I am convinced that one of the primary problems in Christianity today is the fact that some men are preaching that God did not call; and some men that God called have rejected their role in preaching. When we have preachers that ought to be plumbers, and plumbers that ought to be preachers, we are destined to have leaks in our homes and behind our pulpits.
Sometimes, the question pertaining to a man goes a little further. We may not doubt whether or not he has been called, it may be that he has never really surrendered.
Personally, over the last several years of my ministry I have grown weary over the regular mantra that there is a severe shortage of preachers in the Lord’s work. The real problem is not a shortage of preachers, as much as there is a surplus of dead churches. I used to think that the only thing in the ministry worse than an “uncalled preacher” was an “unlit church.” However, the longer that I go, the more that I am finding that what is equally wrong in the Lord’s churches pertaining to the ministry is not merely preachers without a calling, but people without a clue. (I do not intend that as an insult.)
I am thankful that I have never had to deal with this within any church that I have served. I’ve been a part of three churches in twenty years of ministry and have never been challenged within those churches about the issues that I am about to mention. But outside of those churches has been another story. There are people within professed Christendom that always put forth two or three charges toward the men who are in the pastorate, and since the proliferation of the internet, those charges have become more frequent, and more public. (Not necessarily aimed at me, but at pastors in general.)
That being said there are three general charges that stay leveled at the God Called preacher.
#1 – He has no special calling any different than any other Christian.
#2 – He signed up for the ministry, therefore he should never complain about his treatment within the ministry.
#3 – If He is really called, he would preach/pastor/minister for nothing. Money always casts a stain on his motivation.
Now there may be more that I haven’t heard, but generally these are the charges that I have heard from some people within the realm of professed Christendom. To which each charge is a demonstration of not knowing, or understanding the Word of God or the Work of God.
#1 – The Divine Calling. – Without doubt or debate, without stutter or stammer, had God not called me into the preaching ministry I would not be in it. The fact remains that God calls all men to repent. His gospel call for Salvation is in fact to every man. Furthermore the scriptures are plain that every believer is to make their calling and election sure. However, the divine calling into the preaching ministry is separate from the general call that all Christians have to serve. Two times in the scripture the Apostle Paul declared that Christ “put him into the ministry” and/or “made him a minister.” In Acts 13:2, we have the testimony of the Holy Spirit declaring that he had “called Saul and Barnabas” for the special work of preaching the gospel. Paul said in 2 Timothy 1:11 that he was “appointed a preacher.” We are also shown in Acts 20:28 that the elder/pastor were to “Take heed therefore unto the flock over which the Holy Spirit hath made you overseers to feed the church of God.” If a man can read that, and not see the truth of a divine calling, for the divine purpose, of preaching and teaching God’s Word to God’s church, then he can look straight into the noonday sky, and not see a shred of sunlight.
While a preacher is not a priest, the “preacher” has as much of a divine role in the New Testament as the prophet and priest had in the Old Testament. He is the “angel/messenger of the churches” in the book of Revelation. He is to be the audible voice of the eternal Word as prescribed in 2 Timothy 4. As James was the Pastor of the church at Jerusalem, and as Timothy was the Pastor at Ephesus, and as the earlier unnamed pastors/elders of Ephesus in Acts 20, they were clearly marked out by the Holy Spirit of God and charged with a work, that not all Christians are charged with.
It is foolish to recognize that God “chose preaching” (1 Corinthians 1:21) as the primary means of Biblical communication, but not to recognize that God chooses the “preachers” who do it. He chooses the method, and the men to carry out that method. Not every Christian is appointed a preacher, or pastor, but some are. The bottom line fact that must be accepted by other believers is that a God Called Preacher has had an experience with God that is separate from the general Christian calling. Any man who says there is no calling, is undermining his own salvation. No man is saved without the calling of the Holy Spirit. In the same sense, no man is rightly in the ministry, who has not had a Holy Spirit calling to do so.
#2 The Man’s Choice – Truly one of the most ignorant statements that I have read/heard lately is the statement that “Preachers signed up for this, so they have no right to complain.” or “If you don’t like, then go do something else.” It is the worldly, secular concept that men choose the ministry like others choose a career. Nothing could be further than the truth. Do you know what a man’s choice comes down to? Obedience or Disobedience. How can a man continue in the banking industry, knowing full well that the Lord has made it plain that he is to be in the ministry? Furthermore, how can anyone claiming to be a Christian expect a man to go and do something other than what the Lord has called him to do?
Personally I wanted to be a baseball coach. That was my personal desire, and design. The problem was that the Lord stepped in. Without going into my personal calling, it became very clear to me through my own struggle what it was the Lord wanted for me to do, and coaching was not it. Now once the Lord’s will is known, my choice comes down to the rock bottom issue of obeying God or disobeying God.
Furthermore, I would say the same for every man. No saved man has the right to choose his own path in life. Every man, woman, boy and girl must seek the Lord’s will for their vocation, occupation, education, in life. Christ did not free us “from His will” He freed us “for His will.” There may be bankers that ought to be doctors, doctors that ought to be preachers, and preachers that ought to be policemen. All because they have not sought the Lord’s will for their life.
#3. The Money Issue – People who complain about a full time preacher, would also complain about watered down sermons, and skipped over needs. Properly understood, the purpose of full time pay is just that, for full time. The problem is that without the pay a man couldn’t put in 8 to 9 hours of study per message/lesson, be on call 24 hours a day, handle the day to day affairs of church business, attend surgeries, visitations, funerals, and deal with the church mission programs, and ministries, on top of counselling, and attempting to keep up the prayer list needs of the people. All full time pay does is provide time to do necessary things, and hopefully do them well. The Lord provided the practical wisdom in this when he instructed His people to provide for the needs of His pastors.
A man who is motivated by money is not a “scoundrel pastor”, he is just a “scoundrel!” There are no, “wicked pastors” merely “wicked men.” I am growing convinced that you cannot put a “worldling” adjective in front of the Biblical word pastor, and still use the Biblical word “pastor.” Once you induce, “hireling,” “scoundrel”, “worldling”, “money-monger”, you have revealed that a man is anything BUT a Biblical pastor. What God provides, men pervert. What God fits Satan counterfeits. Where God offers substance, Satan offers a substitute.
It would be worse than foolish and unbiblical to say that all men in all ministries in all churches are God called, and must be respected. There are hirelings, who merely want money and think ministry is the way to go. There are good Christian men, who have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge, that would make superior Sunday School teachers, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are called.
Fortunately God gave the “non-called” Saint all that he needs to discern who the real God called men are. It’s like the man with a chalk board voice claiming that he has the gift of singing; the pastor tells him to see if anyone around him has the gift of listening.
Picking out a God Called preacher is as simple as understanding one text of Scripture. 1st Timothy 3:1-7. When a man says that the Lord has called him to preach and to pastor, a congregation need not look any further than these seven verses to determine if he is telling the truth. He does not, (and will not) be perfect in every single area, but recognizing that these general qualities and characteristics are the general qualities of the life of a God Willed man, will nullify, or verify his claim.
Taking the men who claim to have the “Call of God” and holding them under the light of the “Word of God” is the only real way to verify their claim. However doing so, means properly understanding the Word of God! We must use the criteria that the Lord said was criteria, not our own. We must hold on to the fact that God is overseeing His true work; and that He still does it through His chosen method, (preaching), and His chosen men (God called preachers). Holding all men to those facts in this day and age is most certainly a change worth making.