This is an older post, so the today referred to was actually many todays ago.
Today my wife and I, along with another church member, made a visit to the Missionary Baptist Seminary in Little Rock, Arkansas. Tuesday is Chapel Day at the Seminary, and in the mornings that day they have a worship service, normally attended by both students and teaching staff, and oftentimes various visitors; the sermon is delivered by a guest speaker chosen by the Seminary.
But we were not there just because it provided a chance in the middle of the week to attend worship; we had a very specific reason to visit the Seminary, and we try to attend Tuesday Chapel Service when we can. Several years ago, we were given the blessing, honor and great responsibility of raising a young man who was called by God into the Gospel Ministry. Of course, we already had the responsibility of raising him, but some very important things changed the day when, at Church Camp several years back, he answered the call to preach.
To say this was something we never saw coming would be quite the understatement. My wife has been in church her entire life and was saved at a very early age, but certainly never thought she would be raising a preacher. We are a blended family, and the first time I met this young man I was an unsaved heathen to be perfectly honest. I certainly didn’t expect to be raising a preacher, I really didn’t care for preachers much to tell the truth. But, that’s another story altogether. The end result is, we did raise a preacher, and now he has graduated from High School and is in his first year as a Seminary student. That is the real reason we were at the Seminary today.
Getting to go to the Seminary and be with the predominantly young men who have been called to preach God’s Word is a joy almost beyond describing; so is having some of them come visit us as well(apparently Southern food is very well appreciated by hungry seminary students.) We have even had three of the students from the Seminary preach for us at our church as guest preachers; that is an opportunity they cherish and crave.
It is a joy simply because they are there in the first place; it is a joy that young men are still answering the call to preach when God calls them. Just to see them there is something that lifts one’s spirits. The truth is that there are too many churches which do not even have a pastor; yet some are answering the call still!
It is a joy because they are so enthusiastic. These are young men who have great fervor and energy for The Lord’s work. They put everything into it. Some have come from foreign countries just to study in our Seminary. There is one young man from Peru and another from New Zealand studying there at the moment. There is even a young man from Detroit, which is only a foreign country if you are from Southeast Arkansas like we are. The point is, these fellows are serious and pumped up about the work they are embarking on.
One note: I make references to young men, as it is the young men who have been called to preach. But, there are also several young preachers who have come to the seminary complete with young families. I don’t mean to exclude their sacrifices for The Lord’s work by any means.
We have learned so much during the last few years as we raised a young man who had been chosen and called by God to be one of His pastors. And I want to share just a few simple observations and things we have learned along the way that perhaps might be of some use to a family or church in this situation. Don’t misunderstand me, we are far from done with this mission of raising this young man; he is really just beginning.
Preachers are called by God, not by people
Preaching is not a vocation in the sense that one just wakes up and decides that preaching sounds like a cool way to make a living. It’s certainly not what a person would choose trying to become rich and famous (Okay..that’s not true, as some do it for just that very reason.) Preachers are not chosen by families, churches or guidance counselors because they display some trait or leaning that seems to indicate they would make good pastors.
The Bible is replete with instance after instance of people being specifically being picked out and called by God to perform some mission or work. The Bible clearly shows us examples of men being called to preach His word. Want a list? Read the titles of every single one of the Major and Minor Prophets; those were all men called by God to proclaim His Word. Does anybody remember a fellow named Moses? God called him from a burning bush if you remember. My favorite calling in the Bible is the calling of Jeremiah, as it seems rather similar to what I observed in my own household. That story is found, of course, in the opening chapter of Jeremiah.
Jeremiah 1:4-10 Then the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations. Then said I, Ah, Lord GOD! behold, I cannot speak: for I am a child. But the LORD said unto me, Say not, I am a child: for thou shalt go to all that I shall send thee, and whatsoever I command thee thou shalt speak. Be not afraid of their faces: for I am with thee to deliver thee, saith the LORD. Then the LORD put forth his hand, and touched my mouth. And the LORD said unto me, Behold, I have put my words in thy mouth. See, I have this day set thee over the nations and over the kingdoms, to root out, and to pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down, to build, and to plant.
Now that is one great story; it is also a great story that teaches us some things. That passage teaches as clearly as anything that God had chosen the Prophet Jeremiah to preach His word; not only had He chosen him, but He had chosen Jeremiah before there was even a Jeremiah!
God, in His sovereignty, picks who He has chosen. We often seem to want to do the picking based on the faulty human criteria we would use to pick any other job or vocation. We are blessed beyond measure in the church I attend in that we have three young men who have surrendered to preach the Gospel. Had the choice been up to me or the congregation to do the picking, it is likely that the three would not have been first round picks in the preaching draft. But, God knows what He wants to accomplish, and who He chooses to accomplish it with.
What’s my point? My point is exactly this: God picks and we don’t. If God has chosen we really don’t have the right to question or interfere. If some young man was not truly chosen by God and yet professes to have been, that is really between the man and God. We have every right to teach, train and even correct and rebuke if necessary, but not to second guess God’s choice of any man.
It takes a village to raise a preacher
Don’t throw rocks at me; we know where that quote originated. But, to a certain extent it is a true statement. I will use my own household as an example. The first time I ever met my young preacher, he was barely ten years old and I was a raging heathen. I have obviously since been saved and he has since been called to preach. It is a challenge to raise a young man in Godliness when you are learning it yourself. We have another young called preacher in the same situation. His blended father is just coming back into The Lord’s service himself, and now he is raising a preacher. The other young preacher in our church has no man in his household at all.
We are just a small country church, so our actual pastor certainly cannot oversee the complete spiritual development of three young men all by himself. Let’s add another issue to the mix; called by God or not, young men are still young men. Any young man, preacher or not, is still driven by the same desires and influences which can drive any young man to sin and irresponsible behavior. In the case of men called by God, the danger may be higher, as Satan certainly has them in his sights. They might as well have a target on their foreheads that says, “tempt here.”
So, to a certain extent, raising preachers can be a group effort. It takes the love, guidance, teaching and perhaps correction of Godly men and women surrounding these young men to help guide them successfully through the most troubled years in any person’s life. These are the years when the mistakes are made, or the foundations laid, which decide entire futures.
Perhaps no other influence on the life of a developing young preacher is the example he sees acted out by the men in his life. If we want a young man to learn to be the kind of man and pastor we ultimately want leading and teaching us, then we have to literally show them how it is done. We have to teach them how to be that man by being that man ourselves. We really can’t hold it against them if they develop into the kind of pastor we love to hate if that is how they saw us act, now can we?
It takes support to raise up a Preacher
Now you get the chance to hear somebody besides your Pastor talk about money! That is not the only kind of support we are going to talk about, however. Being a preacher is not an easy life. Anybody who has taken even a tiny little bit of time to involve themselves in the life of their Pastor should know this. Preaching and pastoring faces any man and his family with a very unique set of life circumstances and challenges. If being a Pastor is difficult and challenging, then becoming one certainly is.
We need to specifically pray for our developing preachers. We all know that God responds to prayer. The list of things we should pray for on behalf our young preachers is almost endless. Some of us can offer nothing besides prayer for them, and the rest of us should pray in addition to whatever else we can do to help.
We should support them with actual encouragement. Instead of rolling our eyes about some particular young man who seems to have no promise, we should assume God is in control, has made the correct choice and behave accordingly. Our place is not to question God’s choice, but to support it wholeheartedly! Do you live close to their location? Go visit them and see how things are going. Do they come visit their home church? Take the time to talk with and encourage them.
Now, let’s talk about the elephant in the room. The average Missionary Baptist preacher has not gone into the preaching business to get rich; if he has he might be a little slow to tell the truth. And training to become a preacher is not that different from anything else a young person pursues in life; it comes with expense associated with it. It’s almost depressing to see that there are actually students at the Seminary whose home churches provide absolutely no financial support to them whatsoever.
The Bible clearly teaches that we should support the men God has chosen to lead us, and that means it clearly teaches we should probably support them as they become our leaders. Should families help their young preacher students? Of course they should, even if they have to sacrifice. Should young preachers be somewhat self sufficient as needed? Of course they should. Remember Paul making tents by day and preaching by night? But, circumstances sometimes don’t allow either of those things to fully meet the very real financial needs young preachers face as they learn and train for their God appointed work. If we are truly concerned with the future of God’s work here and want to see it continue and flourish, we simply cannot ignore this part of the work.
I’m going to close this post with a scripture that hopefully will cement in readers minds the importance of the work of raising up and training preachers of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!