Unleavened Brett

Brett’s Friday Blog Post

UB July 5

Is God calling you to it?

I’m going to get more personal than I usually do, but it’s for a purpose. The typical churchgoer doesn’t really comprehend what a preacher is or does other than being the guy who speaks at Sunday church services. But there’s far more to it. 40 years ago following my sophomore year of college, I began my “official” ministry in a summer internship at a large church in Kentucky. I was then hired at age 20 by a rural Indiana church to become the weekend youth minister. At 22, I began a preaching ministry in a small Ohio church.

I’d wanted to go into the preaching ministry since I was a few days shy of 16 years old. When one of my grandmother’s friends questioned me (with good intent, I’m sure) about having a backup plan for my career, I was silently & zealously offended. To me, this was a sacred calling. I was all in; there was no going back. Though I was a high-ranking student, I “sabotaged” my schooling by not taking any further math & science courses that would be necessary for getting into a university but not for a Bible college (where it’s joked that only one book is studied)! Instead, I pursued communication courses like radio, TV, & journalism because these would aid me in ministry. I didn’t bother taking the SAT, & only minimally studied for the ACT because I knew I didn’t have to score that great to get into my preferred college, & there’d be no scholarships offered anyway.

Throughout childhood, I’d wanted to become an artist, but in high school I was also on a career path in broadcast media since I was already employed as a radio DJ & had won a summer scholarship in radio/TV/film from the local CBS-TV affiliate. I loved it! The 19th century “Prince of Preachers,” Charles Spurgeon, offered this advice: “If you can do anything else, do it. If you can stay out of the ministry, stay out of the ministry.” He’d say that if a man can “be content to be a newspaper editor, a grocer or a farmer or a doctor or a lawyer or a senator…let him go his way.” That means even though a man could excel in any number of professions, when he senses that God has “called” him to preach, he won’t be satisfied with anything else. He must do it! “Woe” to me if I don’t (1 Cor. 9:16-17)! Sure, he could make more money in other fields, but instead, he craves significance over mere success.

Every job is an act of service to the Lord (Col. 3:23), but being a minister is a unique job that requires a higher degree of qualification & accountability to God (see 1 & 2 Timothy & Titus). “We who teach will be judged more strictly” (James 3:1). It’s far more than a job, but a complete 24/7 lifestyle. It also often comes with unrealistically high expectations from people. While some have a romanticized view of ministry, it is actually daunting, demanding, & typically leads to a high degree of dropping out & burning out. Very few students who begin Bible college actually retire as ministers.

A crisis is already looming with preachers leaving, retiring & dying without enough young preachers to replace them, let alone start new churches. Where are we going to find them? We’re in an era when going off to Bible college at 18 may no longer be the best course. I think we sometimes set up young men for failure by expecting them to go straight from college into preaching. I’ve also grown increasingly disappointed, disillusioned, & disgusted by the way once sound & solid schools have gone off the rails with doctrinal compromise & missional drift (my alma mater is a prime example, being forced to close its doors a few years ago). Numerous seminaries corrupt students with liberal theologies & have lowered the bar to become conducive to immoral behaviors & woke ideologies.

Happily, more options are available today with many good study resources & online courses. Someone desiring to study for ministry doesn’t have to go seclude themselves on a campus somewhere but can serve in a church doing internships & residencies with a directed course of study promoted by an experienced minister. The best of both worlds is learning practical ministries on the job while studying the Bible, doctrine, theology, & everything else in other ways.

Another important way to “fill pulpits” is to encourage established & older men to either switch careers or serve in bi-vocational ministry. They could serve in ministry while at the same time continuing as editors, grocers, farmers, doctors, etc. This historically used to be the case anyway, & I think it’s the future too.

While preaching is no longer the respected profession it once was, still Jesus came to preach (Mark 1:38), so I feel really good about what I do. Whatever pressures, stresses & strains ministry carries, it’s worth it. The impact you get to make is fulfilling & eternally meaningful. And to serve in a church where people love, value & support you makes it all that more rewarding. I wouldn’t do anything else; intend to finish well; & will keep praying & attempting to raise up more (Luke 10:2).