In this video, Steven Lawson gives advice regarding being called to pastoral ministry.
What I would say to any young man who aspires to be a pastor is number one, you need to sit under strong, expository preaching. If this is what you’re going to do for the rest of your life, preaching is really, I think, more caught than it is taught. You need to sit under a role model of someone who is preaching the Word of God in a way that becomes an influence upon your life.
The second thing I would say is that you need more than just one influence. A mistake that so many young men make is they just have one dominant influence in their life on how to preach. And you get the strengths, but you also get the weaknesses and the blind spots of that one man. And so, you need multiple influences upon you.
And right now, quite frankly, with podcasts, you just have to be lazy not to listen to great preaching.
When I was a young man, you had to write a check, mail it into a ministry, and two months later you get a cassette tape. It was just forever to listen to good preaching. Now, as twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, you need to be listening to great preaching, but you need to be in person sitting under strong, dominant exposition—exegetically, theologically driven preaching of the Word of God with the life-changing application. So, wherever that person is you need to be sitting under, that’s where you need to be. Please do not go to seminary having not sat under what it is you’re going to do for the rest of your life.
The second thing is you need to be involved in ministry yourself. You need to be tested, even if it’s teaching Sunday school or a retirement home or a men’s Bible study. Wherever it is, you need to step into what it is you’re going to be doing the rest of your life. Do you have giftedness to do this? Do other people think you have giftedness to do this? Do you take pleasure from doing this? Don’t go all the way through seminary and then try to find out. Seminary is not intended to be a glorified Bible study for you. I mean, it’s intended to equip you for ministry for the rest of your life. You need to know that before you even go to seminary.
Interesting point: Spurgeon’s Pastors’ College—you could not enter into his, in essence, seminary unless you were already preaching and you had already led people to Christ through your preaching. And you had to demonstrate to Spurgeon that you had a voice strong enough to preach.
And he said: “If God wants you to fly, He’ll give you wings. And if He wants you to preach, He’ll give you a voice and a mind to preach.” You couldn’t even be admitted into his school without having demonstrated that you have giftedness and God-given ability to preach. So I say to young men, you’ve got to come to an understanding of this on the front end and not wait until after you graduate to try to discover yourself.
So, those two things. And then I would also strongly suggest reading Christian biographies of preachers to get into the skin, stand in the shoes, of great preachers down through the centuries. And to feel the warmth of their passion for preaching. And to read about George Whitfield, to read about Jonathan Edwards and Spurgeon and Lloyd-Jones and Calvin and Luther. You need to have fellowship with these dead men. And it’s a company of preachers that needs to surround you as you are preparing to go to seminary or into the ministry. You need to know how they think, what they feel, the critical issues that shaped their life and directed their ministry. You need to know all about these men.
So, those are the three things that I would say to a young man who is considering going into the ministry. You need to sit under strong preaching. You need to be teaching and preaching yourself before you go. And you need to read Christian biographies about these great men who have gone before you, so you kind of know what you’re getting into. So, that would be my counsel. And I think it would be very helpful to any young man to follow that counsel.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on December 16, 2019.