Years ago, there was a precious 90-year-old lady who would always say to me: “You’re gonna be a preacher.” Somehow she had it in her mind that I was going to be a preacher.
I recently heard someone I grew up with who told how he was called to preach when he was 18 years old. He was the son of a preacher and he accepted that calling and is still preaching today.
People had always assumed that I would become a preacher since my grandfather and my dad were preachers. Early in my life I felt the pressure of following in that path but it never happened for me. There were times that I felt like a failure or that something was wrong with me because I didn’t have that “calling” to preach. It was finally liberating to realize to that the call to preach isn’t something that is hereditary, it is something that God does and there was nothing wrong with me. It is true that many of the preacher’s kids I grew up with in the church became preachers themselves. Growing up in that environment can prepare you for it but it isn’t like growing up with your father being a plumber or doctor.
There is a lot that goes on with being called to preach. It is much more than standing up behind a pulpit and giving a sermon. The call to preach goes much deeper after delivering the sermon.
Oh, I tried it. There was a time in my life when I was floundering and didn’t know which direction I should go so I tried to do the preaching but it just didn’t come natural for me. I tried to emulate what I had known. I studied, prayed and tried to get direction from God. I came from a Pentecostal background so doing the preaching thing and all that goes with that just didn’t feel right for me. I fell flat. I feel bad for people in the congregation who had to endure the torture of me attempting to preach. I also never grasped the part with speaking in tongues. I believe in the Holy Spirit but I don’t believe that’s all He’s about.
I have to give my dad credit. He dad never pressured me to follow in his footsteps. He never wanted me to be a preacher. I asked him about this again while he was on his deathbed. He assured me that it never bothered him that I never became a preacher like him. It certainly wasn’t the glamorous life some people think when they watch the TV evangelists. My dad never had a multi-million dollar ministry. He never even had a “big” church in our cultish denomination. There were some times that my dad had to work a second job just to be able to support us and the church. I suppose the reason God never called me to preach was that I was jaded negatively toward the ministry. I have seen the good, the bad and the ugly. I just never developed the personality for being a preacher.
The story of how my dad was “called to preach” was pretty bizarre in itself.
When my dad was in his 20s, felt the call to preach but he was hesitant. My mother had grown up as a preacher’s kid and did NOT want to be a preacher’s wife. Dad said that He prayed that God would use my mother as a sign of confirmation that God was calling him to preach. One night in a church service he said that the Holy Ghost moved and people started speaking in tongues (remember this is the Pentecostal stuff going on). My mother started speaking in tongues and somehow gave Dad confirmation. She had this thing when she was “in the spirit” that she would speak in some kind of tongues and walk to the Bible and turn it to some passage and point it out or give a word or two in English. I’m not clear what exactly happened but whatever she did while under the Pentecostal influence of the Holy Ghost she provided the confirmation that he needed. My dad accepted the call to preach and would proceed to minister to churches in Georgia and North Carolina for the next 40 years. Although my mother aided in the call, she was miserable being a preacher’s wife.
As I said earlier, I had a time of seeking direction about the call to preach and tried to force the issue. The calling to preach never came. I wasn’t a failure. The obvious answer was that preaching was not God’s purpose for me. God has used me in a different way. Mostly through writing. There are times I feel inspired and the words flow through me. I am sure that’s how it feels for preachers. Unfortunately I don’t allow myself enough opportunities to become inspired to “write” a sermon or “preach” through my writing. Ministry comes in many different ways. Standing behind a pulpit or preaching loud or speaking in tongues isn’t me.
You have to have the heart for being a preacher. I know a few who do and they do it because they love God and love people. They don’t do it to get reach or to “have a ministry”. I immediately think of my friend Jay when I write this. He is a pastor of a small church in Georgia and he loves the people there. He has the perfect personality for it.
It is challenging to have that heart for people because people can be difficult. I remember when I used to greet people as they arrived for church, some would have the spirit of the devil on them when they walked in the door. One fussed at me because something was wrong with the carpet, another complained to me about the pastor and another was not happy that I didn’t start the church service on time because they HAD to leave a 12 o’clock.
I stopped being a greeter.
So, you see that the calling to preach requires a lot more after you step down from the pulpit.
If you think you are being called to preach, you’d better be sure about it. It’s definitely not for the faint of heart. You’d better have nerves of steel and not easily be offended because I guarantee that you will have plenty of opportunities to be offended.
No, I have never become a preacher but that doesn’t make me any less useful to God. God needs more people who are just good ambassadors for Him in whatever they do. There are too many so-called Christians out there who are embarrassing God. It would serve Him much better to have good people living in the world than more people preaching on a stage.