My call into ministry is one of the most vivid experiences of my life. It began when I was around 16 years of age. I was a normal teen and honestly was not pursuing Christ the way I should. I was distracted with sports, hunting, fishing, and girls. I can’t tell you an exact date or time, I just know that in the moments that I would draw close to Christ and get serious about my faith, I’d sense that if I were obedient to God, I’d be a minister.
The problem this presented me was that I just wanted to be “normal”. I really had no idea what the definition of “normal” was, but in my view, it definitely wasn’t becoming a minister and preaching the gospel. As I got older the call got stronger. Even to the point that there would be times I would stray into sin, thinking that if I sinned enough, God would revoke the call. But then I would wind up at a church service where the spirit was moving and I would be convicted of my sin and go to the altar during the invitation, repent and seek His forgiveness. Then after a while, the sense of God’s calling on my life would return— and sadly, I’d repeat the cycle. I discovered that sinning wouldn’t revoke the call, just make me miserable and out of fellowship with God.
It was about my late teens that God placed two important people in my life to influence me and help me move forward.
First, was my pastor Louie Baker. Bro Baker was an amazing man of God. He took interest in all sheep in his flock, not just a few. I was really into deer hunting and several of my friends and family leased some property to deer hunt. Bro Baker discovered this and asked if he could join us on our deer lease. We all liked him and so we allowed him to do so. He had never hunted before, and I’m pretty sure he didn’t really care about hunting at all, but wanted to join the lease, just to spend time with some of his parishioners. It was on those deer hunting trips together that he would share his faith in Christ with us all and lead me to trust him enough to tell him about my struggles and that God was calling me into the ministry.
A second thing God did was arrange for me to be moved to a new department at work, where I would work with a man who was not only a committed Christian, but also a General Baptist Minister. Through the friendship and trust that developed there, Bro Jerry Shadrick became the first person I ever told that God was calling me into the ministry. He prayed with me and encouraged me. I remember one event specifically where, he said, “How come you just don’t say ‘Yes’ to God’s call on your life?” I told him that “I just wanted to be normal”. I’ll never forget him turning around and pointing a knife at me with a big smile on his face and saying, “Are you saying I am not normal?”
It would still be a year after this before I’d finally tell God yes. Along the way, I did the whole Gideon thing and “lay fleeces “before the Lord.
Once I asked “God, if this is really what you want me to do, then don’t let me get any sleep until I say yes.”
Well, my schedule at worked changed and I had to be there at 3:30am. Being a teen, I’d try to stay up till 10, 11 or even 12 at night and then get up to go to work. It was only after a couple of months that I realized God had answered my prayer— just not in the way I thought he would. I was expecting sleeplessness. So always be specific when you pray. Remember, I only prayed for loss of sleep.
Another dramatic thing I remember, is one Sunday I came home from Church on Sunday morning and flipped on the tv. As I was doing so, once again I prayed, “Lord, speak to me. If I really am to be a minister, speak to me so there is no doubt. Say it clearly.”
The TV came on and it was on Channel 19, the local religious station in my area. I don’t think anyone in our home watched that station, because its views were very different than the views Baptist held. As the TV came on it was a preacher preaching in a loud booming voice and he said, “Young man, if God is calling you to preach, stop running! Just say yes! Do it now!”
I clicked the TV off and said out loud, “I can’t get away from you anywhere, Can I?”
The burden that I was disobedient to God and was to surrender my life to his calling, was on my mind first thing when I got up and was on my mind when I went to bed. I never had any peace. Ever. Even in the less than glamorous moments when I would sin, just to see if God would revoke the call, I’d think to myself, “someone called of God should not be doing this”.
August 12, 1988, just a couple of weeks after my 20th birthday, I went forward at a revival service in my home church and announced what God was calling me to do. Just about my entire family attended Concord GB, and that night, I don’t think any were there. They were all out of town or had missed for one reason or another. Somehow, that made it easier. Bro. Jerry showed up to support and encourage me. When I announced my calling to the entire church, as arranged by my pastor, the entire church broke out in applause. Later, when the service was over, I went to the altar again and prayed just checking to make sure in saying yes, God hadn’t changed his mind. He didn’t. I asked for strength as I moved forward. When I arose from prayer and looked around, the entire church had come forward to pray with me. That’s been 35 years ago now. I’ve had my ups and downs. There have been moments when I’ve wanted to quit. But so far, I’ve stayed the course. Praise God.
Not long after telling God yes, I discovered this verse in II Corinthians 4:1, ““Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart.”
2 Corinthians 4:1 NIV
That has become my life verse. In the moments of discouragement or hurt, I just remember the mercy that God gave to me, when he called me to the ministry.
Is God calling you? You may think, well, my experience isn’t dramatic like what you have shared. It doesn’t have to be. God relates to all of us personally. We are all different. He did what He needed to do to get my attention, draw me close and draw me into the ministry. Just listen and look for what He is telling you. You can’t go wrong. I’ve regretted a lot of things in my life— including not saying “yes” when I was younger. But I’ve never regretted answering his call.