A Missing Piece of Calling Out Potential Pastors

Charles Spurgeon, in his Lectures to My Students, gives the strong words below about men who feel called to preach. In my experience, churches spend too little time addressing/evaluating this issue when calling out potential pastors.

In the second place, combined with the earnest desire to become a pastor, there must be aptness to teach and some measure of the other qualities needful for the office of a public instructor. A man to prove his call must make a successful trial of these. I do not claim that the first time a man rises to speak he must preach as well as Robert Hall did in his later days. If he preaches no worse than that great man did at the first, he must not be condemned. You are aware that Robert Hall broke down altogether three times, and cried, “If this does not humble me nothing will.” Some of the noblest speakers were not in their early days the most fluent. Even Cicero at first suffered from a weak voice and a difficulty of utterance.   

Still, a man must not consider that he is called to preach until he has proved that he can speak. God certainly has not created behemoth to fly; and should leviathan have a strong desire to ascend with the lark, it would evidently be an unwise aspiration, since he is not furnished with wings. If a man be called to preach, he will be endowed with a degree of speaking ability, which he will cultivate and increase. If the gift of utterance be not there in a measure at the first, it is not likely that it will ever be developed.[1]

What do these words say to today’s church?

  1. We must give teaching opportunities to those who sense some kind of calling from God. Those opportunities might not always be the pulpit on Sunday morning, but we can still find teaching options. And, the young minister who’s unwilling to teach unless he’s in front of the largest crowd may have just disproven his calling.
  2. We must be honest, loving, supportive critics of those we invite to preach. If a pastor is to be “able to teach” (1 Tim 3:2), we must help potential preachers develop that gift. If that patient development convinces us that a brother lacks ability to teach, we must be honest with him.
  3. We must be willing to challenge those members who are, in fact, “apt to teach.” Some of them may have not yet thought about a call to preach, and others may have been unwilling to admit their sense of calling yet. Simply challenging them to consider a call to ministry—based on their lifestyle and their teaching–may provide an open door for them to be honest.
  4. We must not limit our expectations of potential pastors to their preaching ability. More than one scholar has pointed out that the characteristics of elders listed in 1 Timothy 3 are primarily about character. We simply can’t ignore this issue as we call out young pastors.

What are your thoughts on this topic? 


[1] Charles H. Spurgeon, Lectures To My Students (pp. 28-29). Kindle Edition.



  • This article gives me hope. We started a pastoral training training course at our church, and we asked people who felt the call of God on their lives for pastoral ministry, as well as some we approached as elders to consider attending. Then we made sure that we provided multiple opportunities for them to speak on Sunday nights and we let other area churches know that we had a group of young men who were looking for opportunities to preach the Word. Remembering Spurgeon’s address above, and reading the insight pulled from it confirms what we thought to be important, and what we hoped we were doing. Along with preaching opportunities the guys were taught practical ministry on Sunday nights before their preaching, as well as some theology and ecclesiological foundations. We ended up ordaining seven of the ten guys this past Sunday, and four of them are going to work at other churches (which is what we were praying for). We are starting our second cohort next week and this was the perfect time for the Lord to have this article before me.


  • John Carlton says:

    AS a 15 year old boy, my home church elected me as their music director. I knew little about developing a music program, but I was honored and a little scared to death about the responsibility. Dad was the chairman of the deacons, and our pastor was very encouraging. Everyone in the congregation assumed that I would follow in the music field as a vocational music minister. What I was fearful of was that I would follow what everyone thought and wanted me to be rather than listening to God’s calling. I served there in my home church for 3+ years. It was all volunteer serving. A church in another part of the city contacted me about coming and serving their church as a Minister of Music at a salary of $20 a week. (This was 1965.) I was a sophomore in college studying music education, thinking that I would teach in schools. But God had other plans for me.

    In 1966 I joined the USAF to avoid being drafted. (I’m glad that young people don’t have that hanging over their heads today.) This was the greatest thing for me at the time. It got me focused on what I should do with my life. In ’68 my wife and I were married, and I had been elected on a volunteer basis as the music minister at Eielson Park Baptist Church, Fairbanks, AK. (It is now Moose Creek Church). I got out of the Air Force, and started working secular jobs until the Shurlington Church In Macon, GA extended a call for me to be their Minister of Music/Youth. I had no training in working with youth but God saw me through.

    Our grandson is now 14 or will be on the 25th. He is strongly feeling the call to preach and minister. He has some learning disabilities but I communicated with Al James about him asking if there were special needs programs. He told me that there were many. Mark Johnson is his name, and he truly loves the Lord, and shows it. Please pray for him, his dad and mom, and me as we mentor him.

    2 years ago we had a hurricane come through our town. His mom, our daughter, asked if they could stay with us because they had no power, and we had a generator. Sunday church was cancelled, but my wife planned a service for us all here at the house. She asked Mark to find a scripture and read it. Well, He grabbed the bull by the horns and with his dad’s and my help he read and began to preach. The message was short, maybe 6-8 minutes, but it blessed us all. Later in the day he said, “Papa, I’ve got to get ready for the service tonight.” We hadn’t planned on that, but again God had other plans.

    Thank you for letting me share this with you. Mark in 8th grade, so in about 8 or 9 years he may be enrolling in SEBTS.

  • God has put on my heart 20-somethings community ministry. Using Titus about mature Christians helping younger Christians. My leadership was first in a community ministry of 200 singles from over a 100 churches in Wake County 1987 to 1991. The church allowed us with supervision to do outreaches and bible studies. I find opposition in letting future pastors to preach to 20-somethings in my own seminary. I recently had coffee with a seminary professor about connecting with churches who allow 20-somethings from other churches to attend their 20-somethings ministry. He did not know any 20-something ministries and discouraged me from contacting any 20-something ministry.He said I should be inviting 20-somethings to my church. It is hard to explain to the academic world that 20-somethings do not want to leave their home church. What we actually need are church planters who will work with 20-somethings from other churches to bring their friends to Christ but give the 20-somethings the practical knowledge on how to ministry. Their home churches do not want them to leave only to go to a mega church I am Venting…….Please Forgive me

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