Great, youíre called, but now what? What did God call you to? Being chosen is more than being called. Being chosen implies a choice or, better yet, a preference. It is not enough for me to be called, I want to know that Iím chosen for a specific work in the Body of Christ. I am after purpose and destiny. I want my pre-determined purpose to collide with my reality so that I can watch God work.
I have to embarrassingly admit that when I first started
preaching, my pastor made it look so easy that I thought I could
walk right in to the pulpit and do what he was doing. I thought
that I could utter those usual adages: God is good all the
time, and all the time God is good. He may not come when you
want Him, but He's always on time. I know He's alright. I thought that these phrases were the basis of making the people
stand up and shout and go home saying the preacher really
preached this morning! That's what I thought. I thought
wrong...terribly wrong. These were the days when I thought that
the major part of my ministry was in the pulpit, and nowhere
else during the week. I thought that the congregants didn't
bother the pastor or the associates through the week. I figured
that they tried their best to handle their issues on their own
or prayed through it and that the Sunday morning worship service
was the confirmation of the usual adages. I was wrong...terribly
wrong. And, for most associate ministers, this very well may be
the attitude coming into ministry: not knowing that real
ministry is all through the week and not in the pulpit only.
First of all, the pulpit belongs to the pastor. It is the
ministry that God gave him. He does not have to share his pulpit
with anyone. Doesn't matter how many associates he has on staff,
he is not required to let you preach.
Preaching is the thing you get to do when you prove yourself accountable, responsible and teachable. A prayer life goes without saying because when you preach, you lay out your prayer life before the congregation.
You lay out your study life. The congregation can get a pretty good idea of your walk, when you preach. The first couple of years, they excuse you because you're trying to figure things out. But after a couple of years, if they can detect no growth in you, your ministry can suffer. So not only do you have to be accountable, responsible and teachable to your pastor, but you also need to be an encouraging, empowering ambassador through the week. And you must realize that you are also to be accountable, responsible and teachable to the congregation.
One of my biggest problems when I first started preaching was humility. You have to learn it because humility is not modesty. With modesty, you can kind of take a bit of credit. With humility, you turn all of that attention to God. A sister recently complimented my mother about her raising me, and she did so in my presence. Mother had been to a conference with some ladies and had to ride a bus in order to get to the destination. On the return trip, when I went to pick her up, all these women wanted to say hello and meet me and so forth, which was really overwhelming. But, this one lady, who will remain nameless, told my mother, ďYou birthed a child of God, bless both of you.Ē And while I'm learning how to say thank you to compliments, I was utterly and literally speechless. My mother, however, said thank you and bless you. Humility brings a genuine heartfelt response from the people whose lives you have touched and impacted. You never know how someone feels about you until they tell you. You need to learn and master humility, and, yes, folk can tell when you're faking it.
One of my biggest problems when I first started
preaching was humility. You have to learn it because humility is
not modesty. With modesty, you can kind of take a bit of credit.
With humility, you turn all of that attention to God. A sister
recently complimented my mother about her raising me, and she
did so in my presence. Mother had been to a conference with some
ladies and had to ride a bus in order to get to the destination.
On the return trip, when I went to pick her up, all these women
wanted to say hello and meet me and stuff, which was really
overwhelming. But, this one lady, who will remain nameless, told
my mother, ďYou birthed a child of God, bless both of you.Ē And
while I'm learning how to say thank you to compliments, I was
utterly and literally speechless. My mother, however, said thank
you and bless you. Humility brings a genuine heartfelt response
from the people whose lives you have touched and impacted. You
never know how someone feels about you until they tell you. You
need to learn and master humility, and, yes, folk can tell when
you're faking it.
My next problem, what to do with the gifts that God gave me. I am a radical. I am controversial. I am also conservative in some matters and liberal in others. I am a complex being. And I often feel like I do not belong. There are times that I feel like Iím ahead of the curve and that other times I lag behind. This is not to say that Iím so great, but I see a desperate need to see the people of God set free from bondage. We are in bondage to our own mindset, our traditional values, our ceremonies and our rituals. I am not interested in pomp and circumstance; Iím interested in people. More specifically, Iím interested in seeing Godís ministers take the risk of living and doing the work of the ministry instead of imitating it. We've got a bunch of imitators in pulpits who look like ministers, but have no authority in the Word. No power in the belly, where they should have rivers of living water. Are our wells dry? Do we not long for an intimate relationship that flows with communication and communion? Do we not want a wellspring that keeps on giving, keeps on producing, keeps on challenging us to live holy?
What do we want? Besides the popularity and the so-called esteem? What do we want besides the new suits and possibility of preaching revivals? What do we want besides teaching before big crowds of people and being disappointed when the crowds donít come to see us? What do we want other than being able to walk into Wal-Mart and be addressed by title by people we barely know? What do we want aside from looking important and trying to figure out ways to be important? Just what do we want?
In our Baptist tradition, we often say we've been ďcalled to preach.Ē And a great many preachers struggle with the fact they are less articulate than others or that they don't grapple with larger precepts as well as others. The truth is, the saying, ďcalled to preach,Ē is a bit misleading. Preaching is only one facet of what a minister does. A more accurate descriptor might be that we have been ďcalled to minister.Ē I know a lot of ministers who rarely preach. And, sadly, I know a great many preachers who almost never minister. Which is more important? They both are. But the Bible clearly teaches us what we DO is at least as important, if not more important, than what we SAY [James 2:14-26]. Preachers who never minister, who never put themselves on the front lines, run the risk of being seen as all talk and no action. While ministers who toil in the field are rarely, very rarely, invited into the pulpit because many pastors never SEE them preaching and assume they're no good at it.
I can spend the rest of my life directing a choir and find myself rarely invited into the pulpit, while I know many other ministers who get prime time on a regular basis, but whom I almost never see out in the field, in the prison, in the hospital, on the street, in home Bible studies, on the web, in Sunday School, at the ball game, at the birthday party, in the middle of the nightó on the front lines. The ministers I DO see in these places I almost NEVER see in the pulpit. These men and women are often overlooked because theirs is The Less Obvious Ministry. The Quiet Ministry. The Less Flashy Ministry. While the majority of main-line pulpit thumpers literally vanish between Sunday afternoon and Saturday evening.
Great, youíre called, but now what? What did God call you to? Because everybody has a calling or ministry of some kind, you have to know this. What did the Master say to you when He called you? What is your mode of operation? What did you look like when He showed you the vision of your ministry? And please donít tell me that you saw yourself on the world stage because before you get to that stage, thereís still a season of reception and preparation. You've got to go to the locker room to suit up first.
The people who go to the world stage have most likely been doing ministry for years. Putting in their time, paying their dues, struggling to get a Word from the Lord and trying to keep up when He began speaking. And if youíre trying to be like these warriors, theyíve had years of training and on the job experience, years of trial and error, and years of trying the spirit by the Spirit. They have developed a reputation for being reliable enough to teach the Word and divide it rightly; and even they make mistakesó some of them public.
Ladies and gentlemen, please take this calling seriously.
It means the difference between life and death for someone. And
once you figure out whether or not you are called, then you can
begin to figure out whether or not youíre chosen. Being chosen
is more than being called. Being chosen implies a choice or,
better yet, a preference. It is not enough for me to be called,
I want to know that Iím chosen for a specific work in the Body
of Christ. I am after purpose and destiny. I want my
pre-determined purpose to collide with my reality so that I can
watch God work.
The Bible is clear that, ďHe who began a good work in you, shall perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.Ē I donít work to be seen. I donít work to have my name called. I donít work so I can wave my hands in parade formation. I work because I am committed to the commission to, ďGo ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.Ē And the good work that I have been called to shall be performed over and over and over until Jesus Christís return.
I understand that I have been pre-selected, carefully picked out and anointed for such a time as this. I may never make it to the world stage, but I donít have to. Iím not trying to be rich or famous.
But first, I still have to be accountable. To the God I serve, to my pastor, to my assistant pastor, to my fellow ministers in my church, to my congregation and to my community. I owe more than another scandal and arrogance. I owe you prayer, I owe you an encouraging word, I owe you hope and I owe you ethical and moral standards. I am supposed to be a person you can look up to.
I still have to be responsible. I am to respond to your needs in an appropriate time frame. If you ask me a question and I donít know the answer, I should tell you that. But I should also offer to find out for you or, at best, offer to find out together through searching the scriptures and prayer. I am to handle the difficult matters in your life with the utmost care and conviction and not gossip about you every chance I get. I should never reveal or talk about your personal struggles without talking to you first to get your permission and I should only be talking about it with people who can help you through it.
And lastly, I still have to be teachable. I should be able to learn from you. Iron should sharpen iron. I donít know everything. You and I are in each otherís life for a reason and a season. I should be able to learn something from you during our time together. How ever many days, months, or even years that might take. I want to be a better person because I met you and had a relationship with you. I want the kind of relationship where I can be Reverend in the sanctuary, but Neil in the coffee shop. Ainít it about time that ministers came down from the pulpit to the pew and make a real difference in the lives of people? I want to see you blessed. I want to see you delivered. I want to see you set free. I want to see you live and walk in victory everyday. I understand that youíll make mistakes, so will I. But, how can two walk together except they agree?
The difference between being called and being chosen is purpose. Iím doing my best every day to be sure that my calling and election is sure. Not just for your benefit, but also for mine.