As the sole communicator in the sermon, the preacher must be called of God. How is that determined? A genuine conversion is of course the prelude to being called. God does not call professionals. He must continue his study throughout life. Seminary is there to teach you how to study and not to finish the work. Proficiency must be developed by observation and by criticisms. And one must maintain physical vitality and dependence on the Holy Spirit. Probably too many preachers think that they can do the job on their own. People who have a human charisma are especially vulnerable. You can preach the greatest sermon the people have ever heard but apart from the Spirit it will accomplish nothing. I once had a preacher friend tell me that he had preached a great sermon because the congregation broke out into applause. I still wonder if God applauded.

Regarding the call to the ministry, I like Joel Nederhood’s statement that there are no volunteers. A call means you are pressed into service. I remember a Methodist minister I once knew as a youth who told me that he had some other career in mind, but being unable to choose that, he opted for the ministry. It’s not a career and it is particularly not a rewarding career. A few weeks ago the Pastor at the church our family attends remarked in his sermon that all of God’s true servants minister because they have to, and when most of them start out they have no guarantee of provision. A call is an imperative. Paul said it best in I Corinthians 9:16, Yet when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, for I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! Joel Nederhood also reminds us that the call is like getting married. Who is the exact person God has chosen for you? There is nothing in the Bible to help you except general principles. Discerning the will of the Lord requires an acquaintance with Scriptural requirements, an observance of God’s providence, and an inner compulsion that will not go away. We may love the Lord and be fascinated with the Bible, and these are important components in the call, but we must have the right motives and we must gain confirmation of our gifts from others. Above all the call is not static any more than assurance of salvation is static. It grows with the years and does not diminish.

Haselden laments the demise of preaching and blames it on the ineffectiveness and lack of passion of preachers. Men talked before they wrote and the dumbing down of our society should not persuade us that preaching is ineffective. In that case, so is reading,  and the demise of the newspaper only points out that people need to be encouraged to listen and read, and that places a heavy burden on the preacher.

Miller ‘s lectures at Reformed theological Seminary in Jackson, Mississippi speak of our identity. Many people wish to be important in the world, respected and even adulated. However God’s servants cannot afford to be proud. They are servants and they are not greater than their Master, which means that the mind of Christ must be in us, and that mind as Paul says in Philippians 2 is one of utmost humility. A colleague of mine was with us on a trip to Israel. Standing in the synagogue in Nazareth he read the words that Jesus had spoken there almost 2000 years before, and commented on how humbling that experience was. Perhaps we should feel the same way every time we ascend to the pulpit. I like the great preacher Paul’s words in Galatians 6:14,   May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. We were not called to be important to the world. We are important to God like Isaiah, and Jeremiah, and Ezekiel who experienced little success in their time, but we are still listening to their messages.