“But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me by his grace, to reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred no with flesh and blood;” Galatians 1:15-16
Paul’s call to preach came from the highest authority. It always does. The concept of a call from God to preach the gospel should never be watered down to a career choice or a covetous stepping-stone to a higher pay-grade.
Schools of this nation were once served by people described as Vocational Guidance Counselors. Their title revealed the prevailing wisdom of the day. Vocational is rooted in the same Latin word, “vocare.” It means to call. Secular school systems were not stripped of Scripture, but guided by it, to an understanding that a call existed upon each child’s life.
“Train up a child in the way they should go, and when they are old they will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6
Based upon this Scriptural principle, it was understood that children were born with a leaning towards the Creator’s sense of direction. Counselors were enlisted to guide them to it. They were not hired to squeeze round pegs into square holes, but to help children discover their gifts and aptitudes for the very thing they were brought into this world to do. Paul believed God’s call on his life began before his birth. This may sound a bit unusual, and even a little unbelievable, but IT IS NOT!
I grew up in a home that regularly elevated the call of God. My father received the call of God to be saved, and to preach on the same day. I received this call at the age of eight. I remember Dad counseling many young men with this statement. “If you can stay out of the ministry, stay out.” It was sound advice, then and it has stood the test of time. Fortunately, some took it, and stayed out of the ministry. Sadly, some didn’t and strayed away from it. Praying provides a preacher with staying power, and protects a preacher from straying from the source of power, Jesus.
I have witnessed a steady parade of former preachers discard The Call like a used shirt, and take up another team jersey, as if they are free agents. The called are not merely seekers of a career path, considering their options. They are bond-servants of Christ. The called, go and stay, until the Master frees them. They are not runaway slaves hiding from His will. They are fully devoted followers of His will.
When my family moved to New York, I was ten years old. My new friends at Main Street School in Farmingdale, asked me, “Whutchoudoin’ in New Yowuk?” I easily responded, “My Dad was called here.” Their response was an inquisitive, and boisterous, “HOO CAWLED HIM?” This was the first of my many encounters with cross-cultural communication. They had never heard of such a thing. What made a great deal of sense to me was very difficult to explain to them. It still is. But I digress.
Paul said God called him, “that I might preach him to the heathen.” It was God’s call, not Paul’s. God doesn’t always call those who appear to be the most qualified. God seems to enjoy calling those who others have already disqualified. When Paul first showed up to preach, he didn’t draw a crowd. He cleared the room. The called often do not appear like a gift, until they are received. This is God’s learning curve, and one of His favorite faith-building exercises.
Note to self: Never doubt God’s ability to use your availability. Never trust your ability. Your availability trumps your ability, EVERY TIME.
Recently, I have encountered several staff members who actively pursued a position, and aggressively sought the removal of their pastor, in order to win a promotion. They had chafed under the limitations of being a member of the staff, and coveted becoming the pastor of the church. This never ends well.
People who are were never willing to be under authority, won’t be any better at being in authority. Jesus pour His favors upon the UNDER dog, not the ALPHA dog. Stop barking orders. Start praying.
Over coffee, I asked a former minister of music who had become a recently dismissed pastor, “What made you think you were ever called to preach?” He replied, “I was already in the ministry, and preaching didn’t look that hard. Besides, that’s where the money was.” He had seen the job opening and grabbed at a promotion. He hadn’t received the call from God to do it, and it affected his devotion to God in it. You can’t make this stuff up.
The Call of Paul was personal. It cannot be duplicated, but it can be replicated. Paul’s call was a command, an order from The Master. He was a bond-slave, and under the authority and jurisdiction of The Lord, Jesus Christ, from the moment The Risen Lord confronted him on the Road to Damascus.
There is a close resemblance between Paul’s call and those who are called to preach. They are not being invited to make a decision. They are being commanded to follow an order. Preachers either respond to the call or they stray from their Master. The way they come on is the way they go on. Preachers will either pray and obey, or they will delay and stray.
Preachers are not called to preach their own opinion, their doubts, conventional wisdom, political correctness, or review their favorite author’s new book. They are messengers. The word used for preaching describes the delivering of good news, or glad tidings. Angels did it at the birth of Christ. God-called, Spirit-filled preachers have done it since Pentecost.
The Called have only one mission in life, preaching the good news of salvation, offered through Jesus. They are called and convinced that the Good News will never get any better. The called don’t apologize. They evangelize. TALK LESS! PRAY MORE!
“Christians are either missionaries or they are imposters.” Charles Haddon Spurgeon