Jonathan is a member of South Holland Protestant Reformed Church in South Holland, Illinois. This article was written as a scholarship essay.
It is the case that, in virtually anything, reality can be viewed from multiple perspectives. A banker or businessman traveling Eurorail from Amsterdam, Holland to Berlin, Germany might have viewed the magnificent tulips and saw dollar figures. President Bush trying to clear his mind of the Palestinian peace problem, might have viewed the gardens as cathartic forces. No doubt D. L. Moody would have been spiritually electrified and calmly motivated when awed by another representation of God’s creation.
People view things differently. Different people see different things. This especially finds application in theology, only on an even grander scale. Theological discourse essentially has only two perspectives, divine and human. There is somewhat of a “validity [for] multiple perspectives in theology,” as Poythress asserts in Symphonic Theology, but it is my contention that God sees things in only one way. The immutability of God can be applied to His perspective on reality, thus eliminating an ultimate multiplicity of divine vision. What Poythress was attempting to get across has to do with the contextual diversity within the Bible. The Bible pictures itself from many different cultural, social, linguistic, and even theological viewpoints. It is multifaceted—in a way to enable us to appreciate its richness. But, it almost goes without saying that God communicates to His people one message, simple and clear. By faith men and women lay hold upon the way God sees things, and live out of that consciousness.
Desire to preach, therefore, can be explained with numerous human insights, but really only from two spiritual planes, God’s view and ours. The former is known from the Bible, God’s Word to us. The latter can be explained by different people in different ways, depending on the individual vantage point. Peter Y. De Jong says this: “Life has become so complex and closely interrelated that no question can be faced in isolation.” (DeJong, 11)
We really need to consider every human insight, thought, and impression to get the most accurate human perspective. But from the omniscient God, in Whom is all knowledge, we look for yet another view: His.
We must keep a distinction between God’s view and ours. We are not God! We are creatures, limited and lowly. Our visions are humble, God’s is exalted. But God does show us a glimpse of His view. God views ministers as sacred, set apart, as we learn from the handling of the levitical tribe. God views the desire to preach as urgent, important, and unavoidable. God insists that Moses lead the Israelites, despite Moses’ objections. The same with Jonah. We get a sense of God’s passion for souls, as it were, His profound interest in reaching His people with His message of love. God desires to see His people convicted of their sin, to serve and love Him, and experience Him. Therefore, He is demanding and forceful in the calling of His servants to proclaim His message. God lays it upon men, as Paul: “For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!” (1 Cor. 9:16). We see control and sovereignty in God, yet we also see His deep love—an immense, overflowing, intense focus and dedication of God to see His people brought from their misery to delight in Him.
Human testimonies and experiences do speak, in a way, about God. It might be possible to infer a truth about God from His ruling powers upon an individual. If not, the divine view just given still would stand from other exclusively divine words, however. But our intention at this point is to sketch the human end of the concept. How have humans historically responded to the call, and what has motivated them to genuinely desire to preach?
It doesn’t seem altogether difficult to trace reasons why one might be hesitant to pursue the ministry. Numerous challenges need to be confronted and fought. These challenges might be able to be categorized as intellectual, biblical, physical, and personal. They are somewhat interrelated and overlapping, as the case may be.
The intellectual challenge encountered might be a main deterrent. The rigorous academic curriculum established for ministers of the Word who need to master foreign language requirements such as Greek and Hebrew is often tremendously daunting. Intellectual aptitude is, however, essential for a minister to rightly handle the word of truth (2 Tim. 2:15). Much direct consequence in the spiritual lives of members of the church may be traced back to the preaching and instruction received.
In addition to being intellectually qualified, one must meet the biblical requirements. One must meet the eligibility requirements of 1 Timothy 3, and Titus 1. One must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, etc. Many an individual may be discouraged from entering the ministry due to spiritual inadequacies along these lines.
Not to be omitted, the woman can find no biblical identification for preaching. Nowhere does the Bible validate the ordination and preaching of a woman. Rather, 1 Timothy 2:12 bars women from preaching or exercising authority over a man; she must be positionally lower.
There also may be physical limitations which prevent one from maintaining openness to these career choices. Understandably, if one lacks gifts of speech necessary for preaching, one cannot preach. To preach one must possess adequate articulation, verbal power in projection—thus conveying the message of the cross dynamically, powerfully, and vibrantly. To teach and instruct, one must also be equipped with abilities to effectively communicate knowledge to students.
Another criterion in determining one’s eligibility to preach is whether or not one’s personality type is compatible to the nature of minister. A popular career book, entitled Do What You Are, states:
[T]he secret of career satisfaction lies in doing what you enjoy most…. most of us are caught in a kind of psychological wresting match, torn between what we think we can do, what we (or others) feel we ought to do, and what we think we want to do. Our advice? Concentrate instead on who you are, and the rest will fall into place (Barron-Tieger, 5).
One must be suited in temperament to preach. Preaching must be something you can feel energized by, appreciated and respected in, and view the future optimistically through (Barron-Tieger, 3).
The fact is, if one is able to move beyond the challenges to the ministry, one must also be moved to preach. As asserts R. B. Kuiper:
[I]f one has a desire to bring the gospel to the unsaved, a desire which is not weak but compelling, not ephemeral but persistent in spite of seemingly insuperable obstacles and an irrepressible sense of one’s unworthiness of, and insufficiency for, so glorious and so exacting a task, it is perfectly proper for him in the interest of his own satisfaction and happiness to yield to that desire (Kuiper, 6).
Often an interest in, or serious consideration of the ministry finds precedence in the Christian family and church home. In a family where father and mother emphasize the importance of godly instruction, in a church where minister insists on the centrality of biblical preaching—by these means is often developed an overwhelming desire to preach. The young believer initially responds to the gospel of grace with fervent acceptance, grows steadily to spiritual maturity and can do no otherwise than publicize his impressions. This radiant enthusiasm does not, of course, necessitate preaching, but occasionally the Lord may stir the heart of one inwardly to dedicate his life specifically to this vocation. But apart from the regenerating power of God and the embrace of ecclesiastical doctrine one ought not set aside his life to preach. Godly motives to pursue and desire preaching must be God-given, church-inculcated, and home-cultivated.
Often children are encouraged more to remain in the family business than to aspire to teaching or preaching. For example, Martin Luther’s father intended to make him a lawyer (Beza, 54). Calvin also first aspired to the legal profession (Beza, 139). Fact is, the world does not esteem any position promoting the Christian truth.
Precisely how much worldly ideologies influence the people of God is, however, hard to calculate. We need to admit we are continually vulnerable to philosophies of the world. The book, 101 Careers: A Guide to the Fastest Growing Opportunities, reveals the fastest growing occupational areas, but also reveals something about worldwide spirituality. No increase in educational careers is projected; religious vocations are not even mentioned. Another evidence our world is in spiritual jeopardy!
We could never take into account every perspective or insight, but we should be aware by now that the desire to preach is a personal compulsion, conscientious conviction, and an irresistible urge. Although difficulties might generate despair, God will cause the faithful and called to persist. He will blend their unique and needed gifts with His grace and given passion. He will bless them, if indeed they trust in Him. “Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it” (Ps. 127:1).
Beza, Theodore. Beza’s Icones: Contemporary Portraits of Reformers of Religion and Letters. London: The Religious Tract Society, 1906.
De Jong, Peter Y. The Ministry of Mercy for Today. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1963.
Harkavy, Michael. 101 Careers: A Guide to the Fastest Growing Opportunities. John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1999.
Kuiper, R. B. God-Centered Evangelism. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1963.
Poythress, Vein S. Symphonic Theology: The Validity of Multiple Perspectives in Theology. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1987.