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How do I know that I am called?
All the passages below are taken from Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ book “Preaching and Preachers” published in 1971 with the present impression in 1998.
`Am I called to be a preacher or not? How do you know?' I suggest that there are certain tests. A call generally starts in the form of a consciousness within one's own spirit, an awareness of a kind of pressure being brought to bear upon one's spirit, some disturbance in the realm of the spirit, then that your mind is being directed to the whole question of preaching. You have not thought of it deliberately, you have not sat down in cold blood to consider possibilities, and then, having looked at several have decided to take this up. It is not that. This is something that happens to you; it is God dealing with you, and God acting upon you by His Spirit; it is something you become aware of rather than what you do. It is thrust upon you, it is presented to you and almost forced upon you constantly in this way.
Then what has been happening in the realm of your spirit in that way is confirmed or accentuated through the influence of others who may talk to you and put questions to you. This has often been the way in which men have been called to be preachers. In many biographies you will read that a young man who had never thought of preaching was approached by an elder or spiritually-minded fellow-member of the Church who puts the question to him: `Don't you think that perhaps you are called to be a preacher of this Gospel?' The questioner then gives his reasons for saying that. He has been watching you and observing you and has felt led to speak to you. It is through him perhaps that this initial move may come. My experience is that, generally, these two things go together.
Then this develops and leads to a concern about others. I am contrasting this with the far-too-common idea of entering the ministry as the taking up of a profession or `a calling'. The true call always includes a concern about others, an interest in them, a realisation of their lost estate and condition, and a desire to do something about them, and to tell them the message and point them to the way of salvation. This is an essential part of the call; and it is important, particularly, as a means whereby we may check ourselves.
It has often happened that young men with certain gifts who listen to a great preacher are captivated by him and what he is doing. They are captivated by his personality or by his eloquence, they are moved by him, and, unconsciously, they begin to feel a desire to be like him and to do what he is doing. Now that may be right, or it may be quite wrong. They may only be fascinated by the glamour of preaching, and attracted by the idea of addressing audiences, and influencing them. All kinds of wrong and false motives may insinuate themselves. The way to check oneself against such a danger is to ask oneself the question, Why do I want to do this? Why am I concerned about this? And unless one can discover a genuine concern about others, and their state and condition, and a desire to help them, you are very right in querying your motives.
But we must go on to something yet deeper; there should also be a sense of constraint. This is surely the most crucial test. It means that you have the feeling that you can do nothing else. It was Mr. Spurgeon, I believe, who used to say to young men---'If you can do anything else do it. If you can stay out of the ministry, stay out of the ministry.' I would certainly say that without any hesitation whatsoever. I would say that the only man who is called to preach is the man who cannot do anything else, in the sense that he is not satisfied with anything else. This call to preach is so put upon him, and such pressure comes to bear upon him that he says, `I can do nothing else, I must preach.'
Or let me put it like this---and I am speaking from personal experience. You are certain of the call when you are unable to keep it back and to resist it. You try your utmost to do so. You say, `No, I shall go on with what I am doing; I am able to do it and it is good work.' You do your utmost to push back and to rid yourself of this disturbance in your spirit which comes in these various ways. But you reach the point when you cannot do so any longer. It almost becomes an obsession, and so overwhelming that in the end you say, `I can do nothing else, I cannot resist any longer.'
That is, as I understand it, what is meant by a call to preaching. But let us check it yet further by something which is equally important. I have hinted at it already, and that is, that there is in you a sense of diffidence, a sense of unworthiness, a sense of inadequacy. No more perfect expression of this can be found anywhere than in 1 Corinthians 2, where Paul talks about `weakness, fear, and much trembling'. He repeats the same idea in 2 Corinthians 2:16, where he asks, `Who is sufficient for these things?' Paul's teaching concerning the call of God to this particular work, and which we have been expounding in detail, leads quite inevitably to that question. He puts it like this:
Thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour of his knowledge by us in every place. For we are unto God a sweet savour of Christ, in them we are saved, and in them that perish: To the one we are the savour of death unto death; and to the other the savour of life unto life. And who is sufficient for these things?
Realising that that is what is involved in preaching, it is inevitable that a man should feel unworthy, and inadequate. So he is not only hesitant, he questions his feeling and queries it, and examines it very carefully; he does his utmost to push it away.
I am emphasising all this because, for some strange reason, it is an aspect of the matter that is scarcely ever mentioned in our age and generation. It is also my final argument against the idea of lay-preaching. Take such a man who sets himself up as a preacher, and does not hesitate to rush into a pulpit and to preach, and who claims that he can do it as an aside in his spare time. What does he know about `weakness, fear, and much trembling'? Sometimes, alas, it is the exact opposite, and in his self-confidence he is highly critical, and even contemptuous, of ordained preachers. Though they have nothing else to do they are miserable failures; but he can do it as an aside! That is just to contradict completely what we find to be true of the great Apostle, and what has also been true of all the greatest preachers in the Church in all the succeeding centuries. Indeed it seems to be the case that the greater the preacher the more hesitant he has generally been to preach. Oftentimes such men have had to be persuaded by ministers and elders and others to do this; they so shrank from the dread responsibility. This was true of George Whitefield, one of the greatest and most eloquent preachers ever to adorn a pulpit. And it has been true of many others. My argument is, therefore, that a man who feels that he is competent, and that he can do this easily, and so rushes to preach without any sense of fear or trembling, or any hesitation whatsoever, is a man who is proclaiming that he has never been `called' to be a preacher. The man who is called by God is a man who realises what he is called to do, and he so realises the awefulness of the task that he shrinks from it. Nothing but this overwhelming sense of being called, and of compulsion, should ever lead anyone to preach.
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That, then is the first thing that puts this man into a pulpit to preach. I must hasten to add that even this needs to be checked and to be confirmed; and this is something which is done by the Church. The first aspect is put again by the Apostle in the tenth chapter of the Epistle to the Romans: `Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call upon him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach except they be sent?' (Romans 10: 13-15). The preacher is `sent'. But how can we be sure that we are `sent' in this sense and that we are not simply appointing ourselves? This is where the Church comes in. This is the teaching of the New Testament not only with regard to preaching and teaching but also with regard to the various offices in the Church. As early as the sixth chapter of the book of the Acts of the Apostles certain qualifications are laid down with respect to deacons. The Church selects these men in terms of given principles; she is taught what to look for, and she looks for such qualities. You find the same in the Pastoral Epistles where instructions are given with regard to the qualifications of elders and deacons. So before you can be quite sure that a man is called to be a preacher, his personal call must be confirmed by the Church, it must be attested by the Church.
Once more I must qualify this by saying that the history of the Church, and of preachers, shows quite plainly that sometimes the Church can make a mistake. She has done so many times, and has rejected men who have proved by their records as preachers that they were obviously called of God. For instance, Dr. G. Campbell Morgan was rejected by the Methodist Church in England. But that is the exception, the exception which proves the rule; and you do not legislate for exceptions and hard cases. I am speaking generally. When there is an exceptional and outstanding man God will make him known somehow, and in spite of men; but that does not happen very often.
The more common occurrence is that men feel called who are not called; and it is the business of the Church to see to this and to handle the situation. I could give many examples and illustrations of this. I have always felt when someone has come to me and told me that he has been called to be a preacher, that my main business is to put every conceivable obstacle that I can think of in his way. In addition to that I exercise what judgment I have in assessing his personality, intelligence, and ability to speak. The correspondence of what the man feels and what the Church must feel is most important. A well-known story about Spurgeon illustrates this well. A man came to him at the close of a service on a Sunday night and said, `Mr Spurgeon, the Spirit tells me that I am to preach here, in this Tabernacle, next Thursday night.' `Well, it is a very curious thing,' said Spurgeon, `that the Spirit has not told me that.' So of course the man did not preach on the Thursday in the Tabernacle! That was very sound logic. If the Spirit had told this man to do this He would also have told Mr. Spurgeon. The Holy Spirit always acts in an orderly manner.
This is a most subtle matter. One's nature, or one's ambition, or one's liking for particular offices, or particular tasks, may create in one a desire to be a preacher, and we persuade ourselves that this is the Spirit of God leading us. I have known this happen many times; and one of the most painful tasks that ever confronts a minister is to discourage a man who comes to him in that way. On what grounds does he discourage him? There are certain tests which he must apply, and the same applies to the Church. What does the Church look for in a man who says that he is called to be a preacher? Obviously she must look for something exceptional in him. He must be a Christian of course, but there must be something more, there must be something additional.
What do you look for? Well, you remember how in Acts 6, even in the matter of appointing deacons, who were simply to handle a financial problem, a charitable matter of feeding widows, it was insisted upon that they should be men `filled with the Spirit'. That is the first and the greatest qualification. You are entitled to look for an unusual degree of spirituality, and this must come first because of the nature of the task. In addition you are entitled to look for a degree of assurance with respect to his knowledge of the Truth and his relationship to it. It is surely clear that if he is a man who is always struggling with problems and difficulties and perplexities himself, and trying to discover truth, or if he is so uncertain that he is always influenced by the last book he reads, and is `carried about by every wind of doctrine' and every new theological fashion, it is clear that he is ipso facto a man who is not called to the ministry. A man who has great problems himself and is in a state of perplexity is clearly not one who is fitted to be a preacher, because he will be preaching to people with problems and his primary function is to help them to deal with them. `How can the blind lead the blind?' is our Lord's own question in such a situation. The preacher then must be a man who is characterised by spirituality in an unusual degree, and a man who has arrived at a settled assured knowledge and understanding of the Truth, and feels that he is able to preach it to others.
What else do you desiderate? You now proceed to look at what we commonly call character. I would not describe `being filled with the Spirit' as character, which means that he is a man who is characterised by a godly life. Again all this is put to us plainly in the Scriptures, for instance in Paul's epistle to Titus :`Young men likewise exhort to be sober minded. In all things shewing thyself a pattern of good works; in doctrine shewing uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity, Sound speech, that cannot be condemned; that he that is of the contrary part may be ashamed, having no evil thing to say of you' (Titus 2:6-8). The preacher must be a godly man. But he must also have wisdom. And not only that, he must also have patience and forbearance. This is most important in a preacher. The Apostle puts it thus: `The servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient' (2 Timothy 2:24).
These are basic qualifications. A man may be a good Christian, and he may be many other things; but if he is lacking in these qualities he is not going to make a preacher. He must be, furthermore, a man who has an understanding of people and of human nature. These are general qualities and characteristics that should be looked for and on which we must insist.
It is only after emphasising such qualities that we come to the question of ability. It seems to me to be one of the tragedies of the modern Church that we tend to put ability first. It should not come first, but only at about this stage. It certainly does and must come in. I remember a young man who came to me many years ago telling me that he was quite sure that he was called to the ministry. Not only did he tell me that, but also something else which worried me much more. On the previous Sunday I happened to have been away from my own church and a visiting preacher was taking my place. My young friend had gone to the visiting preacher and told him that he felt called to preach and to the ministry; and the visiting preacher, not knowing anything at all about him, had encouraged him and praised him, and urged him to go on. The actual fact was that the poor fellow lacked the mental ability necessary to the making of a preacher. It was as simple as that. He would never have been able to pass even the preliminary examinations; and even if he had scraped through them somehow, he lacked the mental capacity demanded by the work we have already described. So we have got to emphasise natural intelligence and ability. If a man is to `rightly divide the word of truth' he must have ability. The Apostle Paul says that he must be `apt to teach'. As preaching means delivering the message of God in the way which we have described, involving the relationship between systematic theology and the exact meaning of the particular text, it obviously demands a certain degree of intellect and ability. So if a man lacks a basic minimum in that respect he is clearly not called to be a preacher.
Then I would add to that `the gift of speech'. Here again is something, surely, that we are tending to forget today. That is why I have put all that emphasis upon the act of preaching, upon the actual speaking part. What is a preacher? The first thing, obviously, is that he is a speaker. He is not primarily a writer of books, he is not an essayist or a literary man; the preacher is primarily a speaker. So if the candidate has not got the gift of speech, whatever else he may have, he is not going to make a preacher. He may be a great theologian, he can be an excellent man at giving private advice and counselling, and many other things, but by basic definition, if a man has not got the gift of speech he cannot be a preacher.
Once more I can illustrate this by an example. I remember the case of a young man who was a very good scientist and who had done well, and was doing well, in his own line. He came to me saying that he was sure that he was called to be a preacher. But immediately I knew that he was wrong. Why? Not because of any special insight on my part, but simply because he obviously could scarcely express himself even in private conversation leave alone in public. He was a very able man, but he obviously had not got the gift of communicating. He could not speak freely; he was hesitant and halting and doubtful, and diffident in his whole manner of speech. I did my utmost to prevent his going forward for training. However he would not listen to me because he was so certain of his call. He became a theological student, did very well at Oxford, and eventually was ordained. I think I am right in saying that altogether he had three different churches in about seven years. Then, and as the result of that experience, he came to see quite clearly himself that he had never been called to preach. He returned to scientific work and is doing well there. That is where he always should have been, because he lacked this essential particular gift of speech.
These particular points are of the greatest importance. I speak as one who has had to deal with this problem so often during the last forty years. Let me tell another story which illustrates what I am saying. Sometimes this mistake about a call has been made not so much by the man himself, as by some minister or elder who has taken it upon himself to suggest to the man that he should become a preacher, and indeed to urge him, and to put pressure on him to do so. I remember very well an incident on a Sunday night. I had got back into my vestry after preaching, and a young man came in to see me. He looked very agitated, and I said, `Well, what is the matter, how can I help you?' He said that he did not want to take much of my time, that he only wanted to know one thing from me. Did I know of a Christian psychiatrist? `Well,' I said, `why do you need to see a Christian psychiatrist?' He replied saying, `I am in great trouble, I am in great confusion.' I questioned him as to the cause of the confusion. Incidentally, you should not send a man to a psychiatrist unless you are quite sure that he needs such help; and my experience is that most of the people who come to ask for the name of a Christian psychiatrist need spiritual help rather than psychiatric treatment. However, I asked the young man, `Why do you need to see a psychiatrist?' Again he replied, `I am in great confusion.' `What is the cause of your confusion?' I asked. He then told me his story. He had been for the previous fortnight at a certain college which had recently been up to train evangelists. Until then he had been following his occupation as a baker in the west of England. He had been gifted with a good singing voice which he used to help the work of his local church. Recently there had been an evangelistic campaign in his little town, and he had been the soloist every night. At the end of the campaign the visiting evangelist had drawn this young man aside and had said to him, `Don't you think you are meant for the ministry?' He had talked to him at length and eventually persuaded the young fellow that he really should be in the ministry. Both agreed that he, of course, needed a bit of training, and the evangelist was able to tell him that fortunately there was a college now available. So he had sent the young man to this new college and there he had been for two weeks. But he now came to me in great trouble. What has happened? I asked. `Well,' he said, `I cannot follow the lectures. I see the other students taking notes but I do not know how to take notes.' He had never been much of a reader and had never attended lectures, so here he was, utterly confused. The evangelist had told him that he was called to the ministry, and who was he to question such a man's verdict. Yet he felt that he could not go on. He had become so unhappy and so confused that he had gone to see the principal of the college; and the first thing the principal said on hearing the story was, `I think you need to see a psychiatrist.' That seems to have become almost the routine advice given to Christians in perplexity these days. So the young man was seeking the name of a Christian psychiatrist. I said to him, `I do not think you need to see a psychiatrist at all. The very fact that you are perplexed and confused and feel you cannot go on, shows me quite clearly that you have "come to yourself" again, and that you are in a healthy state and have a sound mind.' I added, `The time to go to the psychiatrist was when you listened to the evangelist and went to the college. You have now come to see the position as it really is. Go back and take up your work as a baker again and use the voice, the gift that God has given you to sing. Recognise that you are not called to the ministry and go on doing what you can do.' The man literally had not got the mental equipment, and he knew it, and had seen it clearly. He was immediately relieved and left me rejoicing. He acted on my advice and resumed his valuable and happy service to the glory of God in his local church.
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These are the ways in which the Church tests a man who says that he has received a call. My contention is that God works through the man himself and through the voice of the Church. It is the same Spirit operating in both, and when there is agreement and consensus of opinion you are right in assuming that it is a call from God. A man does not appoint himself; he is not put into the ministry merely by the pressure of the Church. The two things go together. Both sides have been neglected. I have known many men who have deceived themselves. I have also known many cases where men have been pushed into the ministry, who were never meant to be there, by false teaching on the part of the Church. The two things must go together.
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Here, then, is the beginning of a process, here is a man called to preach the Gospel. Now comes the whole question of training and of preparation. I do not propose to go into this, or to pass judgment on theological seminaries, but there are a few things I would like to say in general in passing. My view is that the whole question of training for the ministry needs to be reviewed urgently, and that drastic and radical changes are needed. What does this man need by way of training? He needs, first and foremost, a certain amount of general knowledge and experience of life. He is a Christian. He has had an experience of conversion. But that alone does not fit him to be a preacher. That is true of many people who are not called to be preachers. This man also needs a certain amount of general knowledge and experience of life.
Why do I emphasise this? For the reason that if he has not got this, his tendency will be to be too theoretical in his preaching, too intellectual. He will probably go into the pulpit and deal with his own problems rather than the problems of the people who are sitting in the pews listening to him. But he is there to preach to them, and to help them, and not to try to solve his own individual problems and perplexities. The way to safeguard against that is that this man should have a modicum of general knowledge and experience of life, and the more the better. There are those who say, and I tend to agree with them, that it would be good for all men who enter the ministry to have some preliminary experience of living life in the world, in a business or profession. They query the wisdom of a system whereby a young man goes from school and college directly to a seminary and then into the ministry without having any experience outside that. There is the danger, putting it at its lowest, of an over-theoretical and intellectual approach; so that the man in the pulpit is really divorced from the life of the people who are sitting in the pews and listening to him. So general knowledge and experience are of inestimable value.
Then I would greatly emphasise the importance of a general training of the mind. We all need to have our minds trained. We may have a good intellect but it needs to be disciplined. And so a good general training in any arts or science course is good because it teaches one how to think and to reason systematically and logically. I stress this because, as we have seen, in the sermon there must be this element of reason and progression of thought. To secure that end necessitates a certain amount of training. To throw out a number of thoughts at random without setting them in order does not help the congregation, so the preacher needs to have his mind trained in that general sense. The particular form of training is immaterial as long as it produces a trained mind; this trained mind can then apply itself to the particular task of the preacher.
In the same way general knowledge and information will be of great value to the preacher and his preaching. It will help him to illustrate and clothe the message which he is giving to the people and make it easier for them to follow and to assimilate it.
But leaving general training we come to the more special training. What is needed here? I shall only give abroad general outline. First and foremost there must be given a knowledge of the Bible and its message. A man who is deficient in this respect cannot be a true preacher. I have emphasised `the whole counsel of God'; I have emphasised the whole scheme and plan of salvation and the importance of `systematic theology'. You cannot have that without having a thorough knowledge of the Bible, a knowledge of the whole Bible and its message. This is therefore a vital part of the training.
What is the place of a knowledge of the original languages? They are of great value for the sake of accuracy; no more, that is all. They cannot guarantee accuracy but they promote it. This is a part of the mechanics of preaching, not the big thing, not the vital thing; but it is important. The preacher should be accurate, he should never say things that some learned member of his congregation can show to be wrong and based upon a misinterpretation. Knowledge of the original languages is important in that way. But let us never forget that the ultimate object of this man's training is to enable him to preach, to convey the Bible message to the people---the vast majority of whom will not be experts on languages or on philosophy. His business is to convey the message to them, to be 'understanded of the people'. The object of the training is not to make the student a great expert in linguistics so much as to make him an accurate man.
I put it like this because so much training in these days spends time in dealing with negative criticism, the dry bones, and men have become more concerned about this than about the message. They `miss the wood because of the trees', and they forget that they are meant to be preachers conveying a message to the people who are in front of them, as they are. Therefore if they get lost in, and spend all their time in dealing with, matters of criticism---higher criticism and so on, and the defence and the answers---and think that that is all, they do not know what preaching is, and `the hungry sheep look up and are not fed'. All that is but part of the scaffolding, as I shall call it later on. You do not stop at putting up the scaffolding; that is but preliminary to the building. Or look at it in terms of a skeleton. A skeleton is essential, but a skeleton alone is a monstrosity, it needs to be clothed with flesh.
We then go on to a study of theology. This again is obvious from what we have already been saying. It is not enough merely that a man should know the Scriptures, he must know the Scriptures in the sense that he has got out of them the essence of biblical theology and can grasp it in a systematic manner. He must be so well versed in this that all his preaching is controlled by it.
Next to that I would put the study of the history of the Church. Here I would emphasise in particular the importance of learning the danger of heresies. A man may be a good Christian, he may have had a great experience, and he may therefore think that nothing more is necessary. He has the Scriptures, he has the Spirit of God in him, he is out to do good and so on, and so he tends to think that he is quite safe and that all is well. But he may find, perhaps, at some later time that he is accused of heresy; and he is astonished and amazed at this. The way to safeguard yourself against that is to learn something about heresies---how they arose in the past generally through very good and conscientious men. History shows how subtle it all is, and how many a man lacking balance, or by failing to maintain the proportion of faith, and the interrelationship of the various parts of the whole message, has been pressed by the devil to put too much emphasis on one particular aspect, and eventually pressed so far as to be in a position in which he is really contradicting the Truth and has become a heretic. So Church history is invaluable to the preacher. It is not the preserve of the academics. I would say that Church history is one of the most essential studies for the preacher were it merely to show him this terrible danger of slipping into heresy, or into error, without realising that anything has happened to him.
At the same time Church history will tell him about the great Revivals in the history of the Church. I know of nothing, in my own experience, that has been more exhilarating and helpful, and that has acted more frequently as a tonic to me, than the history of Revivals. Take the time we are living in. What discouraging days they are, so discouraging that even a man with an open Bible which he believes, and with the Spirit in him, may at times be discouraged and cast down almost to the depths of despair. There is no better tonic in such a condition than to familiarise yourselves with previous eras in the history of the Church which have been similar, and how God has dealt with them. The preacher is a man---I hope to deal with this in a subsequent lecture---who is attacked on many sides, and perhaps his greatest danger is the danger of becoming discouraged and depressed, and of feeling that he cannot go on any longer. Church history, and especially the history of Revivals is one of the best antidotes to that.
I remember reading somewhere about the French novelist Anatole France that he used to say, whenever he felt tired and jaded with a tendency to be depressed and downcast, `I never go into the country for a change of air and a holiday, I always go instead into the eighteenth century.' I have often said exactly the same thing, but not in the same sense in which he meant it, of course. When I get discouraged and over-tired and weary I also invariably go to the eighteenth century. I have never found George Whitefield to fail me. Go to the eighteenth century! In other words read the stories of the great tides and movements of the Spirit experienced in that century. It is the most exhilarating experience, the finest tonic you will ever know. For a preacher it is absolutely invaluable; there is nothing to compare with it. The more he learns in this way about the history of the Church the better preacher he will be.
At the same time let him, of course, during this training become familiar with the stories of the great men of the past, the great saints and preachers. It will not only act as a wonderful tonic to him in times of depression, it will keep him humble when tempted to pride and a spirit of elation. That is equally necessary. When a man starts preaching, and has just one or two sermons, he really thinks he is a preacher! The best treatment for that is to make him read about Whitefield or Jonathan Edwards, or Spurgeon, or some such mighty man of God. That will soon bring him to earth.
Lastly, and only lastly, Homiletics. This to me is almost an abomination. There are books bearing such titles as The Craft of Sermon Construction, and The Craft of Sermon Illustration. That is, to me, prostitution. Homiletics just comes in, but no more.
What about preaching as such, the act of preaching of which I have spoken? There is only one thing to say about this; it cannot be taught. That is impossible. Preachers are born, not made. This is an absolute. You will never teach a man to be a preacher if he is not already one. All your books such as The A.B.C. of Preaching, or Preaching Made Easy should be thrown in to the fire as soon as possible. But if a man is a born preacher you can help him a little---but not much. He can perhaps be improved a little here and there.
How can that be done? Here I am probably going to be somewhat controversial. I would say: Not in a sermon class, not by having a student to preach a sermon to other students who then proceed to criticise matter and manner. I would prohibit that. Why? Because the sermon in such circumstances is being preached with a wrong object in view; and the people who are listening to it are listening in a wrong way. The message of the Bible should never be listened to in that way. It is always the Word of God, and no one should ever listen to it except in a spirit of reverence and godly expectation of receiving a message.
When you come to further modern refinements of that such as television video-tapes so that a man may subsequently see his own gestures and so on---this to me is reprehensible in the extreme. The same applies to instruction in `pulpit deportment' as it is called, or `television deportment'. There is only one word for all this; it is sheer prostitution, it is instruction in the art of the prostitute. The preacher must always be natural and unselfconscious; and if in your training you tend to make him become conscious of his hands, or what he does with his head, or anything else, you are doing him great harm. It should not be done, it should be prohibited! You cannot teach a preacher in these ways; and I feel that to attempt to do so is an injustice to the Word of God.
What then is the young preacher to do? Let him listen to other preachers, the best and most experienced. He will learn a lot from them, negatively and positively. He will learn what not to do, and learn a great deal of what he should do. Listen to preachers! Also read sermons. But make sure that they were published before 1900! Read the sermons of Spurgeon and Whitefield and Edwards and all the giants. Those men themselves read the Puritans and were greatly helped by them. They seem to have lived on the Puritans. Well, let the young preacher in turn live on them, or perhaps be led by them to the Puritans. Just here---perhaps I shall elaborate this later---I draw a great distinction between the preaching of the Puritans and the preaching of the eighteenth-century men. I myself am an eighteenth century man, not seventeenth-century; but I believe in using the seventeenth-century men as the eighteenth-century men used them.
What then is the chief thing? I say, none of these mechanics except a bare minimum. What matters? The chief thing is the love of God, the love of souls, a knowledge of the Truth, and the Holy Spirit within you. These are the things that make the preacher. If he has the love of God in his heart, and if he has a love for God; if he has a love for the souls of men, and a concern about them; if he knows the truth of the Scriptures; and has the Spirit of God within him, that man will preach. That is the big thing. The other things can be helpful; but keep them in their right place, and never allow them to usurp any other position.
As we go on to consider the people to whom this man is preaching we shall discover further matters in connection with the training of the preacher. (104-120)
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