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Expository Preaching Defined – Part 3

A Call to Preach: God-Called Messenger

In this post I am discussing the third aspect of my definition of expository preaching. The call to preach … the God-called messenger:

Expository Preaching is: “The oral proclamation of a properly interpreted passage of Scripture, in the power of the Holy Spirit, by a God-called messenger, to an assembled body, for the glory of God and the accomplishment of His purposes.”

called to preach

New Orleans Baptist Seminary Chapel

             When I attended theological seminary I believed whole-heartedly that my time there was of supreme significance. As I walked around that beautiful campus in the evenings I often thought about the countless God-called men and women who had attended there before me. I often imagined what their ministries had become or how they were doing currently. During those many seminary years I felt that those days were as vital to my calling as any other aspect of my service to Jesus. I felt honored to be a part of such an awesome place.

Something that shocked me during those days was the realization that a healthy number of the men and women who came to prepare for ministry often exited as quickly as they arrived. Many good Christian people, friends of mine, came to recognize that although they possessed a passion to serve Jesus, they really were not called to a lifetime of vocational service for Him … they were not, in actuality, called to preach. One of the less-than-comfortable aspects (or comfortable depending on one’s perspective) of theological education is that it often possesses a “weeding out” process, at least to some degree. Typically one who does not have a divine call to a lifetime of ministerial service will discover that reality in the hallowed halls and/or online courses of his or her selected seminary (or shortly after graduation). If one enters full-time service without the benefit of seminary training, the day-to-day reality of ministry and what it actually entails will be enough to help the “uncalled” discover that reality.

A Call to Preach: Biblical Examples

A study of God’s Word reveals that men and women received a call from God Himself to follow and serve Him. Certainly Abram received a call to leave the Ur of the Chaldeas. Moses received a call to confront Pharaoh and demand the release of God’s people. God told Jeremiah that he had been set aside for the ministry before he was born (Jeremiah 1:5). Ezekiel received a call to preach to a stubborn and obstinate people and preach the word of the Lord (Ezekiel 2). Each of the major and minor prophets was convinced of a divine call to proclaim “thus sayeth the LORD!”

John the Baptist certainly possessed a call on his life and recognized it even while still in his mother’s womb. Jesus said to those who would be His disciples, “Come and I will make you fishers of men.” Saul of Tarsus received a divine call from Jesus to serve Him (Acts 9). These are but a few of the biblical examples of the reality of a God-given call to preach and serve with one’s life.

A Call to Preach: Some Truths

There are a few truths I know about the call of God for the contemporary preacher or Bible teacher. First, it is something that many describe as overwhelming. The idea of vocational service to Jesus virtually is all-consuming in that one simply cannot think of much else. I know that I could not “fight it” or “run from it” as some profess to have done. The last thing I wanted to do was flee from what God might be doing in my life. My issue had to do with actually coming to believe that God would call someone like me. I had no meaningful biblical background, no theological training, and no understanding of how to respond to a divine call on my life. The thought that God wanted to use me to proclaim the truth of His Word was, as noted, overwhelming. I could not fathom being in the same field of calling as my pastor of that time (Dr. Frank Cox, Senior Pastor of North Metro First Baptist Church of Lawrenceville, Georgia). But, I was and there was no denying it.

call to preachThe second truth related to the call of God is that it contains both human and divine elements. God calls the individual and the church affirms that calling. The Book of Acts certainly gives testimony to this reality. I remember so well how I finally settled the issue of God’s call on my life. I was serving as the “Minister of Maintenance” (this is how I glorified the fact that I was the janitor) in the church. One morning, after a night of not being able to sleep, I went to the sanctuary of the church and sat on the front pew. It was still dark outside and the room was only illuminated slightly. In my desire and desperation to know for certain that God was indeed calling me I simply, but reverently, asked the Lord, “God, are you calling me to preach. If you are then I am ready, but I really need a confirmation. I do not want to trust in my own feelings. I want to know that I am responding to You and You alone.” In a very powerful moment on that special morning God spoke in a way He had not before (at least to me). He led me to Ezekiel 2 and allowed me to read only these words, “Son of man, arise and preach to the rebellious nations.” I was so overwhelmed and broken. I thanked the Lord for hearing and answering my prayer. I have not looked back since that day.

The next Sunday morning I responded to the pastor’s invitation to come to the altar for prayer. As I approached him he had a beaming smile on his face. I previously had told him of my struggle with the call. He knew what God was doing in my life. I told him that God had confirmed my call. He excitedly shared it with the congregation. As the service ended person after person, some 300 in all, came to the front of the church to tell me that they had known for months that God was calling me to the preaching ministry. Indeed, God’s call contains both divine and human elements. It is founded in God’s plan and it is affirmed by His church.

To preach for the Lord and in His church, at least in my view, you must have received a call to preach from the Lord.

~Tony Guthrie, PhD.
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