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Clairvoyant Calls

December 1, 2006

Of all the spooky kookiness floating around in Fundamentalia, perhaps none could equal the goofiness associated with the call to the ministry. One fine specimen of such an extrasensory calling claimed to have opened his Bible, and saw the word “preacher.” He immediately shut his Bible and turned on his radio. And, wouldn’t you know it, the first word he heard, as the station tuned in on the Atwater Kent, was “preacher.” Shutting off his radio, he picked up the remote and switched on the Television, conveniently tuned to TBN where (predictably) he saw a… “Preacher.” Still not believing his psychic good luck, our telepathic friend hopped in his car, drove to Preacher Avenue, turned left onto Minister Way, followed that for three quarters of a mile to Parson Avenue, turned left onto Rector Road, and finally, one more left into the church parking lot. And, would you believe, the first person he saw there was the Preacher!

God’s calling, for sure.

When it comes to the call to the ministry, modern Fundamentalia relies heavily on clairvoyant methods for getting The Call. The preeminent extrasensory method for getting called? Feelings. I feel that God is calling me to pastor. Never mind my reputation. Never mind that I can’t preach and hate to study. Never mind that I have never discipled a new Christian. Never mind that I don’t disciple my wife or my family even now. Never mind that I’m not what you would call a “faithful” disciple myself. Never mind my past. Never mind your feelings. I feel called.

Everyone stand back.

There is no doubt that many who “feel” called actually do. But this alone does not indicate a calling. Callings come from God, and they come with certain marks. One of those marks will be desire. But desire alone does not indicate a call. Some friends related the story of one young man, a particularly worthless young man, who told his classmates that he was going to become a preacher so that he wouldn’t have to work. Ironically, that young man has a church, a congregation, and a Baptist Mission Agency now enabling him to fulfill that dream.

But hey! He had desire!

No problem here with feelings. No problem with desire. In fact, they are Biblical.

This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work. I Timothy 3:1

But we should question where that desire came from, and what motivated it. Because of the current push (in some circles of Fundamentalia) for “full-time Christian servants,” we can get ourselves into a lot of trouble in this area. Growing up, most if not all of the teens in our youth group were “called.” While some are fulfilling that call, many reveal that the call was a “preacher call,” or a “peer-pressure” call. The calling came, not from the Spirit of God, but from spirited preaching. But of course, when the peer pressure wore off, well, so did the call. At least, in some cases. But in some cases it didn’t, or it doesn’t.

Woe unto us, for we are undone.

The danger here, where preachers are elevated and admired and even the calling itself is considered to be so important, is that young men will convince themselves that they are called, and then continue to convince themselves that they are called.

Just a second!

Before we go any further in this, we must distinguish between the universal call to preach, which applies to every believer, and a particular calling to preach the gospel as a Pastor and Bishop. First, both calls come from God.

And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. Mark 16:15

But a particular call to spend one’s life serving the church and God’s people in the office of the bishop must come from God. Christ is the head of the church, and Christ gives gifts to men… And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers.

The sacred desk does not belong to usurpers, no matter how carefully they try to re-invent themselves (“I’m not a usurper, I’m a volunteer…”)

I have not sent these prophets, yet they ran: I have not spoken to them, yet they prophesied.

…yet I sent them not, nor commanded them: therefore they shall not profit this people at all, saith the LORD. Jeremiah 23:21, 32

If we aren’t careful, we will manipulate and massage our own feelings until we have convinced ourselves of a calling. Certainly, God can use men that He did not send (see Jeremiah 23:22, for instance), but God can also cause men to survive shipwrecks. That should not encourage us to drill holes in the bottom of the ship when we take our next cruise.

That being said, we should understand that we can have clairvoyant calls that really are and clairvoyant calls that certainly aren’t. Without further ado, allow me to distinguish.

By a clairvoyant call, I mean a call that comes to the mind through some supernatural means. And of course, the reader should recognize that this is one way that God makes his calling known. If God calls a man to the Pastorate, that man will “feel” called. But be careful here, because many today will argue that, based on the last assertion, “I feel called, and therefore God is calling me.” This is called asserting the consequent, and it is a fallacious way to argue. You might as well say that if God wanted me to be a father, he would have made me a man. I’m a man, and therefore God wants me to be a father. If God calls a man to Pastor, that man will feel the call. But the feeling is not the call. The call manifests itself in other ways.

One particular way the call will manifest itself will be in the life of the one called. His calling will not merely be evident to himself. Others, particularly his church, will recognize the calling as well. And this is important. The local church plays an important role in recognizing and approving men for the ministry. We’ve endured enough sentimentalist nonsense in this area. The church has a right, rather an obligation, to reject unqualified candidates. Unfortunately, most ordination counsels today serve as rubber stamps for the candidate. He uses the KJV, his doctrinal statement mimics ours… where do I sign?

When a young man demonstrates the qualities required by Scripture, along with an aptitude to preach and lead, a heart for people, and actual fruit, then the local church should recognize the calling of God in his life. In this case, the “clairvoyance” really isn’t. God has laid a burden on that man, and he must carry it.

But all the qualifications in Scripture won’t keep some men from feeling called. Any more than the Biblical prohibition against women pastors keeps women from pastoring. People will do their own thing, will follow their own longings, will place their own feelings on a higher plane than the will of God. But their clairvoyance is really just spookiness masquerading as a divine call.

The callings of God are not found in crystal balls. God reveals these things in very real ways. Put away thy tarot cards. God works through his church.

Our friend, Mr. Clairvoyant, walked up to the Preacher immediately. “Preacher!” he said (Mr. Clairvoyant always called his Preacher ‘Preacher’). “I think God is calling me to be a preacher!” “Well, AMEN! Brutha Clair! I’ve been praying that God would do that for a long time now, especially since you just told me!”

And that very next Sunday, Brother Clair made his way down the aisle to the altar, where the good Pastor told the flock Brother Clair’s story. You can believe me when I say that there wasn’t a dry eye in the congregation… the people knew Brother Clair, it seems, a little too well.

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Categories: Mallinak, The Ministry
  1. December 1, 2006 at 7:36 pm

    This is a great start, and a nice title. I do think we can get a month out of this.

  2. December 1, 2006 at 9:03 pm

    Those are some great points about the call to preach.

  3. December 1, 2006 at 9:14 pm

    Spurgeon has a great chapter on this topic in his book,”Lecture to my Students.”

    The call is important and necessary. The decision to preach is not a career choice! It is a calling. It requires a calling because of the nature of the work. Our work is not to be done with “enticing words of mans wisdom, but it demonstration of the Spirit and of power.” Why? So “that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.”

    I do not believe God makes it hard for someone to know if they are called. That said, I personally struggled with the idea of God calling me to preach before I surrendered to it. I felt I was too short (5″8 1/2″), scared to death to speak in front a crowd, did not have a good speaking voice, etc… However, the desire was ENORMOUS. (This was all way back in 1987, when I was 17!) Then a pastor told me, God was not looking at my abilities, but my availability. VERY TRUE!

    I discovered when God calls, He equips! The Lord gives the ability when He calls. (Which, by the way, is another indication of a calling.)

    When the Lord was leading me to PNG, thus leaving my assistant pastor position at my home church, I had to learn the truth all over again. I had forgotten all that the Lord had already showed me when he called me to preach. There was no way I thought I was “qualified” to be missionary in the jungles of PNG. I grew up in Cleveland, Ohio!

    I am not alone, though, with men who questioned God calling them into some area of service: Moses and Gideon come to mind.

  4. December 2, 2006 at 12:24 am

    Interesting topic, great title, some fine points. There is way too much charismatism in the general teaching concerning “the call”, I think.

    However, I am not yet convinced that there is a specific call to the ministry today. All we have in the Bible is examples of significant figures in ‘salvation-history’ who definitely were called – Jeremiah (and the other prophets) as you mentioned, Paul and the Twelve, most definitely (except maybe Matthias?). But… Timothy was called by Paul, the elders of the churches in Acts were often appointed by Paul, etc.

    I would agree that the desire of 1 Tim 3 is not simply just the desire for the ‘fame’ or ‘glamour’ of the pulpit, and there is a ‘necessity’ that Paul talked about in 1 Cor 9. That is something. It isn’t just a volunteerism, but I have difficulty making it a special call either.

    I am making these comments not to argue the point, but to challenge you in writing on this topic to work on biblical arguments for the ongoing ‘call’ as such. Does it really exist and how do we define it biblically?

    Regards,
    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3

  5. December 2, 2006 at 12:34 am

    Don,

    Thanks for your thoughts. What I write, I believe, will be exegetical, but I’m interested in someone blowing holes in it if possible. We shall see.

  6. December 2, 2006 at 10:34 am

    Don,

    The topic has also challenged me to look into this in more depth, particularly as I wrote this post. The reason? Because when I wrote the post, I struggled to find passages that mandated a particular call. Spurgeon’s chapter on the call to the ministry (referred to by Terry) does not give a particular proof text for a specific call. Yet it demonstrates that historically, pastors and theologians have believed this to be a necessity.

    So, I hope we see this explored in more depth than my first (and feeblest) attempt. But let me also say that I am not convinced that we need a proof text to argue for a specific call. I would need to see a proof text that requires us always to have proof texts.

    And as far as Matthias, Timothy, the church elders, etc., I would have to ask, if God uses men to call other men, or churches to call other men, couldn’t that be considered a specific call? Must the call come directly from God to man? Or could God call men through human means? Don’t we see God calling men to salvation this way? Then why not to the ministry also?

  7. December 2, 2006 at 10:39 am

    By the way, I appreciate what Terry said, and would like to point out that most of the men I know who were called of God will tell you that they seriously doubted and in fact denied that God was calling for a lengthy period of time before finally surrendering. In other words, there was a period of time in which they desired to not be in the ministry.

    That being said, if you’ve ever heard Terry preach, or spent some time with him, then you will know what I mean when I say that when God calls a man, he equips that man, marks him in a special and evident way. It is very evident that God called Terry.

  8. December 2, 2006 at 10:53 am

    Thanks for the good responses, guys. I should make it clear that I do not deny the possibility of a special call, but I have a great deal of difficulty finding a biblical justification for it in *every* case.

    It is a worthy topic to explore. I appreciate what you are saying on this and look forward to more thoughts. What I want to avoid myself is the ‘spooky’ semi-charismatic approach of many.

  9. December 2, 2006 at 11:01 am

    Paul said, “If a man DESIRE the office of a bishop,” and “it is God which worketh in you both TO WILL and to do of his good pleasure.” I believe you are called to preach when it is a burning desire that God has put in your heart. I do not think that it should be a story of one who hates to preach or pastor, but was “called” and is doing it against their desire and will. God will work it into your heart so that you will not be happy doing anything else. That is how I know I am called to preach. If the desire is truly from the Lord, and not peer-pressure, it will be one that will not go away and that will overcome circumstances.

  10. Andrew T
    December 4, 2006 at 5:57 pm

    The point made about the Local Church playing an important role in determining if a man is called or not is one I believe to be often overlooked. It was the church of Antioch who ordained and sent Paul and Barnabas.

    I believe in many large churches this is difficult. Often the senior pastor spends little or no time with “preacher boys”, instead delegating them to assistants. In many cases these assistants are men who have never pastored a church themselves. This I believe to be harmful and is a great disservice to those preacher boys. Also how can a church/pastor see the evident call to preach when they hardly know the kid?

    My greatest time of training for the pastorate was not the four years of Bible College but the five years as an assistant in a small church.

  11. December 4, 2006 at 9:34 pm

    “Also how can a church/pastor see the evident call to preach when they hardly know the kid?”

    Good question Andrew. If it is acceptable for a female to put some input here, I will try to answer that question.

    Church is a body of believers, everyone active in the church will have some sort of idea of the kid. The Pastor, especially in large churches, often has delegated this postion to the youth pastor and trust the youth pastor’s guidance and judgement.

  12. December 4, 2006 at 11:03 pm

    Pastor Mallinak stated “Growing up, most if not all of the teens in our youth group were “called.” While some are fulfilling that call, many reveal that the call was a “preacher call,” or a “peer-pressure” call”

    Growing up together I can vouch for that. The other misleading calling was that of women. We were never taught the Biblical truth that “Men are called to a task, women are called to a man to carry out a task”

    I know this deals specifically on the calling of a pastor, I just thought I would add this for good measure.

  13. December 5, 2006 at 12:15 am

    The points regarding church approval are vital, I think, even though I am still ambivalent on a specific call. The man who will make it in the ministryh will have a track record of non-pastoral ministry behind him. Even in large churches, there are opportunities for involvement that will naturally lead to recognition. Basically, a man just needs to get busy soulwinning, leading Bible studies, teaching where he can, whatever. It will be noticed if the heart truly is in it.

    I have encouraged my own son, now that he is in graduate school, to get involved in a smaller local church to get some hands on ministry experience, as well as to get another pastor (other than his UNBIASED dad — yeah, right!!) to evaluate him and aid in training him. I am quite thankful that he has followed up on that advice and found a place on his own to work in on the weekends while he prepares academically at the same time. I wanted him in a smaller church since he has expressed a desire to come back to Canada and… we don’t have anything else, here!!

    Regards,
    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3

  14. December 5, 2006 at 2:30 pm

    I like what you’ve said Bro. Johnson.

  15. December 20, 2006 at 1:41 pm

    I believe you are called to preach when it is a burning desire that God has put in your heart. I do not think that it should be a story of one who hates to preach or pastor, but was “called” and is doing it against their desire and will. God will work it into your heart so that you will not be happy doing anything else. That is how I know I am called to preach. If the desire is truly from the Lord, and not peer-pressure, it will be one that will not go away and that will overcome circumstances.

    Bro. Derek, you hit the nail right on the head. I know I am called by the Lord to preach because nothing else fulfills me, except for when I am digging into the Word and preaching it to others. There is a desire to preach in the back of my mind that is always there – a certainty, a sense of responsibility too. There is no anxiety about the call to preach (though there was before I actually gave myself to the Lord and wholly submitted to His will in this area), but fear and trembling when it comes to making sure I am prepared, spiritually-ready, focussing on what the Lord would have me preach that day.

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