Is there a specific moment in time when a person is “called” to preach? What’s the difference between preaching and teaching? Is there a difference between “Preacher” and “Pastor”? How much of our idea of preaching has been shaped by our cultural and church experience and not the scriptures? Is God calling me to preach?
These are the questions that have been going through my mind for the past six months. I’ve been given several opportunities to share from God’s Word during that time; Nehemiah Teams training classes, D-Now weekend, Upward Basketball devotions, even a marriage retreat (not sure they knew what they were getting into). I also have two more events coming up soon that I’m preparing for. God has been so gracious to open these doors and allow me to go and share His word, but is the opportunity the call? Have I been “speaking” or “preaching” and what’s the difference when we’re sharing from God’s Word?
Our culture and experience has defined “preaching” as someone (most likely a pastor) standing in front of a congregation, speaking about scripture. One pastor notes that what we see in scripture is that the majority of the time amongst believers there was teaching through dialogue concerning the things of scriptures, not one person standing in front to “preach” to them. The times that the Apostles stood in front of large crowds to “preach” it was always to unbelievers and they were always clearly and plainly sharing the Gospel (Mars Hill, Pentecost, Stephen, etc.). For clarity, this particular pastor believes that preaching is always solely about the gospel (Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection) and is directed toward unbelievers, while teaching may contain the gospel, but is primarily teaching believers from scripture. Therefore, preaching is teaching, but teaching is not always preaching. He defines the teaching/preaching spectrum by content rather than by medium.
In a recent article, Ed Stetzer, President of Lifeway Research said, “I must confess the whole “call to preach” thing is a bit confusing to me. I am not sure that there is a “call” to preaching– although I both value preaching and see it as essential. Instead, I see a call to the office of pastor / elder which often involves preaching.”
Mark 16:15 is geared toward all believers when Jesus said, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.”
In 2 Timothy 4:2, Timothy is already a pastor when he is told to, “proclaim the message; persist in it whether convenient or not; rebuke, correct, and encourage with great patience and teaching.” Important advice to all pastors, but not a call to preach.
So it would seem that all men who have been called as pastors should preach, but not all men that preach would necessarily be called into the pastorate.
In Ephesians 4:11-12, Paul himself seems to distinguish between apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers.
I must admit, the thought of doing what we commonly refer to in Baptist circles as “announcing my call to preach” unnerves me a little. Not that I’m ashamed or timid (as a music minister I’m used to being on stage in front of people every week) it just seems a little awkward. People “announce” their call to preach and we make a big deal about it almost as if it’s their second salvation. We line up at the back door to shake hands and formal invitations for the first sermon are mailed out complete with RSVPs for the pot-luck dinner afterward. I just don’t find anything that looks like that in scripture and honestly, I’d rather not make a fuss about it. I understand that it is a big deal and carries a great amount of responsibility, but I just want to say what God wants me to say and move on. It’s all about Him, and not about me. (says the guy writing a blog so he can share what’s on his heart with the world)
So… is God calling me to preach? Is that even a thing or is it something cultural that we don’t find in scripture? In a totally unrelated conversation this evening, my brother-in-law, Chris Townson, made a good point that I believe applies here… “Does God really need to tell us to do something twice?” The Great Commission says to go, to preach, so it should be the exception if we stay. We’ve already been told what to do, but we’re waiting on a second calling and straining to label what God prompts us to do in our own walk with Him.
Perhaps the answer to my questions lay in that last statement itself… “Walk with Him.” I may be another Sam Graham, having never “announced” a call to preach, but going every other week to speak at a different venue and share the Gospel. Or I may speak at two more events and be finished with what God wants me to say. I may continue leading worship each week, interjecting the wisdom and truth of God’s Word in song. The important thing here is to take it one step at a time and walk with Him. Not to play an instrument, but to be an instrument. Not to say a word, but to share The Word. Am I preaching or teaching? I don’t know, but I’m willing to go wherever He opens a door, say what he tells me to say, and walk with him every step of the way.