This entry introduces my call to preach and thus requires a disclaimer. There are no callings that are greater than others in the Kingdom of God. Pastors aren’t more important than deacons or teachers or anyone else who fulfills the call of God for their life. In the body of Christ there simply are no lesser members, just degrees of faithfulness. Having affirmed this Biblical truth, it should also be acknowledged that in the Pentecostal tradition there has been a stratification of honor, with preachers being at the top. I grew up in an ecclesial context in which everyone was called to serve God in general but only a few received a special call to “the ministry,” and that was always a call to preach. Pastors, evangelists, Overseers, and missionaries were all first called to preach. I am both the product of and a critic of this bifurcation of the Body of Christ. Yet, I cannot deny my personal call to preach; it came to me on Monday evening, February 12, 1973 and it was the most clear and profound voice I have ever heard.
Years earlier, when I was a young child I had a severe speech impediment. Our family physician thought I needed surgery to have my tongue “clipped,” but my mother believed God was going to heal me. She believed that in part because Aunt Jenny Williams, her spiritual mentor, had told her and others “God is going to straighten his tongue out and he is going to be a preacher. I won’t live to see it, but God will straighten that tongue out and he will preach the Word of God.” A few years later an evangelist called me out during his sermon and announced God had just revealed to him I was going to be a preacher. He had the congregation pray for me. I had no recollection of these events until reminded of them after my call to preach. They were never talked about; my mother later said she decided, like Mary, to “hide them in her heart”.
So I pause here to thank God for the fact he has a plan for our lives. He often reveals the big picture or fragments of that plan to others long before he reveals it to us. At least in the Pentecostal churches of my childhood the saints often seemed to have special knowledge about the future of children. Most often it was a simple exhortation, “Honey, God has a special plan for your life. You just seek Him and He will reveal it to you in His timing.” The unwise pressed larger-than-life callings on unprepared children who did not know how to deal with it; some became fixated on the grandiose self seeing themselves as the saviors of the world, others in adolescence rebelled and forsook the faith. The majority of Spirit-filled parents, like my mother, cherished the prophesies but did nothing to try to cause them to come to pass. They knew God would have to make his plan known to the child when the child was ready. I am thankful God has a plan for my life. I am thankful for Aunt Jenny Williams, for the evangelist, and mostly for my mother who knew enough to wait and let God work out His plan.
January 15, 2010