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Monday, November 24, 2008

How To Know If You Are Called To Preach

The young man at the CVS register tonight told me he thinks God might be calling him to preach. I promised him a short post about how to know. So here it is. 1. Read 1 Timothy 3. Do you have the qualifications of an elder? Because that's what a preacher is. You don't need to have them with perfection. But there are at minimum two components that go into being a Christian preacher: charisma (spiritual giftedness) and character. We've seen far too much of what happens when a man only has talent but a weak character, right? 1 Timothy 3 addresses character. 2. One of the qualifications is desire: "Do you desire to be an overseer?" Never go into the ministry as a way of being extra-spiritual, or repaying God for His good gifts to you. The Bible never says to go into the ministry as a way of paying back Christ for saving us. In fact, Paul in 1 Corinthians 7 said that we should stay where we are when we come to the Lord. Single men shouldn't rush out and get married, married men shouldn't dissolve their marriages, and so on. Let the Lord pull you forward into it, if it's meant to be. But don't idolize the idea. Being a preacher won't make you a more spiritual person than other Christians. 3. Be sure you have the God-given talents and gifts for preaching. I don't mean that you must be the world's most electrifying speaker. But the test of a true spiritual gift from the Holy Spirit is results. The church world is cursed by good-natured Christian guys who just wanted to serve Jesus but who can't preach a lick. They would have been so much happier staying in school, or serving God as working men or businessmen, and being a committed layman for the Lord. If you pray, but God does not open up any opportunities to preach; if you preach, and Christian people who hear you don't grow, or non-Christians don't draw closer to Christ; if you struggle horribly with the preparation phase, and it's a terrible burden on you; honestly, if you find that you just plain don't enjoy preaching -- then don't preach! The proof of the pudding lies in the eating. 4. Try getting a bit of preparatory training first. Preaching isn't magic. God doesn't say, "Shazam!", like Captain Marvel in the comic books, and you're suddenly a preacher. Find a conservative, evangelical college or seminary somewhere, maybe a correspondence program through Moody Bible College or Columbia Bible College (800-777-2227), or take a night class in basic Bible. Self-educated preachers had a fool for an instructor. God can work through classroom instruction to show you if Christian service is His plan for your life.


Anonymous said...

Qualifications? In this day and age, having a gigantic ego doesn't hurt!

Jack said...

Pastoring, on the whole, not a good line of work to go into, if you really do have a big ego. You get psychologically beat up too much. The real danger to your ego in pastoring comes when there's numerical success.

Anonymous said...

You mention nothing about the awesome and terrible responsibilities that the Bible mentions concerning those who teach the Gospel. You mention nothing about accountability and how harshly God will deal with those who teach error. Your four principles are all centered on the "me" aspect as if it's some sort of career move. I suggest that God's gifts for teaching His Word are disbursed to very few. This is evidenced by the many modern day false doctrines and false gospels that are being preached today. The vast majority of (so called) teachers of the Gospel, in my view, get into this career in a very light-hearted fashion as a result of following your easily misinterpreted and misunderstood principles and therefore have no business teaching something as profound as God's Holy Word. Most modern day Bible teachers are, without any doubt, false teachers.

Jack said...

Hmm. I directed this young man to God's Word, first and foremost. That's the opposite of me-centeredness. 1st Timothy 3 lays out the high demands of leadership, and lays down rules for who is or isn't permitted into leadership. I tell him to judge hinmself by those standards.

If this post was on the subject of "The Awesome Responsibility of Being In The Ministry", you could have a point (minus the self-righteous snarling). But since the topic of the post was how to know (discern, recognize) if God is calling you to preach, therefore the content of the post, oddly enough, focuses on how to know if you are called to preach. I'm not obligated to write the post that you wanted written.

Since the Bible itself says, "Here are the standards for determining who is qualified to be an elder, and here are marks of giftedness", I hardly think that listing those marks is a me-centered approach, unless you're planning to call God a panderer. That's like criticizing someone who accepts Christ as Savior because they're afraid of going to Hell as a selfish person.

I don't claim to be sure that nearly everyone in the Christian ministry today is a knave or a fool. Harsh judgmentalism is a mark of immaturity, and it disqualifies you from being in the ministry; so take the log out of your own eye first, before you presume to issue such a sweeping condemnation of all ministers.

My advice teaches the reader to obey the standards of 1 Timothy 3, honest self-examination, not going into the ministry for misguided reasons, humility in recognizing what gifts the Holy Spirit has or has not given the reader, and a willingness to work at training, which includes financial stewardship in spending money on training that would be spent on something else under other circumstances. But you seem to be filled to the brim with the notion that Bible teaching that provides guidance in self-assessment, rather than trying to make the reader feel small, guilty, worthless, and overwhelmed, is wrong. But that idea itself is not Biblical. Who are you holding your bitterness against?

Anonymous said...


Ignore "Anonymous." Good post. The biblical standard includes desire and ability as well as the character and personal history qualifications. There is also the part about being "apt to teach," which you mentioned. A guy has to be able to communicate.

One thing I would add is a contextual note about 1 Tim and Titus. In both cases, Paul was explaining how the church could tell if a man is called. That implies that the church is responsible to pass a judgment upon a claim to calling. Based on the textual qualifications, the church should be able to reach the conclusion that a man is indeed called. If, at the end of the day, the church cannot be persuaded to agree with a claim of calling to ministry, then we should give very weighty consideration to that.

This presumes, of course, that it's a church honestly trying to reach its conclusions according to the Word.

A word on seminary. The best seminary is to follow a pastor who is an excellent one.

Bro. Steve

Anonymous said...

Another way to prepare for and to discover one's gifts for preaching is teach SS or Bible study.

-- John C

brandon said...

to start this off i want to thank you jack for writing this blog for me. i understand what you were doing, and appreciate what it is you said! this blog was for me and not for others to judge your explanation on how to know if you are being called to preach. it was perfect and God has blessed me, to have you write this for me. i am not looking to be a preacher for the money. i am looking for God to use me in a different way then he uses the vast majority of the population. he has showed me signs dreams etc for me to be a preacher. i just did not want to become a preacher based off false pretenses. if i am called to preach then i will not be able to deny it. it will be like a burning fire inside me and i will not be able to hold it in. i will take all that you said and use it to further understand what i am supposed to do.

God bless you brother jack and let you be blessed for taking your time to answer my question!!!!!!!!

Jack said...

You're welcome, Brandon.

It's interesting how many comments I'm getting on this particular post.

Cindy said...

I love the fact that you list I Timothy 3 as the first and foremost consideration. Too many people who do believe that they are called to be shepherds and overseers look at this passage as a necessary evil and one that can be skirted.

I just had to laugh. It's kind of like that old joke about the man with a broken arm asking his doctor if he will be able to play the piano. They doctor fails to find out if the man could play before he broke is arm... You must start with the basic considerations first, but many don't.

Shane said...

"Find a conservative, evangelical college or seminary somewhere..."

It's blatant that "evangelicalism" is the birthplace of so many superstitions and heresy in American Christianity today. The branches that do not bear fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire according to Christ's words. You don't have to look far to see barrenness in evangelicalism.

I encourage anyone reading this to look into Reformed theology and the solidity of it's exegesis concerning the Word of God. God Bless.

Jack said...

Shane, "evangelical" means a belief in the divine inspiration of the Bible, belief in the classical Trinitarian doctrines of Christianity, plus an insistence on the need for regeneration and individual faith in Christ to be saved. So Reformed theology is evangelical. I don't know what you're referring to here.

Duck said...

I, for one, am encouraged by this exchange. I only found your blog by "googling" - "How do I know that I am called to preach?". Little did I know or expect to find confirmation in my own calling. Thank you, Jack.

I would also add that I once said to someone that I "chose" to preach. After being chastised for mis-speaking, I retracted my statement. I merely changed the wording to note that I "answered the call".

My spiritual phone had been ringing since my early teens. I ignored it and went my own way for many years. After we welcomed our first born, I realized how precious was the gift of life. Then John 3:16 broke my heart that very day. I repented, set things right with God, and began leading my family in the Christian walk. After a few short years of faithful service and sanctification, preaching was suggested to me. A door opened for me to study through coorespondance in which I will receive a degree this June.

All that said, doubt still knocks on my door and after Jesus repeatedly answers it for me, I still needed encouragment. So thanks again, Jack.

Brother Dennis <><

Anonymous said...

I think im being called to preach one reason that I know this there is a strong feeling in my heart and it is pulling me more and more like a magnet attracts metal

Jack said...

Well, that's fine, but just remember there's more than one standard to meet. Read 1st timothy 3 and make sure you meet the qualifications of an overseer. Then also test whether you have any fruit. The test of a gift or calling is results. One young seminary student with obviously no preaching ability once desperately told his professor, Dr. Howard Hendricks, "But, Dr. Hendricks, God has called me to preach!" Dr. Hendricks kindly replied, "But son, God hasn't called any of us to listen!"

Anonymous said...

I also am struggling with the call to preach. I went through a very stressfull and emotional time in my life, losing a job that I had dreamed of having for my entire life. I had been having thoughts of preaching before that and had even been given thoughts by God while studying that I thought would make good sermons.
Then I was told by a family member that they thought God was calling me to preach. That really confused me and I spoke with my pastor about it. He had me teach a lesson in church very soon and said that I would know after that. I then announced my call to preach that night. I "preached" a couple of times at my home church, and three more times at a couple of different churches.
I have spoke with several different preachers and pastors about this and have not really been given any guidance that was usefull. I have not noticed any "fruits" for the labors, no one coming to the alter and such after "preaching". Since then I have strayed away and don't really have much of a desire to even go to church anymore. I keep praying about it but never get any answers. I know I won't until I get back on the right path, but it is so difficult to know if you are called or not, especially with the large number of "called preachers"(within the past two years) at my church.
Just wanted to vent a little, hoping that putting that out there would help me in someway.

Anonymous said...

God never looks for golden vessels nor silver vessels, God is looking for a yielded vessel that will obey. 1 Sam. 15:22 obedience is better than sacrifice and to listen better than the fat of rams. If God has called you the Holy Spirit will not leave you, he will push you and direct you just as he did Jesus after he was baptized. Into the desert were he was tempted. A called man will know.

Jack said...

No. Intuition is not God's mouth. You know by means of Scripture, not your feelings.

Anonymous said...

I believe that if one is called to a particular ministry then, as Martyn Lloyd Jones advocates, one should do all in your power to resist the call!
IMHO one's call also should accord with Scripture, and not a 'ministry' based upon modern ecclesiology. A minister is essentially a servant, and Jesus potently reminds us that he who would be the greatest among you must be servant of all. If you want to pander to your ego in ministry that is most definately not a call from God.
Finally, a minister who is any one obedient to God's Spirit. A dog-collar or some form of modified Klu Klux Klan apparel a minister does not make, neither the words Reverend, Pastor or Doctor of Divinity indicate anything but an infusion of head knowledge. As Wesley said, the church should consist of 'all at it', always at it, whatever God lays upon your heart. Above all, it is God who calls us to a particlar ministry, and as we delight ourselves in Him, He will give us the desires of our heart Psalm 37.

Jason Hurst said...

I truly do not believe u need to go to school if ur called the holy spirit will guide u in to all truth and righteousness hes taught me things that people could not u must study for the spirit to reveal.

Jlee said...

Should the pastor and his wife be the governing elders of the church and also control the check book.

Jack Brooks said...

Absolutely not. Women are not to be elders in a church at all (1 Timothy 2:11-12, 3:1-6).