John is a member of Byron Center Protestant Reformed Church in Byron Center, Michigan. He wrote this article for the 2001 Protestant Reformed Scholarship.
Every Christian is called by God to serve Him in every area of our lives. Indeed, God commands us to do all things to His glory (1 Cor. 10:31). Whether we are mechanics or lawyers, doctors or nurses, fathers or mothers, we must all serve God to our utmost in the place where He has led us. But, how does God lead us to the vocation where He would have us serve Him?
God leads us to our respective callings through a variety of means. These means might entail suggestions from our parents, experiences during our childhood, talents that we perceived while in school, and opportunities which come our way—to name only a few. Always, however, God uses His word and His Spirit to lead and guide His people. When God’s “word is a lamp unto (our) feet” (Psalm 119:105), we can gauge if He would have us pursue one vocation or another. For example, if we know that a particular vocation will entail union membership, then we can certainly know from God’s word that He is not leading us to pursue such a vocation; His word is abundantly clear that we must submit to all authority He has placed over us. While God’s word will often give us clear principles that we must use in making our vocational decisions, His Spirit may lead us in ways that may not be as obvious to us. However, the fact that God works in our hearts to mold us and to lead us in His paths cannot be denied. “For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13). God uses His Spirit to convict us of our sin and to cause our hearts to seek closer fellowship with Him. When we are being led by the Spirit our desire to serve Him will often cause us to choose one vocation over another. As one of His children, I believe God is directing my life by His word and by His Spirit.
The first thing I would like to address in terms of God’s leading me in my life is His calling me to be a member of a Protestant Reformed Church. Article 28 of the Belgic Confession states very clearly that all men are duty bound to join themselves to the true church of Christ. Since we ought to be members of the true church, it only makes sense that we ought to be associated with the truest church. The church that upholds pure and biblical doctrine ought to be the church that all believers support. Joining another less pure church would tend to prop up the false teachings that are being propagated by that church and so would tend to undermine the truth. Since I believe that the teachings of the Protestant Reformed Churches are the closest to the teachings of Scripture, I am duty bound before God to be a member of a Protestant Reformed church.
Second, I believe that God may be leading me to be a minister of the gospel. This leading has become clearer to me over time as various influences have taken form. I have received suggestions and comments from those whom I respect. Though the suggestions were not great in number, they have contributed to my conviction that God may be pleased to use me in the ministry. In addition to the comments that have come my way, I have also been burdened with the question of serving in the church for a number of years. These thoughts about the ministry have been recurring and served to strengthen the conviction that God might have me serve in the church in the way of preaching.
These desires to minister in the church, however, may simply be a manifestation of love for the truth. Having a desire to minister in the church is not sufficient; one must also possess the gifts that are required to fulfill the duties of the office of a minister. A man may have a sincere desire to serve as a preacher, but that is not a proper basis for admitting him to the office of minister. The church must first confirm his gifts. Once a man’s gifts and the evidence of his calling are confirmed, the church may then lawfully call him. No man ought to thrust himself on the church (Belgic Confession, Article 31). If God is truly calling a man to minister in His church, He will make the gifts of that man evident to the church and the church will then call him to serve.
Third, if God would have me be a minister of the Gospel then the ministering must be as a member of a Protestant Reformed church. The same reasons that one has for becoming a member of the true church must also be the reasons why one must minister as a member of that church. If God calls a man to be a minister of the Gospel, He will not cause that man to leave the true church in order to do the ministering. Surely, if one could not join a denomination in good conscience, then he ought not minister as a member in that denomination either. This ministering of the gospel, then, must be done in a true church, i.e., a church that holds to the purest biblical doctrine and practice. A faithful minister, laboring on behalf of a less pure church would not only deprive a more faithful church of his labors but also keep some of the saints in that less faithful church when they also should be joining a more faithful church. Therefore, if I am to be a preacher of the gospel, it must be as a Protestant Reformed minister.
Ministering in a Protestant Reformed church will serve to build up the church in several ways. Preaching in a Protestant Reformed church will serve to promote the truths which God has entrusted to us. Such precious truths include His everlasting covenant with all believers, God’s sovereign particular grace, His hatred of divorce and the sin of remarriage of divorced persons, and the principle of the antithesis that applies to every area of our lives. Preaching in a Protestant Reformed church will also serve to defend against those who would seek to subvert the truth of God’s word. When God’s people rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem in Nehemiah’s day, they did so with a sword in one hand and bricks in the other. Ministering to the saints in the true church will involve both building and defending.
Ultimately, should God be pleased to call me as a minister in the Protestant Reformed Churches, I must obey that call. We all pray for the “peace of Jerusalem” (Psalm 122:6). By choosing to prepare for the ministry in the Protestant Reformed Churches, I have simply expressed my willingness to seek the good of Jerusalem through the ministry of the gospel. We must always seek the good of the church, whether it is from the pulpit or the pew, with our money and/or our time. All that we have belongs to God and we ought to seek to use all our talents and abilities that God gives us for His kingdom.
May God prosper His Church on earth until Christ comes again.