Pastors -- God Called!
The Lord chooses men.
There were hundreds of fishermen around the shores of the Sea of Galilee, and Jesus selected
four of them -- Peter and Andrew, James and John.
There was no hand wringing, "Won't any of you come and follow me?
Will you, oh, will you? Isn't there one? Please come!" cajoling, and finally berating, and a little angry,
so that he got a half-reluctant response out of four young men.
Being led by One who could walk on water, there should have been the march of a million men
on recalcitrant Jerusalem, shouldn't there?
Let's think big.
Let's think Madison Avenue.
Jesus' ministry was nothing like that at all.
He walked up to these four men in the middle of their working day.
He summoned them to become his disciples.
"Come follow me, and I will do something with you and in you," He told them.
"I will make you fishers of men."
They forsook all and followed Him.
The call was His to make.
Without that divine intervention and transformation, they would probably be in the fishing business
with Zebedee for the rest of their lives.
History would not have remembered them.
But when the Lord effectually calls and enables, Peter does not remain an anonymous fisherman.
He would throw out the gospel net in Jerusalem and catch 3000 men.
God did not need a million men.
He only needed one.
Jonah was the one man sent to Nineveh.
Philip was the one man sent to Samaria.
Paul was the one man sent to Corinth.
They all were totally adequate for the mighty task.
There is nothing wrong with being a Zebedee.
It is an honorable calling to fish.
God can be glorified by it.
But He will be more glorified by catching men.
I do not believe that the call of God comes by a voice, or even by a verse of Scripture leaping out at us
and striking us with its heart-melting authority.
It would be wonderful if such experiences are yours.
But such peak experiences are too narrow a foundation on which to erect a vocation, and then announce
to other Christians that you are going to become a minister.
A vital question for one called to preach is: Are you walking with God?"
I truly believe that many have been mistaken concerning this crucial life-changing decision.
Their call has come from some source other than God.
God has not called them.
We know from their message that God has not called them because they are preaching a message
that is not from God.
They have never understood the gospel.
Preaching the Word is still the call of God.
God calls by planting and nurturing a longing for this work in a man's heart.
Then, that man must evaluate himself, as to what this work will involve.
This must come through a deepening relationship with God.
The call must come from God - not from our family, friends or school.
It is essential for anyone who believes that he has been called of God to preach to possess
a sense of inadequacy and awe at the vocation before him.
Maybe it is there, that we are found most wanting.
A questionnaire was sent to all students who applied to a certain seminary.
There were questions asking the students how they judged their abilities in counseling, in pastoring,
in working with other people, in management, in caring for those in need, in study, in personal devotions etc.
Students were to give themselves 6 or 7 out of 10 in most of those categories, but when it came
to their assessment of their own preaching ability candidates for the seminary graded themselves 9's
or even 10's.
How different those men were who met God in the glory of His being, who were called to speak for Him.
Moses said, "Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh?" and he protested that he was not capable,
and that he was not eloquent.
Isaiah said, "I am undone. I am a man of unclean lips, and I have seen the King."
It was not until he was assured of God's call that he said, "Here am I, send me."
Jeremiah said, "Ah, Lord, I am a child. I cannot speak."
The apostle Paul had no cause to glory that he was a preacher of the gospel.
"Necessity is laid upon me," he said.
Peter said, "We cannot but speak the things we have seen and heard."
Jeremiah had a fire in his bones.
If he refused to speak, he burned within.
And once he spoke, there was fire without.
Paul's preaching was "in weakness and fear and much trembling."
The Christian ministry is not a matter of building a library, and using whatever other helps
we might have at hand.
It is not about how eloquent we are.
It is not simply teaching people about the Bible.
It is bringing God to bear upon the life of a church.
It is bringing the power of God into the lives of a congregation.
Its end is that people might experience the power of the Word.
William Bramwell, confessed, "I die a death every time I preach. I wonder how I have lived as long
as I have."
Here was a man who had an outstanding ministry, and yet, he felt he did not possess enough knowledge,
enough, prayer, enough holiness, enough experience, enough love enough, and enough sacrifice to be
the preacher he should be
Anyone who easily takes up the ministry, can drop it just as easily.
There is always an awesome gap between our ambitions and what we achieve.
Only a sense of divine call can keep one going through the challenges, the obstacles,
and difficulties of the ministry
When God calls, you must preach, and no one can stop you.
You don't need a salary, a parsonage or a building in which to preach.
No one can stop you from preaching.
That is quite different from becoming a denominationally approved minister.
Stay in awe of the call to preach.
Don't enter the ministry unless you have a clear call from God.
This calling is so consuming that the preacher is consumed with the message.
John the Baptist lived his message with every fiber of his being.
He demonstrated this in how he dressed, how he faced the world, where he lived, and what he ate
Ezekiel was actually commanded to eat the scroll on which his message was written.
His message became part of him.
Jonathan Edwards called this "the energy of his soul."
Edwards kept going.
Through the dangerous intoxication of the Great Awakening,
Edwards kept going.
Even when his own congregation rejected him, and he had to leave that church, yet he was enabled
to keep going.
There were always new goals.
His youth was renewed like the eagle.
There is a freshness about a true preacher even in old age.
He is still buying books, thinking of new series, and is steadfast in the Lord's work.
To continue in the ministry you must believe in your call from God.
You must give your best years and hours and energies.
The God-called man must be a man of love.
God is love.
His servants must be loving men.
We can take the words of the Lord,
"By this shall all men know that you are my disciples if you love..." and it must be
applied to the preacher par excellence.
Those who come to know the preacher should be constrained to comment:
"We know that he follows Jesus because he is such a loving man."
Just because a preacher is loving does not mean that he is saccharine, or smiles all the time
to the congregation, or is utterly bland.
Those are the easiest features for the devil to counterfeit.
This man is united to the love of Jesus.
That is the only explanation for his manner.
When the congregation is with him they know they are safe, and they feel loved.
Now that love is defined for us in I Corinthians 13.
If you were to put the word 'preacher' in the place of the word 'love," then we would know
what it is that God requires of a preacher.
It would read like this:
"The preacher is patient: the preacher is kind.
He does not envy, he does not boast, he is not proud.
He is not rude, he is not self-seeking, he is not easily angered, and he keeps no record of wrongs.
The preacher does not delight in evil, but rejoices in the truth.
The preacher always protects, always trusts, always hopes, and always perseveres."
What an imposing definition of love!
It is not touchy-feely or warm'n'fuzzy.
It is accurate and powerful.
Loving is absolutely indispensable for leaders in the church.
This is not an option that you can pick up or discard.
Paul is saying that without love you are as a sounding gong.
Imagine the congregation gathering on a Sunday morning, and the climax is hearing a gong
being beaten for thirty minutes, and then they go home.
That is listening to the loveless preacher, "the Rev.Clanging Cymbal."
In fact, without love you are nothing!
Nothing means nothing!
To be a pastor, the preacher must be in love with his people, and he must like people
and be interested in them.
He must be approachable, and not defensive in his attitudes.
He must welcome and not resent people who want to ask him questions about his preaching.
God beseeches sinners through a blameless man.
Would you drink the purest spring water if it were offered to you in a rusty cup?
What if a Scarlet Letter was placed on our foreheads denoting our sins?
Here is a minister who fails to control his anger, and the congregation sees the large letter, A,
on his forehead as he preaches to them.
Another preacher is known for his greed, and the congregation sees the letter, G, on his forehead.
Or they see L for lust or P for pride.
They cannot hear anything he says because they are so distracted by that scarlet letter,
and all it stands for which they have experienced in their minister.
This is the reason Paul describes a church leader by saying;
"A bishop then must be blameless." (I Tim.3: 2)
What a man is will be far more important than what a man does.
It is the difference between an apple tree and a Christmas tree.
The fruit of an apple tree comes from within itself.
The chocolate fruit of a Christmas tree is an adornment hung upon it, merely cosmetic.
A good man, out of the good treasure of his heart, produces good things, such as love, joy, peace, longsuffering,
gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and self-control.
These come from the life of God within the man.
The priority of being called of God is not our eloquence or man-management skills, or our orthodoxy.
The priority is that we are without blame.
Preaching is different from every other form of communication.
To be a pastor living with your congregation, growing old with them, being accessible and observable
in the darkest hours -- means that the truths you declare are either magnified or reduced drastically
by how you live.
Holy lives lead to a holy ministry.
Anointed lives lead to an anointed ministry.
The more you and I are known by our people will prove that our influence will increase or diminish
according to the purity of our lives.
Paul can say to the Thessalonians:
"You know what manner of men we were among you."
He says again, "You are our witnesses, and so is God, of how holy, righteous and blameless
we were among you who believed."
They looked at that life and it was utterly different from anyone else's.
They had not dreamed it was possible to live like that.
It was new, and beautiful, and fragrant, and they received Paul's message as the very word of God.
We are to say right things, and we are to embody them by a right example.
M'Cheyne stated, "A holy minister is a powerful weapon in the hands of God."
He went on to say, "Make me as holy as a saved sinner can be.'"
It's a wonderful prayer, and doing it is the challenge we have as God-called men.
We must mediate upon the passages that speak of these spiritual realities, and ask God
to burn them into our heart.
We must ask God to enable us to believe these things, and enable us to preach so that others
will know that we truly believe them.
The truth that burned on Sunday can be icy cold by Monday.
The truth that burned in the closet on Saturday can be lifeless on Sunday.
Truths received in the crucible of waiting upon God can only be maintained in their warmth
in that same context.
We must cultivate our inner life in the presence of God.
E.M.Bounds was a man who loved Jesus Christ and was a man of prayer,
His famous book, "Power Through Prayer," begins with these words,
"We are constantly on a stretch, if not on a strain, to devise new methods, new plans,
new organizations to advance the church and secure enlargement and efficiency for the gospel.
The trend of the day has a tendency to lose sight of the man or sink the man
in the plan or organization.
God's plan is to make much of the man, far more of him than anything else.
Men are God's great method.
The church is looking for better methods; God is looking for better men.
'There was a man sent from God whose name was John.' ...
What the church needs today is not more machinery, or better, not new organizations
or more novel methods, but men whom the Holy Spirit can use - men of prayer, men mighty in prayer.
The Holy Spirit does not flow through methods, but through men,
He does not come on machinery, but on men.
He does not anoint plans, but men - men of prayer"
Prepared by Dr. Harold L. White