recent months). She said everyone tells them that “they are called to preach” and that children’s ministrywould be like taking a step backward from their goals. (OK, that one kicked me right in the gut because thatwas my initial thoughtwhen I receieved the email about the position–I hadserved as youth pastor for a couple years aboutthree years ago.) I don’t know why, but it struck a chord in me that I did not know was there to be struck. Between her house and the church (10 minutes), I was moved deeply to seek after this position with a passion that I can only explain as a gift from God.

I guess what I am trying to say is that while you are attending seminary, do not put on the blinders of being called to preach. When I was ordained, I was ordained not to the preaching ministry, but the gospel ministry. The gospel should be what drives our motives behind all we do. Sure, you will get more glory in the pulpit, a demon I am sure we will all have to fight, but do not deprive yourself from blessings because you are only “called to preach.”

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Written by
Terry Delaney
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  • Excellent, Terry. It is so easy sometimes to fall into the trap of seeing our ministry in such a limited way. But just as Christ’s Lordship extends to all ends of creation, so our ministry extends to all ends of creation. The gospel certainly is a message that we preach, but it’s also a life that we live.

    Jake Belders last blog post..Life at the Crossroads

  • Thank you for the feedback. I must confess that I was a bit hesitant to have this particular article posted. I was not sure how people would react to it-especially seminary students.

    @Mark-I am actually working on a post right now entitled “When ‘For the Glory of God’ becomes Idolatry” I am not sure when I will be able to write it, but it is a great follow-up (in my mind) to this post. At the very least, it is an outflow from my thinking in this post.

    @Tyler-I confess I had not even thought of the music guys out there. I am luck to be able to play my own stereo! At any rate, you are correct in that seminary can (I would say should) prepare us for many areas of ministry. I am sure most of us who are “called to preach” will have to lead in music in some small church at some point in our ministry.

    @Jake-Not only is it a life that we live, but we must remember that we are called to be servants in love to all people. I am beginning to understand more and more what Jesus meant when He told the disciples “I came to serve, not to be served.” It is humbling when God reveals His word to you and you realize that you must change because His word will not.

  • Great points. I’ve enjoyed Seminary not as a place to confirm what I, myself, have believed (or convinced) that I’m supposed to do, or called to do, but rather as a place to explore and be open to where God’s leading me.

    Rock on.

    Johns last blog post..Star Wars IV to a 3 Year Old

  • I have a calling to preach and have had that calling for three years now and have been running from it ever since. I just don’t know what to do or anything. Think you can help me or give me some advice on what to do?? Thanks.

  • Chris,

    Glad to find you here. Yours is a good question; and perhaps an all-to-common one. We all run from certain things, and thank God He is so gracious to give us a second chance. Even making that second opportunity better for us than the first, enabling us to work harder and have a more focused perspective.

    First, seek Christ. Are you consumed with Him? That is, is your daily life on a trajectory towards Him? We are never perfect in this life, and constantly need to repent. Pray and specifically ask God to make you the kind of person who wants Him more than life itself, and all your interests combined.

    Second, are you part of a church community? One where the Gospel is front and center and the leaders are focused on Jesus (and not themselves or are results-driven). Even if not, God can use you where you are (a church that’s lost the Gospel, etc.). Go there and become part of the church.

    I would humbly come to the church leadership, the Elders, and say you want to serve, and specifically, that God has burdened your heart to explain His Word and the Gospel. They should have a mind to place you in a role (probably a “lower” one, but being faithful with little is the key). We all want to do “great” things for God. Who is willing to do (relatively) “little” things for Him? So, if you get the chance to lead kids in Sunday school, go for it. If you can explain and teach them, you can teach just about anybody. Plus, there are no small tasks to a person who is consumed with Jesus. As Terry points out above, opportunities can be found if we are willing to look.

    Third, get fuel in your brain. Seriously, I don’t think anyone one who doesn’t read can have a mind in love with God. Is it garbage-in and thus garbage-out, or am I/you filling my mind with God’s Word and good books, which point me to Him and give me knowledge to share?

    Fourth, we don’t need a platform to preach. We already have one built in, by virtue of breathing. Preaching is heralding the Good News of Jesus.

    Know it well, preach it to yourself, and ask God daily for opportunity. He will give them to you! Your platform, as a man I know from Africa says, is our shoe souls. Wherever we go, we are standing on a pulpit, and get to share and explain the greatest news about the greatest One the world will ever know. It can come out in any conversation, in any relationship.

    2 Timothy 4:1-2
    Let me know how it goes… jeff at deTheos dot com.

  • Terry,
    I am so glad I stumbled across this website. About 7yrs ago I was at a worship service and the Holy Spirit was so high in this place I thought I was in the “upper room” No joke! while praising the Lord a wind came pass my ear and said “preach” I looked around but everyone was in their own way praising the Lord so it wasn’t them who said it. I have only shared it with you and perhaps two other people. I love to teach the Word of God; it is electrifying to me the way God reveals himself to through his word. Yet I struggle with the whole woman thing in preaching. I see your comment to the gentleman where you said our platform is where we stand and I am so grateful I read that because I don’t believe I am to be contained within the walls of a church. I’m not in seminary at this point as I serve as a trustee at my church and that is mind boggling to me. Like Lord why am I here? I have taught women, children, and sunday school.
    Pray for me that I get further clarity and i will take the advice you gave earlier about seekig the Lord.
    Thanks you have no idea how much your testimony has helped enlighten me!

    • Wow, I am thankful that the Lord used this article for you, Jestina. Actually reading it again right now was a blessing for me as well. You see, I am on the other side of that calling to children’s ministry–I am leaving in 2 weeks to take an associate pastor’s position at a family-integrated church. I still love the children, but God has once again showed me that it is time to move once again in another direction.

      I will pray for you whenever I think of you. Continue to serve God where He has you and search diligently the Scriptures insofar as your calling is–there is not a higher honor than serving God where He wants you to be.

Written by Terry Delaney