If you were to ask most seminarians what their calling is, they would probably respond with something like, “I am called to preach.” For most seminarians this is true; however, I have had some recent experiences that leads me to question what it means to be “called to preach.”
I am not saying this is inherently wrong, but I have discovered (and have been found guilty myself) that because most of us are “called to preach”, we fail to see the other opportunities for ministry that come available. For example, I have been in a two month interview process with a church regarding a children’s ministry. When I was first approached about this ministry, I thought “no way! I am called to preach. I am not called to baby sit.” However, as I had more and more opportunities to preach from the pulpit for churches looking for a pastor, I have realized that God wanted me to look more closely at the children’s ministry.
Something funny began to happen the closer I looked. For the first time since my first time in the pulpit, I began to feel a little uncomfortable preaching. Next, I discovered I had a heart for the children (especially in the particular neighborhood of the church) and wanted to reach out to them and their families for the gospel. As I began to pray more for the children’s ministry, God poured such a deep love into my heart that the children’s ministry began to consume my every thought. The next thing I knew, I turned down an opportunity to preach at a churchlooking for a pastor because “God was taking me in another direction” is what I told the man on the phone.
I wish I could say that I came to this understanding of ministry and seminary life during a quiet time or time of communion with God, but that would be lying. No, it took an off-hand comment by one of my wife’s girlfriend’s as we were leaving her houseafter dropping our children off for the evening so we could interview with the church for the children’s ministry. She told me that she and her husband had been looking all over the Louisville area for a children’s ministry to no avail (I know of a couple good ones, but they have only become a major focus of the church in recent months). She said everyone tells them that “they are called to preach” and that children’s ministrywould be like taking a step backward from their goals. (OK, that one kicked me right in the gut because thatwas my initial thoughtwhen I receieved the email about the position–I hadserved as youth pastor for a couple years aboutthree years ago.) I don’t know why, but it struck a chord in me that I did not know was there to be struck. Between her house and the church (10 minutes), I was moved deeply to seek after this position with a passion that I can only explain as a gift from God.
I guess what I am trying to say is that while you are attending seminary, do not put on the blinders of being called to preach. When I was ordained, I was ordained not to the preaching ministry, but the gospel ministry. The gospel should be what drives our motives behind all we do. Sure, you will get more glory in the pulpit, a demon I am sure we will all have to fight, but do not deprive yourself from blessings because you are only “called to preach.”