By Clarence Hearron

While a student at the University of Florida, I met another minister, a classmate who was preaching at a small church he located through the Baptist Student Union. Our term was almost over, and he wanted someone to take his place before returning home to Tennessee. Together, we consulted a young man we had heard was a preacher.

He asked the young man to share his experience of grace and his call to the ministry. The young man replied, “That is a private matter and is nobody’s business but mine.”

After we left the interview, I turned to my friend and said, “I wouldn’t recommend him to be a dog catcher.” He agreed. Salvation and the call to the ministry are indeed private, but they do not remain so.

Reality of a Call

Free Will Baptists, along with many others, believe that the call to the ministry is a reality. The prophets received divine calls. For instance, Isaiah records his call in Isaiah 6:1–10.

Jeremiah was told, “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” (Jeremiah 1:5).

Another prophet we all know, perhaps because of his refusal, is Jonah. There was no doubt in his mind that God called him. He finally and reluctantly obeyed the call.

Jesus called 12 apostles and ordained them “…that they should be with him, and that he might send them forth to preach” (Mark 3:14).

Paul is another example of a man the Lord called to preach. “And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry” (I Timothy 1:12). Paul’s experience of conversion and call is recorded three times in the book of Acts.

Realizing the Call

My own call to the ministry nearly 60 years ago remains as clear today as it was then. Others who have surrendered to the call to ministry tell the same story. The Holy Spirit begins by impressing a burden upon the heart and mind of the individual to do more. This is not always a call to preach. At times, it may simply be a call to some special service for the Lord

Often, however, this deep burden indicates the Lord’s calling, and it is so much better for the individual to yield to the call as soon as he is certain. Why? The Apostle Paul made it clear when he said, “Woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!” (I Corinthians 9:16c).

Requirements of the Call

Should the man of God prepare for his preaching ministry or should one just rely on the Lord to “fill his mouth”? Perhaps you’ve heard the old story of the preacher who remarked just prior to delivering his sermon, “I wasn’t wearing a tie when the Lord called me, and I’m not wearing one now.”

A member of the congregation quickly piped up, “I’m glad you weren’t in the bathtub when the Lord called you!”

Sadly, this humorous story reflects the attitude of many preachers regarding their preparation for the ministry. The Lord does not expect us to remain dormant after being called to preach.

Paul told Timothy, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).

My mother used to tell me, “One can add to or subtract from the Word, but you have to study to know how to rightly divide the Word.” How right she was!

Another young preacher made an entirely different statement, “I believe the call to preach is a call to prepare.”

I agree! Preparation is essential. But how should one prepare? Many pioneer preachers, unable to attend college immersed themselves in the Word and spent long hours in study.

My own father, W.A. Hearron, with a third-grade education, taught himself to read Greek and studied many subjects related to theology. He believed in preparing for the ministry.

Paul studied the parchments (Scriptures) faithfully. He also advised Timothy, “Give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine” (1 Timothy 4:13) and “The things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also” (2 Timothy 2:2).

According to these instructions, one needs to be careful where he gets his preparation. Thank God for today’s colleges that prepare young men for a productive ministry.

Length of Call

Does God call for a season only or is the calling indefinite? A man may retire from the pastorate, but the calling of God is “without repentance” (Romans 11:29). In other words, when God calls, He does not change His mind. Until one has finished his course, or is physically unable, he should be ready to preach the gospel.

Many older ministers continue to be a tremendous help to younger pastors by mentoring them in the ministry. Experience is invaluable, and no preacher should be “put on the shelf” or “turned out to pasture.”

At the same time, elder ministers should not demand a position. We need grow old gracefully, doing all we can to help younger ministers succeed.

About the Writer: Clarence Hearron served as minister, pastor, state leader, college administrator, and writer for more than 60 years.