Many a young Christian man asks, “How can I know if God is calling me to preach?” The question is vitally significant but the answer is not simplistic. How indeed?
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!