‘If you can do anything else, do it. If you can stay out of the ministry, stay out of the ministry.’
Those were the words of strong conviction by the great preacher Charles Spurgeon, affirmed by another great preacher, D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones in his book Preaching and Preachers, page 105.
By the word ministry, these men pertain to Pastoral Ministry, with emphasis on the divine task of preaching. To explain their conviction, they only mean that if a man is called to preach (and to pastor), it should only be what he is doing, it is only his satisfaction and way of life. No secular work, no business. Just to pastor and preach.
Hard statement, and personally it hit my heart. I truly love the task of preaching: from preparing sermons, trying to live out the message and the act of delivering it to the church. Seeing that other pastors and fellow believers affirm me personally that I have the gift of preaching puts more confidence in my heart that I am called to preach.
However, that confidence is challenged as I read the above statement of Mr. Spurgeon. Right now I am facing an important decision that I have to make very soon: taking up secular college studies. Do I have to study again, this time in secular, with the purpose of teaching in secular schools someday? Then what about Spurgeon’s belief that Preaching is a calling so big that it demands your entire life? And if God is leading me to study in secular, then does that mean I am never called to preach?
Not just mind-hammering, but heart-tearing questions. Preaching is the passion of my life. And if Spurgeon’s conviction is biblical and true, then entering the secular career of teaching is in a sense ‘giving-up’ the call to preach and to pastor. Well of course I do not see Spurgeon as infallible, nor his words equal to the authority of the Bible. But he was a great man of God who dedicated all his life to the divine task of preaching. Very few can surpass the blessedness of his preaching ministry.
And if Spurgeon were right, then how about the sincere pastors out there who have secular work? Are they sinning and belittling the call to preach?