Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. –Matt. 7:15
Young men, all of you, beware of false guidance from men who may have ulterior motives to control you for various purposes. They may be dads, uncles, or grandpas, or even pastors. I had a pastor once when I was in high school and he said, “You’re called to the ministry.” That altered the course of my life mission and my educational pursuits at college. And I believed him. I believed every word of what he said, because I had a passion in my heart to feel and understand and know the witness of the Holy Spirit. And I was very much passionate about charismatic worship every Sunday: truly, and really feeling God’s presence all around me, dancing like David (2 Sam. 6). But I didn’t realize, that in my youthful ignorance, I don’t think very many other people were genuinely feeling the presence of God in that church. I think that I was experiencing what they call prevenient or saving grace at that stage, but I am now not so sure if there was anyone else feeling God’s presence. It wasn’t ever talked about by others. Perhaps I was being “elected” by the Holy Spirit, who knows.
In any case, I was not called to the ministry, at least in that pastor’s church. Sooner or later, the time came where I spoke to the pastor and his son (my best friend,) at Starbucks one night. I reminded him that he said I was “called to the ministry,” and I let him know I was interested in studying theology and going to college for it. He looked me square in the eye, and then he says, “I’m never giving you my pulpit.” In a really cocky tone of voice. I was really surprised at him with this. I didn’t quite understand what his motives were originally: why he told me the year or so before that I was called to the ministry; and now he says that he’s never going to give me an opportunity to preach a sermon, to share the things that were stirring in my heart. I had read the Bible back to back by then and was really on fire for God: I wanted to share the Gospel with the lost. And I did sometimes go with his son to do that at the local state university. I don’t quite understand why this pastor pulled this about face. No explanation was given; and it was very confusing, frustrating, and disappointing. Maybe he thought that because I was just a simple teenager, that I was too young to say anything of spiritual value. Maybe he thought I hadn’t “proved faithful” to the church for 20 years straight so he could finally “release” me to preach sermons. God knows what was going on in his head, because he sure didn’t let me know anything further.
Another thing that really baffled me is that my best friend, who was present there, just kind of went along with everything he said; and never really expressed any disagreement with anything that his dad said. And I understood that I was transparent about my temptations and sins with him; and maybe that had something to do with it. But in any case, that’s no way to handle a young man who you genuinely believe is called to a preaching ministry. That young person should be guided, and coached on how to overcome temptation, or whatever other hang-ups he had about me, not being allowed to preach in his church. Since that day, as far as I know, this pastor has barely ever given the opportunity for any of his three sons to preach anything from their experiences. My best friend in fact went on for about 15 years in foreign missions in various South American countries, sacrificing his comfort over here in America, hoping that the time would come when he would finally be able to preach about the Gospel and Pentecostal experience, and do good works for Christ (Eph. 2:8-10). But because he had been so transparent about his temptations, shortcomings, and sins with the pastors down there: they did not give him any opportunities to preach anything; and basically relegated him to the status of an altar boy for years. That is not spiritual leadership. That’s taking advantage of a young man’s trust! I really truly wonder how many times pastors lie to young men, every year, by dropping the line “you’re called to the ministry,” but they have absolutely no desire to let them ever say anything to anyone during a church service. It is through our lives that we worship God, but it is through the “ministry of the Word” that we create impact on others for Jesus (Acts 6:4). It seems to me, that by and large, saying “you’re called to the ministry” is a deceptive little lie that reckless pastors often say, just to motivate otherwise unmotivated young men, to keep on attending their church services.
I don’t quite understand how pastors can manipulate young men like this; and claim to have a clean conscience: promising them opportunities to do good works for Christ: and then afterwards, not give them opportunities to do good works for Christ. What is supposed to be accomplished by that? Why lead them on? Why tell them that, “Yes, you’re called to preach,” and then turn around and give them toilet cleaning duties, and never give them any opportunity to preach? Or have any spiritually developing coaching sessions with them. Or give them a concrete step-by-step ministry training program that they can go through and finally end up preaching something valuable? How many would-be soldiers in the army of God have been aborted by this deceptive and sinful practice, due to discouragement alone? My only explanation for this sort of behavior is that it’s nothing but manipulation on the pastor’s part. He’s only telling this to certain young men to make them ambitious and egocentric, and to feel important, so that they will keep on attending the church services, and fill up the seats to make his church look good on a superficial level. There is nothing, no genuine desire for spiritual mentoring going on there at all. What’s worse, and in the case of this particular church, is now what was once the most rebellious (however good-looking,) daughter of this pastor, is speaking almost every other Sunday there; and none of his three sons ever are. Why is this? Maybe its a marketing spirit at work. Using pretty girls for advertising is one of the oldest business tricks in the book of sales. Sermons should be preached by the men with the highest level of devotion to God. Not because you’re pretty. Not because you make a lot of money. Devotion to God! Consecration, and not carnal reasoning, is what we need in our pulpits! Oh that God would raise up another Wesley to train an army of open air preachers!