On Mondays, The Preacher is going to consider the vitally important subject of The Call – how God calls a man into a pastoral and preaching ministry. Over coming weeks we will look at some scriptural principles and some practical considerations, as well as learn from a wide range of individual testimonies.
One of the fascinating things about this subject is the variety of people’s experiences as they come to discern God’s call on their lives, and I, for one, never tire hearing of the different paths God leads his servants along.
I have asked a range of preachers – well-known and less so – to share their testimony with us and I’ll be posting them over the coming weeks and months. But I thought I should begin with my own story of The Call – so here it is.
It was during my last year at school that I began to seriously consider what path I was going to follow for a career. I was already involved in teaching and leading a young people’s group in the church of which my Father was the minister and I was a member. Initially, much as I enjoyed that role, I don’t remember giving any serious thought to pastoral ministry as a calling but tentatively looked at teaching and one or two other possibilities. However, it wasn’t long before the idea occurred to me – and I put it no stronger at that stage – that perhaps I should consider pastoral ministry.
The obvious person to first speak to was my own Dad! He mentioned to me that he wasn’t surprised but was intrigued because just a few days previously my twin brother had approached him for the very same reason. This led me to be more cautious as I began to wonder whether, as the son and grandson of ministers, I was trying to stay within the confines of a world I was very familiar in and comfortable with. My Dad’s advice to me was wise and also, as I discovered much later, Spurgeonic; namely, go away and try and forget it and find something else to do, and if that fails, we would talk again. I genuinely tried and failed and so a follow-up conversation ensued.
In the meantime, I had begun preaching at a few local churches and was also involved in a gospel group I was part of. The enjoyment in preaching was growing and there were numerous responses from people which gave evidence that God was graciously using my very immature preaching of his Word.
Following a further conversation with my Dad, I was encouraged to approach the Baptist College in Glasgow and was subsequently accepted, though no other commendations were sought, if I remember correctly, than that of my own father. Very soon after that, for various reasons, God providentially closed the door to the Baptist College and then opened the door to the Bible Training Institute (BTI) in Glasgow, where I spent the best three years of my life, receiving, in the words of the Principal, Rev Dr Geoffrey Grogan, the best training imaginable (BTI). I will always thank God for those years of training and experience.
During my time at College I regularly preached at local churches but also at several student events and led the street work of the College in Glasgow City centre. All of this not only gave me greater experience in preaching but also provided confirmation from a variety of sources that God had gifted and called me to be a preacher and pastor. As part of my College course I was placed as student assistant in an evangelical C of S congregation in Falkirk, being guided and mentored by the godly Rev Dr Bob McGhee, who became a dear friend. Again, my gifts and calling were being tested and confirmed all the time.
The year after College was a testing one for Caroline and myself as I was unemployed for that period of time but had many opportunities for preaching. During that year I was, at different times, in conversation with three congregations who expressed an interest in my becoming their pastor but, in each case I personally strongly sensed this was not the right place for me and so I withdrew. I then, through a remarkable set of circumstances, including the involvement of the late Derek Prime, was invited to preach at an independent church in Kentish Town, London, and, as a result, received a unanimous call to the pastorate there which I joyfully accepted. Prior to moving south, I was ordained by the leaders of the independent evangelical church in Grangemouth where we worshipped, joined by Dr Grogan. That call to London was, at least for that stage in my life, the final objective and external seal and confirmation on the call that had begun subjectively and internally in my own heart some 10 or 11 years previously.
Soli Deo Gloria!