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Home School Of Preaching Wrong Reasons For Entering the Christian Ministry

Wrong Reasons For Entering the Christian Ministry

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Wrong Reasons For Entering the Christian Ministry

A. N. Martin


6 Audio Messages - (off site -Look under a call to the ministry)

In order to get to grips wittr the vital question, What constitutes a call to
the ministry of preaching the Word of God ?', I shall begin by making a
few comments on four pivotal texts of Scripture. The first is 2 Timothy
2.I-2. Paul says to Timothy, 'Thou therefore, rny child, be strengthened
in the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and the things which thou hast heard
from me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men,
who shall be able to teach others also'. It is obvious that Timothy was
cornmanded to exercise his judgment in two areas. He must iudge Christian
character - 'faithful men'; and he must discern the God-given gifts of
teaching - 'who shall be able to teach others'.

This responsibility is no longer given to apostolic representatives such as
Timothy, but it is given to the Church, and the Church has a responsibility
to make judgments in the realm of Christian character and in the realm of
ministerial glfts with regard to the men within her fellowship. Hence it is very
clear, that, as we confront the subject of what constitutes a call to a teaching
ministry, we are outside the realm of that crass individualisrn which has cursed our
evangelical life for some fifty to seventy-five years. If a man clairned to
have some deep inner urge and some deep sense of spiritual pressure that
he ought to teach, then it was thought tantamount to blasphemy for
anyone to question his calling. God had told hirn he was to speak. God
had told him he was to be a or preacher. S(lhen we exarnine that
type of mentality in the light of a text such as thisr we see just how unbiblical
it is. The assessment of the person being evaluated was to be
an external one.

The second pivotal text is found in Romans, Chapter 12, verses 1-8.
Having looked at the church's responsibility with regard to the call to a
teaching rninistry, we now see the individual's re$ponsibility - the exhortation
to all believers in the light of the great panoramic display of
grace and mercy that the apostle has expounded in the first eleven chapters
of Romans. Paul now insists that this new light and new understanding
should elicit a cofiImensurate response of new yieldedness: 'I beseech
you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies
a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, rvhich is your spiritual service.
And be not fashioned according to this world: but be ye transformed by
the renewing of your mind, that you rnay prove [experimentally realiseJ
what is the good and acccptablc and pcrfbct will of CGod. "For I say, through
the grace that was given ffier to every man that is among you . . [Note
that what follows is addressed to the individual believerJ . . . not to
think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but so to think as to
think soberly, according as God hath dealt to each man a measure of
faith. For even as we have many rnembers in one body, and all the
members have not the same ofifrce: so wer who are rnany, are one body in
Christ, and severally members one of another. And having gifts differing
according to the grace that was given to usr whether prophecy, let us
prophesy according to the proportion of our faith; or ministry, let us
give ourselves to our ministry; or he that teacheth, to his teaching; or he
rhat exhorteth, to his exhorting: he that giveth, let hirn do it with liberality;
he that ruleth, with diligence; he that showeth mercy, with cheerfulness'"
Paul is admonishing the Christians at Rorne to come to a place of sober
self-assessment with reference to their gifts. Do not think more highly
of yourselves than you ought, but do not think more lowly of yoursetrves
than you ought. $(Ie are liable to sin at both ends of the spectrum.
Some rnen think more highly of themselves than they ought and are
sure that God has given them the teaching gift when their gift is probably
that of showing mercy. Others think more lowly of themselves than they
ought ro do, and, although God has given them the teaching Sift, are too
self-effacing to recognize it, or if they do recognize it, they decline to
exercise their gift because of a sinful kind of diffidence. Both of these
faulty assessments are coRdemned here. Paul is saying, in the context of
sober self-assessment, 'Let a man devote himself to the gift that God has
given him.' Lets move now to I Timothy 3"1, to examine what we might call an
honourable arnbition. 'Faithful is the saying, If a man seeketh the office
of a bishop [that is an overseer, o teaching and ruling elder] he desireth a
good wotrk'. Implicit in this word of the Apostle Paul is divine approval
upon godly ambition to a teaching and overseeing responsibility. There
is norhing in the text to indicate that this kind of ambition is sinful in
itself. It had apparently already become a catch phrase, a saying that was
already part of the vernacular of the early Church in the area where
Timothy ministered, 'If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a
good work'. Faul says in efflect, 'When you hear that saying, remember
thar I put my imprimatur upon it - it is a faithful saying.' {cf I Tim 1.15].
To balance I Timothy 3.1, however, we must look at ]ames 3.1: 'Be not
many of you teachers, ffiy brethren, knowing that we shall receive heavier
[greater] iudgmerlt'. Here is an apparent discouragement from seeking
the reaching responsibility. But if our perspective of I Timothy 3.L is
not coloured by James 3 .1, it will not be wholesome. And if our approach
to James 3 .1 is not coloured by I Timothy 3.1, it will not be healthy.
'Be not many of you teachers, my brethren'. Do not all of you clamour
to be teaching elders. A rash ancl impulsive quest for the ministry indicates
ignorance of the responsibility that attaches itself ro rhar calling,
namely, heavier judgment.

As we begin to consider the call to a teaching ministry, whether as a
teaching and ruling elder or as a pastor who lives of the gospel, or whether
as a more limited calling to exercise a teaching gift within the congregation,
let us use these four texts of Scripture as beacon lights to direct our
rninds along biblical channels and constantly to remind us of the tremendous
scriousness of the subject we are studying.

We shall next consider six wrong reasons for aspiring to a teaching or
preaching ministry.
I have gleaned these reasons, not from books, but
primarily from observation and from my own study of the Scriptures.
May thc Searcher of hearts be pleased to expose any of these things
should thcy be resident in any of our hearts !

The first wrong reason for seeking a teaching ministry is an inaccurate
assessment of one's own gifts and graces.
It is almost proverbial, that in
every littlc country church you will find some dear old sister who thinks
that shc is second cousin to an operatic prima donna and who is
absolutcly convinced that she ought to sing a solo for the congregation
every single week. The problem is that there is only one person who
appreciates her voice, namely herself, The difficulty of such a
situation is that often the person is very sincere and really believes that
she can bless the congregation by exercising her 'talent'. The root of the
problem lies in the sister's totally inaccurate assessment of her vocal
furnishings. The situation is further complicated because she will not
listen to the better judgment of her fellow-worshippers.

The case of this dear old sister is tragic enough, but when saints of God
must sit week after week to listen to men in the pulpit who have no Godgiven
gifts of communication, I believe many of us would be consmained
to cry out with Cain that our punishment is more than we can bear. At
the root of this problem is a failure to come to grips with Romans 12 .3 ff.
The key to the matter of self-assessment is in the words, 'Not to think
of himself more highly than he ought to think, but so ro think as ro think
soberly) according as God hath dealt to every man a measure of faith.'
As I indicated earlier, sober thinking neither exaggerates nor depreciates
such gifts as God has bestowed. At times it is downright unmucified
pride that causes a man to make an inaccurate assessment of his gifts.
Sometimes it is sheer ignorance - the fellow just does not know what
constitutes the teaching gift. The problem is often an unwillingness ro
listen to one's brethren. A man holds on to his inaccurate assessment of
his gifts because he has separated himself from the counsel of his brethren.
In ro doing he brings a terrible blight upon hinnself and subsequently
upon others.

Spurgeon tells of a man who had ambitions to preach for this very
reasonr gfl inaccurate assessment of his own gifts. 'tr have heard of a
gentleman who had a most intense desire to preaeh, and pressed his suit
.rpon his minister until, after a multinrde of rebuffs, he obtained leave to
pieach a trial sermon. That opportunity was the end of his importunity
ior, upon announcing his text, he found himself bereft of every idea but
one, which he delivered feelingly, and then descended the rostrum. This
was the one idea tre could deliver feelingly: 'My brethr€n', said he, "if
any of you think it an easy thing to preach, I advise you to come up here
and have atr[ the conceit taken out of you".' And then he sat down. 'The
trial of your powers will go far to reveal to you your deficiency if you have
not ttre needed ability. I know of nothing better. We must give ourselves
a fair trial in this matter or we cannot assuredly know whether God has
called us or not; and during the probation we must often ask ourselves
whether, upon the whole, we can hope to edify others, with such discourses.
When a man has caught the biblical perspective, 'Let all things be done
unto edification', and in sober assessment has come to the rcalization that
God has nor furnished him with the gifts necessary to be an instrurnent of
edificarion, he will nor want to punish the people of God by clinging to a
teaching responsibility. Irrespective of the personal enioyment which
may come to himself, he recognizes that the teaching office exists not for
the- good of the reacher, but for the good of the body of believers. All
must be done unto edifying.

If we are not careful we may fall into the same error as the tongue
speakers at Corinth. We can well imagine one of them sayng' 'I don't
.ut* if anybody out there gets blessed; I get so blessed when I get carried
away in tongues that I can't stop'. Paul's retort is, 'Look, when you come
into the congregation, don't think about your edification, think about the
edification of your brother and your sister. If there is no-one to interpret,
keep quiet in the church, tro rnatter how blessed you get. At home in
your own room, go ahead and speak in tongues and get all the blessing
y"o can. But when you come into the assembly, your concern is to be
the edification of others.'

Let me then urge everyone of you to cry to God for the grace of sober,
sane, self-evaluation. An inaccurate assessment of your gifts can result
in your aspiring ro and maybe even attaining a teaching or preaching
responsibility, only ro prove a blight to those who have to listen to you.

A second wrong reason why men aspire to teaching offices and teaching
oppornrnities is an uncrucified lust for the authority and attention connected
with public ministry.
The scribes and Fharisees provide us with
a classic example of this. In Matthew 23 ow Lord begins by saying rhar
ttre scribes and Pharisees sit in Moses' seat, that is, in the place where they
adrninister the Law of Moses. 'All things therefore whatsoever they
bid You, these do and observe'. (v 3) To the extent that they expound the
law of Moses and bind your conscience by divine revelation, they do well.
But there is a worm in the gourd of all their ministry: 'But all their works
they do to be seen of men: for they make broad their phylacteries, and
enlarge thc borders of their garments, and love the chief place at feasts,
and the chief seats in the synagogues, and the salutations in the market
places, and to be called of menr Rabbi' (w 5-7). Here were men whose
own uncrucified lust for authority and attention fed upon the carrion
of mcn's praises and men's adulation. Men such as these look upon a
teaching situation as a pedestal upon which they may stand to gain the
admiring glances of merl. They have a lust for attention that feeds upon
the supposed glamour of leadership. True God-ordained leadership in
the church has inherent in it such dangers, dernands, responsibitities and
pressures that only a man constrained by the Hoty Spirit - often against
his own inclinations - can long endure. Such leadership affords no

You will notice that in almost every instance in Scripture in which
God called rnen to office, rhey did nor jump up and say, ,Well, Lord, I
just wondered when you were going to wake up to the fact that all my
gifts and talents were lying here unused and unnoticed.' Instead, when
God called them they wanted to run away. They said, 'Lord, not me !
Not ffi€, Lord; send somebody else'. The all-too-commonplace spectacle
of a man venfi.lring into the sacred ministry with the 'Alright, Lord, let's
get on with it' attitude bespeaks tremendous areas of uncrucified lust
for the authority and attention connected with public ministry.

A third reason why men wrongly aspire to offices of responsibility in
teaching and preaching is an unbalanced concept of spirituality
, and this
is not as liable to censure as the two reasons already given. A rnan who
has inaccurately assessed his own gifts and is stopping his ears to the
pleadings of his brethren is to be blamed and sharply rebuked for his
arrogance and pride. The man also who has an uncrucified lust for the
authority and attention connected with the ministry is to be rebuked for
a sin which Scripture so clearly condemns. But this third person is not
so much to be rebuked as to be lovingly instructed. He has irnbibed an
unbalanced concept of spirituality. His mentaliry can be described in
the following way: in Scripture there is a scale of relative importance
or usefulness in the realm of gifts ll Cor lz.3llrand at the rop of the scale
Paul puts the gift of prophecy, which is the gift of intelligently communicating
divine truth in the authority of the Spirit. He says, furthermore,
that prophecy is the gift that brings the greatest edification. Now
this is the point where the fallacy enters. Since there is a relative degree
of importance and usefulness in gifts, it is then assumed that to have the
greatest gift is to put one on the top rung of the ladder of spiritual charac- l
ter. Since the best gift is prophecy' the possession of that gift must mean
that one has attained to the heights ofgrace. Such is the reasoning, but i
it is nowhere assumed or taught in Holy Scripture. I It is interesting to note that

those passages which most thoroughly I treat the concept of the diversity of gifts

(Romans 12 , I Corinthians 12, I
and 1 Corinthians 14 ), are the very chapters which most clearly teach the I
concept of the body, and its members, and this concept well illusuates my I
contention. My hand may serve a far greater and more vital function in I
my body than my earlobe. Whereas I could lose my earlobe and suffer I
very little loss to the total functioning of my body, the loss of my hand I
would be a severe crippling to the entire functioning of my body. That I
lobe, however, shares the same lifestream that the hand shares and is as I
much an integral part of the total organism, the body, as is any other I
member. This is the dominant theme of the passages mentioned above I
and it militates against that false concept of spirituality which often I
leads people to aspire to the ministry of prophesying, namelS teaching and I
preaching, because they are convinced that to do so is to attain to the I
highest degree of spirituality. This mentality has been fostered in many
pulpits. Let a young person say to his pastor that he feels he ought to go
to an agricultural school to become a farmer, then the pastor will pat him
on the back and say 'fine'. Let his brother say, 'I feel led to the ministry',
then suddenly he is a hero in the eyes of the whole chwch, and everyone
is encouraged to pray for him. This is no exaggeration; it goes on all
the time. When youth rallies are about to end people are invited to come
forward to present themselves as missionary candidates. It would be
equally fitting to see how many would present themselves to be godly
housewives. This is purely a matter of vocation or calling. It has nothing
to do with spirituality.

In talking with young men I have tried to analyse what was moving
them questionably in the direction of the ministry, and I have become I
convinced that often it is this unbalanced concept of spirituality. One often
finds this mentality reflected in the persons, say, who go to Bible School,
with the notion that they are going to be preachers or missionaries, only
to find with the passing of time and after more careful self-assessment,
that they are not truly called of God to such a vocation. Then everyone
looks upon them as second-rate citizens, and comments on the tragedies
of missionary statistics. Now this is altogether wrong and cannot be
supported by the perspectives of the Word of God. And so ar this point I
say (and I say it tenderly and lovingly) if any of you have absorbed this
mentality, may God through His Word and Spirit drive it our of your
heart. For there is no necessary connection between the highest gifts and
the highest measure of grace. Thank God rhat we do find the tn" things
together in some men, but there is no necessary connection between them.

A fourth wrong reason why men aspire to teaching and preaching
responsibilities is what I would call an inadequare view of rhe breadth
of the qualifications requisite for a teaching or preaching ministry.
a pcrson is born of the Spirit, there is implanted in his heart, in some
mcasurc, all understanding of truth, a love for truth, and a love for people.
Thc Spirit of truth has come to indwell himr $o rhat he now looks upon
Scripturc with enlightened eyes. 'Now we have received not the spirit
of thc world, but the spirit which is of God that we might know rhe things
that arc {rccly given to us of God'. I Cor 2.12f. Moreover, he now not
only has cycs to perceive truth, but also a heart that loves truth. He loves
the truth which was the divine seed by which he has been begotten again.
And thcrc is a love for people, a love that God sheds abroad in his hearr by
the Holy Spirit. God's love to him finds expression in his love to men.
'Llereby do we know that we have passed from death unto life because we
love the brethren'. This is the truly marvellous experience of one who
has been born into the Kingdorn of God.

But people often assume that this new capacity for understanding and
loving the truth and for loving people is turrir*ounr to the divine .uttirrg
to the ministry. They mistake what are the necessary and normal consequences
of the new birth for the ministerial calling, which is separate

and distinct. This problem is often complicared by the fact rhat we live in a day

of generally low spirituality. Wh.t, a man has a normal and
biblical conversion experiencer it appears to be so extraordinary that the
church unanimously concludes that the Lord's hand is plainty resting on
him to introduce him into the Christian minismy. Bur iuch a conclusion is
entirely unwarranted, Every true Christian must have these graces in some measure.

But there is much rnore required for a man to be a
teachcr in the church, and even more than that for him to be a pastor.
Let rne quote again from Spurgeon's Lectures to my Smdents: .We
must, however, do much more than put it, [this matter of whether or not
we are qualifieC for the ministry] to our own conscience and judgment,
for we are poor judges. A certain class of brethren have a great facility
for discovering that they have been very wonderfully and divinely helped
in their declamations; I should envy them their glorious liberty and selfcomplacency
if there were any ground for it; but alas! I very frequently
have to bemoan and rnolrrn over my non-success and shortcomings as a
speaker. There is not much dependence to be placed upon our own
opinion, but much may be leained frorn iudicious, spiritual-minded

Attend well to what spurgeon is saying here. He had made a careful
assessmenr of all that is required to be an effective conrmunicator of divine
truth, and he felt his own inadequacies. But many in our day with a mere
fraction of Spurgeon's gifts feef quite confident that they are adequately
equipped foi the rask. fft*ir probtrem is precisely their inadequate view
of the breadth of the qualificriionr requisite fbr a teaching or preaching
ministry. Much *or".ir required, both in gifts and in graces, than an
understanding of the truth, a love for people, and a love for truth.
A fifrh wrong reason why men aspire to the teaching offices is what may
be described as an unmet psychological need for personal identity. Perhaps
all of you have met the fellow at work, or you remember the kid on the
block who had no proper self-image. He felt very insecure and wondered
if anyone ever knew him, or listened to him, or noticed him.

And to
compensare for this insecurity, he determined to make his mark by becoming
local bully, in the shop or on the block. Although no-one noticed
him for whar he was in himself, they noticed him for being 'Johnny Butrly',
and trembled when he would pur his fists up because they knew the boy
could fight a11d knock the stuffing out of anyone. what was the problem ?
When traced back to its source, perhaps the fellow did not have a father
who could make him feel his true worth, or he had lost his mother, or was
the victim of some other domestic problem. In any case he had no proper
self-imog€, in which he learned to * himself for what he was, and
therefore he had to project some image that would gain attention and
bring him the adulation and respect of his peers'

The grear tragedy is that this same thing happens in the Christian
church. There are those who have not accepted thernselves as the imagebearers
of God. They cannot believe that people will accept thern and
love them for what they are. And since they know that, generatrly speaking,
teachers and preachers are respected and loved in the church, they
deterrnine to attain the place of respect by becoming teachers or preachers
themselves. I do not say that they sit down and calculate this. It is more
subtle than that. And tttrt is why my prayer is that, even as I speak these
things, the Holy Spirit will enable you candidly to examine your heart
to ,.* whether these things are true of you. For there is many a person
who simply cannor believe that the people of God will accept him rnerely
as a fellow believer who comes to tuk his place in the church and to seek
to honour God in his legitimate calling. Hence he has this overwhelming
drive ro auain to a place of authority. 'If only I could stand in the pulpit"
he reasons' 'then people wilt notice me; then people will look at me; then
people will respect me'. It is not so much that tir.r. people have an uncrucified
lust for authoritg as that they have an unm.t pry.hological need with respect to
their own identity.

In the same general category are those who desire we 
would elevate them above the people sufficiently so that they would nor
have to be transparent. They conceive of the ministerial office as that
which will protect them and insulate them from rhe real world of people
which they feel incapable of coping with on equal terms.
have given you an example that ye should do as I have done unto you,.

Also in this same general category of those wirh unmet psychological
needs are persons who long for a platform from which they can give vent
to their own frustrations and bitterness. How vividly f remember a young
man coming to me who was spiritually and emotionutty crippled by orr. o,"
two areas of sin in his own life I He said ro me, 'If I cluld g.i vi*ory
over these sins, then I would get into that pulpit and tr would tell those
people what they need to hear!'And I prayed within me, as I discerned this
attitude from the look on his fr.i 'bod have mercy on hirn and
never let him get victory over his sins if that would be the tragic result,.
He looked upon the pulpit as a platforrn from which he could spew forth
scolded, who berated, who castigated, who seerned bent on feeding their
own souls and the souls of their people by declaiming against ttrls rhing and
ranting against that. If deprived Lr this rto.t 1r declamarory
invective, they would be left without a message.
Since she could not go to the rnission field herself, a pasror had advised
her that she ought to raise her children to be missionaries and preachers. And
so she let her children know from earliest childhood that they were to
become preachers and missionaries. Not surprisingly those children
went through tremendous trauma when they were forced to make a sober
self-assessrnent of their rrue gifts and callings. They had been conditioned
to believe that the only reason they were breathing air was to become

What are the root causes of so many 'ministerial drop-outs' and 'missionary
casualties' (one term on the field and back home to stay) in our
day ? I believe that one of them is right here. Many of these people
were in the ministry because they were pressured into it by the unwise and
unsanctified ambitions of others, often persons whom they greatly respected
or dearly loved. &Lay God have mercy on pastors who look upon their
minisreriatr students as notches in their rifles ! I have actually heard men
giving their spiritual history tell of seventeen men who went into the
*inirtry under their tutelage. Now it is not wrong for pastors to PraY,
.Lord, raise up from among our sons those who will preach your Word"
But ro condition people rn-d pressrue people into the ministry is a uagic
thing indeed. And so I would say that the sixth unworthy reason for
aspiiing ro a teaching responsibility is the unsanctified or the unwise
ambition of mothers, fathers' pastors and friends'

I would lay these six things before you then, for your sober consideration;
becaur. if anyrhing *ontd grieve me, it would be that those whom I
instruct should be the oicasion of the Lord having to say as he did to the
prophet Jeremiah, 'They have run and I have not sent them" That is
one of the mosr tragic statements in all of Scripture - 'they have run but
I have not sent them'. It is found in ]eremiah 23, in the indictnaent
against the false shepherds. They ran, ready to gor ready to speak, and I
never sent them !

Al Martin - Copyright

Last Updated on Saturday, 01 December 2012 16:00  

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