Everyone has a story.
I’m writing about the circumstances of my calling to answer a recent question.
Recently, I led my congregation in a unique service. For about three weeks, individuals were asked to submit their questions. On the designated “ASK US ANYTHING” Sunday, my senior ministry staff and I sat on stage and answered about two dozen questions.
As I suspected they would, many people waited until the last few days to submit questions. More questions came in at the end than we could publicly answer.
One sincere question that didn’t get answered was by a dear church member with an intelligent and inquisitive heart.
“What person or event other than the Holy Spirit or your salvation drew you into the ministry of Jesus Christ?”
Well, “it was a dark and stormy night.” Just kidding. But be warned, I’m not good at giving a short answer to a question like that. Yet, I’ll try to provide the condensed version.
I had been exposed to the Gospel a few times in my childhood. But at the end of 1991, I made an adult commitment to follow Christ. As a saved man, I was growing spiritually with an insatiable hunger for righteousness.
In late 1993 and into the middle of 1994, our home church and community were experiencing a small-scale awakening. During these revival fires, I recall five or six of my friends experienced what they described as a calling to preach. It was one every other week for a while.
I waited. I prayed.
More than anything, I didn’t want to be thought of as one more emotionally charged believer on the bandwagon.
The Holy Spirit continued to burden me and deal with my stubborn will.
I had only personally heard about a dozen different preachers in my young life. And then, one day at church, we had a guest speaker. His gifting was different than any other I’d ever heard. Let me try to explain.
His manner of speech was rhythmic and smooth. His words per minute fluctuated up and then backed down as his sermon logically worked to a crescendo. I was captivated. Many listeners were metaphorically eating out of the palm of his hands, feasting on heavenly manna. The Spirit of the Lord was upon him.
That experience and subsequent times hearing that Spirit-filled minister changed me. For the first time in my life, I knew that if I were ever to become a preacher, he was a model worth emulating. Something changed in my soul, and resistance was fading.
Bishop James Martin (1930-2008) was that role model and unofficial mentor. I later learned that he had held many honorable positions within our denomination. Before I met him, he had recently been our General Superintendent and was currently serving as our District Superintendent. He was known as a prince among us preachers and highly regarded among our denomination and several others.
Bishop Martin’s residence was near my first pastorate, and he’d sometimes slip into our Sunday evening services. I found it quite intimidating to engage in spoken ministry with him present. But he became a voice of encouragement. I’d sometimes visit his home, and I’d leave there wanting to be more and do more for God.
In that season of late 1993, I experienced a supernatural event. It was about two months before my 22 birthday. It happened about dusk one evening while Lisa and I were sitting together on the sofa looking at the television.
Suddenly, I simultaneously heard the sound of a 22 shotgun, and a voice shouted “twenty-two” so loud that it startled me. I mean, it scared me but not with fear. I was afraid in the sense that God had my attention. If you’ve ever heard the sound of a 22 shotgun, you know that sound will get your attention. Even though I argued that she had to have heard it, Lisa insisted she hadn’t heard anything.
Overnight, God’s will became clear to me. I would have to answer His call upon my life for ministry during that 22nd year of life, or else I’d be walking in willful disobedience. I didn’t know much about the Bible. But I knew enough to know that a life of disobedience would be dangerous ground.
You might think that I would have yielded on my 22nd birthday or a few days after. But I didn’t. I resisted. I prayed. And I waited.
Finally, on Wednesday, April 20, 1994, I yielded. I was prayerfully convinced that I could not go a day longer or a step further. In the early afternoon, while sitting at home alone in my recliner, the Spirit broke me. I wept, rejoiced, and got nervous all at the same time. I came into agreement with God’s will for my present and future life. I knew I’d never be the same because of His sanctifying call. The trajectory of my life was forever altered.
As soon as Lisa arrived home, I told her. She laughed. She smiled. And she laughed some more. That didn’t help my feelings. In her defense, Lisa didn’t marry a holiness preacher. But I was limping after having wrestled with God for way too long. I was so convinced that ten thousand angels couldn’t have changed my mind.
Within a few months of prayer, I became further convinced about God’s call on my future. I understood it to be more than teaching and preaching. I became astutely aware that God’s call upon my life was for ministry leadership.
Even though I was called, I was stuck. By early 1996, the new pastor of our local church and I were becoming close. He agreed to teach me and help me become all God wanted me to be in pursuit of my ministry call. I stayed under his wing and in his library until shortly after my ministry ordination in July 1999. Without this mentoring pastor’s help, I never would have reached my potential. He kept me in historical literature and systematic theology. As well, he gave me ample pulpit opportunities and coaching to help me grow.
While I don’t claim to have reached my full potential, I know I could never repay Pastor Hayward Clark for his investment in me. May God repay his kindness with riches untold. By the time I received ministry ordination, I had been active in spoken ministry for a little over five years. I’d preached well over a hundred times and had taught at least that many adult Sunday school classes.
I’m so grateful for the call of God upon my life. It’s exciting that I get to serve His purposes every day.