by Michael Alford
At my church, and by extension the churches that we tend to associate with, I have observed, first hand for quite some time now, a very curious thing. Let me explain.
In our circles, there are a lot of young men who claim to be ‘called to preach’. The way this works, presumably is that God does some sort of secondary work of grace in the heart and life of this young man, and he is, from that moment on, a ‘preacher’. He is separated, sanctified, set apart for the work of the gospel. Those that aren’t ‘called’ just simply, aren’t called, and are, I guess, free to continue to sit there. Oddly enough this calling never seems to happen when the young man is at home reading his Bible or when he is engaging in his private devotional life. No, this calling only seems to land on a man during a high-pitched emotional church service of one kind or another. It’s very common, after one has been ‘called’, to let everyone else at the meeting know that you’ve been called, with lots of attention and fawning to follow. Sometimes, as this plays out, the whole family gets involved, with weepy mothers testifying how they can’t believe that God has made one of their boys into a preacher. As time moves on this young man will often be found on the platform at youth rallies or camp meetings or revival meetings giving an emotional account about how he’s tried to evade ‘the call’. Testimonials will be given as to how God has ‘hemmed him up’, and he has ‘no choice’. Emotions will flow like water all around. Some young men continue to work this angle, with the full fawning support of others, well into their 20’s.
Into this scene strolls me, your friendly neighborhood street preacher. Aside from the fact that this ‘call’ is an entirely unscriptural concept, I’m always glad to see young men enter the ministry. We need all the help we can get. But what I’ve seen, more often than not is that these young preachers don’t do much preaching. Oh, they will dash to a youth meeting or a preacher’s fellowship where they can tell everyone what they have been called to do; I just don’t see them actually doing it. In fact, I have seen them pass up opportunities to preach over and over again. One would assume that a young man so called would look for any chance to do what God has called him to do. One would assume that he would hunger and thirst after righteousness, that he would study his Bible with a new intensity; that the affections for worldly things would slack off. Alas, I have seen precious little of this.
I have literally gone to one or two of these young men and said “I know where you can preach to thousands of people” to which they will reply “Well, that’s great, but I’m sort of waiting for a church to call me for a revival meeting.” In other words, they will preach to a voluntary audience, but not an involuntary one. They will take the pats on the back from people who already agree with them, they won’t suffer the reproaches of ministering outside the camp. When confronted with my analysis of this trend in their lives, they will fall back on the “God hasn’t called me to that” while simultaneously claiming that God has called them to “preach the gospel”. Who, pray tell, needs the gospel more, the church crowd or the lost crowd? Did God say “Go ye into all the church and preach the gospel”?
When the time comes to go knock doors, where are the young men so burdened to reach the lost?
Furthermore when opportunities rise up inside the church, even those chances are passed up. Our church has a prayer meeting every Saturday night where somebody will usually get up for 10 minutes or so and preach for a few minutes about something God has showed them out of the Bible before we pray. The ‘preacher boy’ crowd is rarely there and very very rarely has anything to say. This strikes me as strange, and always has. We rodeoed a bunch of the ‘preacher boys’ to come work over in children’s church with us. I watched them bomb out one after another before an audience of little kids. Strange stuff indeed for somebody who has been ‘set apart’ for the ministry.
In the church where I got saved, it was sort of assumed that after you got saved, you would find some sort of outreach ministry to be a part of. I don’t know of anybody who didn’t. The ministry wasn’t a club of suit-wearing, fried chicken eating men who only preach to each other and people who already agree with them, and it never has been. If you’re saved, you’re in the ministry whether you choose to participate or not. There is no secondary calling in scripture. You’re not above the people you minister to no more than you are above the people you minister with. You’re not part of a club, you are a part of the body of Christ and as such, whether you are young or old, male or female, you ought to look for and seize every opportunity to minister. If you don’t, you’ll just have to forgive me for doubting your calling. Or am I being too harsh?
by Michael Alford