Can You Keep from Preaching?
One of the blogs I read is done by H. B. Charles, Jr. and I find it consistently sound and enjoyable. His latest post is entitled, “If You Can Keep From Preaching , Do It.” It is a simple post that offers simple, straight-forward advice to young, aspiring preachers. Here is a small taste of it:
One day, I had a conversation with a friend who was seeking to discern whether the Lord was calling him to pastoral or pulpit ministry. As he discussed it with me, he noted that he had mentioned this matter to me several times before without comment from me. He was right. I hadn’t responded. And I sensed that he was waiting on a response this time.
So I prayed an emergency prayer to God about what to say. And what came to my mind is what my father said to me some twenty years ago about whether I should continue in the ministry: “If you can keep from preaching, do it.”
I was about fifteen years old. And my father had given me the opportunity to preach his 11 AM service. I remember two things about that sermon.
It was the hardest I had ever worked on a sermon.
It was also the first time I received direct criticism about my preaching.
Now I will skip any real discussion about the validity of a fifteen year old preaching. My point in this post is the common statement that if there is anything else you can do other than preach/pastor you should do it. The rationale is that pastoral ministry, especially preaching, is hard, discouraging, and not for the faint of heart. This was said to me and my fellow seminarians on multiple occasions and never, ever did it sound true.
When I personally heard it the first time I immediately thought of the fact that I had just had a very high paying job offered to me in another state for a great salary. I was good at what I did and a head hunter recognized it. Later I became a reserve police officer for the city of Glendale, CA and found out I was very good at that job as well and I was asked to come on full time. Then there was the fact that I was a fully trained baker and had sound management skills in the realm of mid-range restaurants. My point here is simple. I could do a lot of different things and even succeed at them. So was I a fool to press on in pastoral training? Being stubborn, and noticing that in every case there was never a bible text that drove those comments about not entering the preaching ministry, I chose to push on.
Fifteen years later I am still a pastor, still pastoring the same church, and have no plans to do anything else. So what do I think of these kind of statements? I dislike them. A lot.
I understand what is meant by them, but sadly what is meant is seldom actually said. They are warning young men to really think hard about what they are entering into. It is hard. It is not a place for the wimpy (not if it will be a biblically driven work that is God-centered). For every “thanks” you will have five criticisms. Your back will get used to having knives stuck in it, etc., etc., etc.)
Not that it is a miserable because it isn’t. I am marrying the children of those who were there when I first arrived. I am helping those young families think through a biblical marriage and family. I have had the privilege to help heal marriages and weep with those who lost someone. I am humbled when I watch a person come to saving faith through my preaching and I grin from ear to ear when I watch a man stand up and be a godly man. Good stuff. And I get paid to do it. I am granted hours every week to study and read. I am entrusted to open the bible and teach it to God’s people. I wouldn’t trade it for a moment.
But that doesn’t mean I couldn’t, because I could. And many men I know could as well. The point is not, “If there is something else you can do, do it.” It is, are you will to forsake those other things if the gospel ministry requires all of you? I said, “Yes” many years ago and there are many other friends who have done the same. That is the question that young men need to hear because, in many ways, there is no going back.