Am I Called To Preach?

by Colin Adams

“This makes me think back to my own call to ministry. What ejected me from the comfortable pew and thrust me into the exposed pulpit?  Several strands weaved themselves together. Not independently-  but cumulatively –  these elements formed a strong chord which have ‘bound me’ to the pulpit ever since!

I’ll untangle these strands in the form of four questions.¹

1. The Gift Question – ‘Do people benefit spiritually when I preach and teach the bible’?

You will not be preaching like Don Carson after your first few sermons! ²  But are people ‘profiting spiritually’ when you teach from the Scriptures?  God plants a teaching gift in the lives of certain men (1 Tim 3:2). This gift cannot be self-generated. It can only be identified and cultivated (1 Tim 4:14. 2 Tim 1:6).  If a gift is inherent, even our first and worst sermons will likely be somewhat helpful to those who hear them.

2. The Church Question – ‘Does the church increasingly recognise the presence of my gift’? 

While it is important that I have a desire to preach, it is equally important that the church desires to hear me preach! The external call must meet the internal call. Normally, any church worth its salt will soon recognise a man with raw teaching gift.  In light of this, a  brother should ask himself: “Do I keep being asked to speak in church contexts”? “Am I gradually being invited to preach longer“? “Is there any encouragement coming from the eldership/pastor of my church to pursue further training”?

3. The Character Question –  ‘Do I desire to be an elder and am I striving to meet the biblical qualifications for eldership’?

It is my understanding of the NT that the primary teachers in a corporate church context should be elders, who have a particular strength in teaching (1 Tim 3:2, 5:17). If that might be my future role, it makes sense to ask, ‘is there a desire in my heart  now for the role of eldership? (1 Tim 3:1).  We can similarly ask, “am I aspiring to the qualifications for eldership?”

4. The Motive Question – ‘Do I want to see unbelievers saved, believers sanctified and God glorified’?

A would-be-preacher mustn’t enter this realm of sacred duty merely because he likes the sound of his own voice! Far less for his self-aggrandisement and glory! Do I desire salvation and sanctification in the lives of people around me?! Do I long for God to be magnified through the preaching of His Word?!

 

¹  These questions – especially Q’s 1 and 2 – assume that a man is receiving some opportunity to share God’s Word in a public context. It is impossible to assess a man’s gift without giving him some avenue in which to test the gifts he has.”

² Fair warning:  you may never preach like Don Carson!

-Colin Adams, http://www.unashamedworkman.org/articles/how-can-i-know-if-i-am-called-to-preach

Evangelism, Prayer & Scripture

“I find it tremendously valuable to have my prayers guided by Scripture. As I pray about sharing the gospel with others, or as I pray for those who do not yet know the Lord, there are many passages from the Bible that can give focus and direction. Here are just a few of them.

1. There is work to be done

Matthew 9:37-38
Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

2. Jesus has commanded you to do it

Matthew 28:18-20
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

3. Success is guaranteed

John 10:16
And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.

4. Jesus is the only salvation

John 14:6
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

5. You were given the Holy Spirit for this purpose

Acts 1:8
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses inJerusalem and in all Judea andSamaria, and to the end of the earth.

6. People won’t be saved without hearing

Romans 10:11-15
How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”

7. Evangelism is necessary for your own growth in Christ

Philemon 6
And I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective for the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ.”

-Tim Challies, 03-19-2012, http://www.challies.com/resources/7-scripture-texts-about-evangelism

The Call of the Pulpit

“Preaching is the most public of ministries and therefore, the most conspicuous in its failure and the most subjective to the temptation of hypocrisy. It is imperative only that those who undertake it are appropriately gifted by the Holy Spirit. Such ‘gifting’ includes prophecy, evangelism, the consciousness of an unavoidable call, providential endowments, and outward confirmation as evidenced by the Holy Spirit’s making the preaching effort into a new Bethlehem.

There is no special honor in being so gifted–there is only special pain. The pulpit calls them to it as the sea calls its sailors, and, like the sea, it batters and bruises and does not rest, but always there is the lure of its ‘better and incomparable’ society.

To preach, to really preach, is to die naked a little at a time, and to know each time you do it that you must do it again. Only one certainty sustains the preacher:  That God never denies a man peace except to give him glory.”

– Bruce Thielemann, April, 1977, via http://thecripplegate.com/to-preach-to-really-preach/

The Next Billy Graham Might Be Drunk Right Now

I know this is several weeks old, but it is definitely worth mentioning. I just stumbled across a great post by Russell Moore. He quotes Carl F. H. Henry and gives reasons for encouragement about the future of the kingdom of God on earth, despite the many discouragements in modern evangelicalism.

““Why, you speak as though Christianity were genetic,” he said. “Of course, there is hope for the next generation of evangelicals. But the leaders of the next generation might not be coming from the current evangelical establishment. They are probably still pagans.”

“Who knew that Saul of Tarsus was to be the great apostle to the Gentiles?” he asked us. “Who knew that God would raise up a C.S. Lewis, a Charles Colson? They were unbelievers who, once saved by the grace of God, were mighty warriors for the faith.”

Of course, the same principle applied to Henry himself. Who knew that God would raise up a newspaperman from a nominally Lutheran family to defend the Scriptures for generations of conservative evangelicals?

The next Jonathan Edwards might be the man driving in front of you with the Darwin Fish bumper decal. The next Charles Wesley might be a misogynist, profanity-spewing hip-hop artist right now. The next Billy Graham might be passed out drunk in a fraternity house right now. The next Charles Spurgeon might be making posters for a Gay Pride March right now. The next Mother Teresa might be managing an abortion clinic right now.

But the Spirit of God can turn all that around. And seems to delight to do so. The new birth doesn’t just transform lives, creating repentance and faith; it also provides new leadership to the church, and fulfills Jesus’ promise to gift his church with everything needed for her onward march through space and time (Eph. 4:8-16).

After all, while Phillip was leading the Ethiopian eunuch to Christ, Saul of Tarsus was still a murderer.”

-Dr. Russel D. Moore, 01-02-2012, full article here: http://www.russellmoore.com/2012/01/02/the-next-billy-graham-might-be-drunk-right-now/, italics added

Street Evangelism in Six Steps

“One of the most challenging evangelistic endeavors is what I call street evangelism. This is the approaching of total strangers for the purpose of explaining the gospel to them. When many people think of evangelism, this is often precisely what they have in mind—and they are intimidated by it.

This kind of evangelism may be intimidating, but it also rewarding. There are people who exist outside of the sphere of Christian influence, and unless they hear the gospel from a stranger, they are likely not going to hear it at all. Many encounters are with people completely outside of the faith, unfamiliar with Christianesse, and ignorant of the basics of the gospel (ie., Jesus died in the place of sinners).

But that is exactly why this kind of evangelism is exhilarating. I never know who I am going to talk to. Is this person a Catholic? An agnostic? A self-righteous sinner, living on moralism? This mystery is exactly what makes cold evangelism compelling and intimidating.Here are a few steps to help you get underway:

1. Choose a location. The more people the better, because there are more opportunities, and because it is less weird. My favorite place for this kind of evangelism is on college campuses. Students often have free time, and are often open to talking about the gospel. Grace Church has groups that go out to hospitals, outdoor malls, and subway—all places near our church where lots of people congregate. We stay near our church because we often invite people to our church.

2. Start the conversation. This is the hardest part. I’m not a fan of gimmicks, but I go straight for the chase; I usually begin by introducing myself as a pastor from a church in the area. I’ll ask if they are familiar with the Bible, my church, or what it is that Christians believe. I’ll ask if they have even been to my church, or what they think of the gospel. Essentially I’m looking for some bridge to start the conversation.

3. Ask questions. I ask a lot of questions. One of the most helpful books I’ve read on this kind of evangelism is Randy Newman’s Questioning Evangelism, where he makes the simple point the more questions you ask, the more information you get. The better you get to know the person you are talking to, the more skillfully you can explain the gospel to him. I ask tons of why questions: “Why did you take that job?” “Why did you choose that major?” “Why do you think that way about church?” The more I ask, the more they talk, and the more likely they will be to listen when I explain the gospel.

4. Make the jump to the gospel. Unlike relational evangelism (with friends, co-workers, neighbors, etc.) cold evangelism is a one-shot deal. Eventually you have to make the jump to the gospel. I have found that asking if I can explain what the Bible says about an issue helps. “You said you want to help people with your life; can I explain what the Bible says about that?” “You said that church offends you because Christians are hypocrites; can I tell you what the Bible says about that?”

5. Explain the gospel. I take any question they ask—from why do Christians not believe in evolution, to what about the crusades—and answer with the gospel. A short gospel presentation includes who God is (creator and holy), who people are (sinful and in need of a savior), who Jesus is (God in flesh, sinless, substitute for sinners, who rose from the grave), and what we must do in response (turn from sin and believe the gospel in faith).

I look for any opportunity in the conversation to get to the gospel, and when I am there, I move quickly. I can explain those points briefly in one minute, and then circle back to explain each one more if the opportunity is there.

6. End the conversation. After explaining the gospel, I ask if the person has any questions. I ask if I can pray for them, if I can give them a tract that explains more, and if they want to talk more sometime in the future. I invite the person to church, and give him my contact info. Occasionally I have had people contact me months later, wanting to learn more about Jesus.

I don’t think all Christians are called to this kind of evangelism, but I think all Christians should at least try it and see if they are gifted at it. It is amazing to see how the Lord uses these encounters to open doors for the gospel, and to strengthen our own understanding of the basic tenets of what we believe.

How about you? Share a tip or two that you would add, or a question about this kind of evangelism.”

-Jesse Johnson, Complements of: http://thecripplegate.com/street-evangelism-in-five-steps/

Does Worship = Music?

“One of my pet peeves is to visit a church that labels the music portion of their service simply “worship.” Because before you know it, worship becomes opposed to the rest of the service. You worship then you give. You worship then you listen to a sermon. I hope the problem is apparent.

Worship should describe the entirety of a church service and one’s life. My goal is not to be the word police, but I want to provide some reasons why pastors and churches should refer to their music time as musical worship….”

-Josh Thiessen
More here:  http://thecripplegate.com/mislabeling-leads-to-misunderstanding/

The Goal of Preaching

“In the midst of debates over the Great Awakening, Edwards, made a revealing comment about the effects of preaching. During intense periods of awakenings, evangelists often preached to the same audience daily, or even more frequently. Opponents of the awakening argued that people could not possibly remember what they heard in all these sermons. [Jonathan] Edwards, responded that

‘The main benefit that is obtained by preaching is by impression made upon the mind in the time of it, and not by the effect that arises afterwards by a remembrance of what was delivered.’  Preaching, in other words, should be designed primarily to awaken, to shake people out of their blind slumbers in the addictive comforts of their sins. Though only God can give them new eyes to see, preaching should be designed to jolt the unconverted or the converted who doze back into their sins (as all do) into recognizing their true estate.'”

-George M. Marsden, The Salvation of Souls (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books, 2002), 11-12.
Complements of: http://approachingdamascus.com/2011/11/02/the-preaching-moment/

Preachers & Scripture

“We should beware of resting our claim to the people’s attention on our outward [pastoral] call only. It will never do to tell our people, “We are your ordained ministers, and therefore you must believe and follow whatever we tell you.” On the contrary, we must tell them to prove our teaching by Scripture, and not to receive it unless it is scriptural. That man has no right to expect the attention of his people, who does not preach the Gospel and live the Gospel. The rule of Paul is clear on this point. He told the Thessalonians to esteem their ministers very highly “for their work’s sake” (1 Thess. 5:13). When there is no “work” done, it is vain to expect the people’s esteem.”

~ J.C. Ryle, Tract: Neglect Not the Gift

Beware the Teaching of Men

Jesus never promised your best life now. If this is your best life now then you have hell waiting you in the next life. Don’t be an idolator of the mind. Don’t create a Jesus in your mind who is loving but not holy, righteous, good and full of wrath. If Jesus came to preach love and prosperity in this life, He would never have been executed by the Jews through the Romans. Jesus did not live a prosperous life but died a death He did not deserve to pay for sin. He is not coming again with a pacifier in His mouth but as the Judge. His wrath will drench the hem of His robe in blood.

A true friend will lay down their life so that you may live. If you alter the gospel to make it appealing to this world, you do not love those to whom you are preaching. Do not be a blasphemer; do not trample under foot the blood of Christ; do not pervert the gospel. Preach God as He has revealed Himself in His word.  He has written His law on the hearts of all men and will hold all guilty who do not obey Christ. John 14:6 reads “Jesus said unto him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life: no one comes to the Father, except through me.'”

http://showyou.com/v/y:hFLIZf7qiWM?u=philjohnson

Preach on Hell

“If you would ever be a healthy and scriptural Christian, I entreat you to beware of any ministry which does not plainly teach the reality and eternity of hell. Such a ministry may be soothing and pleasant, but it is far more likely to lull you to sleep than to lead you to Christ or build you up in the faith. It is impossible to leave out any portion of God’s truth without spoiling the whole. That preaching is sadly defective which dwells exclusively on the mercies of God and the joys of heaven and never sets forth the terrors of the Lord and the miseries of hell. It may be popular, but it is not scriptural; it may amuse and gratify, but it will not save. Give me the preaching which keeps back nothing that God has revealed.”

J.C. Ryle, Holiness: Its Nature, Hindrances, Difficulties, and Roots, “A Woman To Be Remembered”, [Moscow, ID: Charles Nolan Publishing, 2001], 212.

http://jcrylequotes.com/2011/08/23/preach-on-hell-because-it-is-scriptural/