“From the Pen of” is a series of blog posts where I will take excerpts from books I am either reading now or have read in the past and highlight sections of the text that make compelling arguments, insights or applications into the realities of Christian life and service. In this post, I want to share what Dr. Martin Lloyd Jones wrote in his book entitled Preaching & Preachers originally published in 1972.
The section I want to highlight deals with some criterion for prospective preachers to use to determine whether they have a genuine call upon them to preach the gospel. I’ve not only found this personally useful but offer it forward as a help to aid in this crucial evaluation.
- There must be an “inner call.” Jones writes, “A call generally starts in the form of a consciousness within own’s own spirit, an awareness of a kind of pressure being brought to bear upon one’s own spirit, some disturbance in the realm of the spirit, then that your mind is being directed to the whole question of preaching” (116). No one should have to tell a preacher that he is one, he will know it. Others may affirm or confirm what he knows but they cannot put the knowledge there, that can only be done by God.
- There must be congregational confirmation. Here Jones illustrates a scene which is all too familiar to those of us who have ever entertained the notion of preaching. Someone in leadership and several other people in your church approach you and indicate that perhaps you are called to be a preacher. This step is crucial because we often deceive ourselves and inflate our own abilities when it comes to these matters. Having leaders and other members of the Body tell you that something about you and your gifting to teach or preach is life-giving and should be shared with the rest of the Body is critical to a preacher’s calling.
- There must be a genuine concern for others spiritual state. This step speaks to the motive behind your perceived calling. Jones warns that a prospective preacher, “may only be fascinated by the glamour of preaching, and attracted by the idea of addressing audiences, and influencing them” (117). To counteract against this, Jones insists that there be, “a concern about others, an interest in them, a realization 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” (117).
- There must be a constraint. What Jones is getting at here is the fact that the preacher must preach. In a sense, the man who is called to be a preacher of the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ can do nothing else. Nothing else will satisfy this type of true calling, try as the man might, he will never find peace until he finds himself doing what he was called to do. On this point, Jones quotes Spurgeon as saying, “If you can do anything else do it. If you can stay out of the ministry, stay out of the ministry.” The one who has been called by God to preach cannot do anything else and ultimately will not do anything else…he must preach!
- There must be a sense of inadequacy. Lastly, Jones says that there should be an inner disposition to the whole business of preaching which is born out of an understanding of the task of preaching itself. That inner disposition is “unworthy and inadequate.” Preaching is not something that should be rushed into, taken lightly or flippantly. Jones gives the prospective preacher this warning, “a man who feels that he is competent, and that he can do this easily, and so rushes to preach without any sense of fear or trembling, or any hesitation whatsoever, is a man who is proclaiming that he has never been ‘called’ to be a preacher” (119).
If you are considering preaching, I hope that this can be an aid in helping you sort through your call. I know from personal experience that this can be a confusing thing to get a handle on. Many have been fool-hearty and rushed in too quickly and shipwrecked. Others have been too hesitant, too cautious, and not pursued genuine callings and never left the shore. Both are in error. Please take the time to consider these criteria and I pray they will serve you well.
If you want to read Dr. Martin Lloyd-Jones’ entire collection on preaching, pick up Preachers & Preaching.