Martyn Lloyd-Jones on The Preacher
Martyn Lloyd-Jones helps to frame one of the most difficult questions facing the soul-stirred potential pastor. Inevitably a call to ministry is a call to preach, so one must settle the question of preaching. This excerpt from MLJ’s landmark work Preaching and Preachers helps to get at the question.
‘Am I called to be a preacher or not? How do you know?’ I suggest that there are certain tests. A call generally starts in the form of a consciousness within one’s own spirit, an awareness of a kind of pressure being brought to bear upon one’s spirit, some disturbance in the realm of the spirit, then that your mind is being directed to the whole question of preaching. You have not thought of it deliberately, you have not sat down in cold blood to consider possibilities, and then, having looked at several have decided to take this up. It is not that. This is something that happens to you; it is God dealing with you, and God acting upon you by His Spirit; it is something you become aware of rather than what you do. It is thrust upon you, it is presented to you and almost forced upon you constantly in this way.
Then what has been happening in the realm of your spirit in that way is confirmed or accentuated through the influence of others who may talk to you and put questions to you. This has often been the way in which men have been called to be preachers. In many biographies you will read that a young man who had never thought of preaching was approached by an elder or spiritually-minded fellow -member of the Church who puts the question to him : ‘Don’t you think that perhaps you are called to be a preacher of this Gospel?’ The questioner then gives his reasons for saying that. He has been watching you and observing you and has felt led to speak to you. It is through him perhaps that this initial move may come. My experience is that, generally, these two things go together.
Then this develops and leads to a concern about others. I am contrasting this with the far-too-common idea of entering the ministry as the taking up of a profession or ‘a calling’. The true call always includes a concern about others, an interest in them, a realisation of their lost estate and condition, and a desire to do something about them, and to tell them the message and point them to the way of salvation. This is an essential part of the call; and it is important, particularly, as a means whereby we may check ourselves.
It has often happened that young men with certain gifts who listen to a great preacher are captivated by him and what he is doing . They are captivated by his personality or by his eloquence, they are moved by him, and, unconsciously, they begin to feel a desire to be like him and to do what he is doing. Now that may be right, or it may be quite wrong. They may only be fascinated by the glamour of preaching, and attracted by the idea of addressing audiences, and influencing them. All kinds of wrong and false motives may insinuate themselves. The way to check oneself against such a danger is to ask oneself the question, Why do I want to do this? Why am I concerned about this? And unless one can discover a genuine concern about others, and their state and condition, and a desire to help them, you are very right in querying your motives.
But we must go on to something yet deeper; there should also be a sense of constraint. This is surely the most crucial test. It means that you have the feeling that you can do nothing else. It was Mr. Spurgeon, I believe, who used to say to young men— ‘If you can do anything else do it. If you can stay out of the ministry, stay out of the ministry.’ I would certainly say that without any hesitation whatsoever. I would say that the only man who is called to preach is the man who cannot do anything else, in the sense that he is not satisfied with anything else. This call to preach is so put upon him, and such pressure comes to bear upon him that he says, ‘I can do nothing else, I must preach.’
Or let me put it like this— and I am speaking from personal experience. You are certain of the call when you are unable to keep it back and to resist it. You try your utmost to do so. You say, ‘No, I shall go on with what I am doing; I am able to do it and it is good work.’ You do your utmost to push back and to rid yourself of this disturbance in your spirit which comes in these various ways. But you reach the point when you cannot do so any longer. It almost becomes an obsession, and so overwhelming that in the end you say, ‘I can do nothing else, I cannot resist any longer.’
Are you reaching the end of your resistance? Then perhaps God is calling you into pastoral ministry.
John Broadus on The Divine Call to Preach
Imagine Marty McFly-ing your way back to the 1880s. You bump into Charles Spurgeon and begin a friendly conversation on beard care and Cuban tobacco rolling. In this conversation, you gather the courage to ask the Prince of Preachers the following question. “Charles,” you quip inquisitively, “how does it feel to be the greatest living preacher in the world?” And to this, Mr. Spurgeon flatly replies, “You need to ask John Broadus.”
Apparently, something of this sort actually happened. So what did Broadus, a contemporary of Spurgeon who taught and was later president at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, have to say about the call to preach? How would he answer the question you may be wrestling with, namely, "Should I preach?" The following excerpt is from his work On the Preparation and Delivery of Sermons:
The preacher should be a person with a call from God. Ministers are classed as professionals, but they should never be persons with just a “profession.” They are people with a divine calling. Paul declared that he was “called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God” (Rom. 1:1). Spurgeon asserted, “I am as much called to preach as Paul was.” And so it has been with every true preacher. The impulse to preach comes from God.
Moreover, this call is intensely personal. It comes to people of all ages and classes in a variety of ways. Samuel was a child when he heard God’s voice; the apostle John answered the call with all the enthusiasm of youth, as did Spurgeon and Alexander McLaren. However, Matthew was a mature man, and so were Augustine, John of Antioch (Chrysostom), and John Knox.
Amos was a shepherd, but Paul was a “university” man. John of Antioch, Ambrose, Canon Liddon, and Phillips Brooks had the advantage of wealth and social position; while Bunyan, Spurgeon, Joseph Parker, and D.L. Moody were from families of sturdy, working people.
To Peter and John the call came quietly; to Paul it was a great, cataclysmic experience; to F. W. Robertson the call came when other doors were closed.
Regardless of how the call comes, it must be present. “And how shall they preach unless they are sent?” (Rom. 10:15).
Do you possess a burden to preach? That burden may be the beginning of a call into pastoral ministry.