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SPEAK LORD, SPEAK TO ME: My Personal Testimony of The Call, Response and Philosophy to Ministry
THE CALL: A Little Gray Cloud with White Fire
When discussing ‘the called’ experience there are several questions that come to mind. What does it mean to be called? How does one know that they are called? What does ‘being called’ look like? What is the proper response to ‘the called’? These are questions that I often pondered during my early years in ministry.
Upon entering seminary at Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas; Dr. Harry Wright, II asked me ‘What is your calling’? Being certain that there was “A” calling on my life I offered to him an answer that was safe as at that time I was not totally clear on the direction of God’s call was for my life. I had no doubt that there was a calling to ministry; but I had not identified or more realistically, I had not accepted it. I told Dr. Wright my plans were to be a motivational speaker. Dr. Wright looked over his glasses at me and with a smirk chuckled and said, “Yea”. It was obvious to me that he did not believe my response. He then shared with me that seminary would help me to explore and identify my calling. He stated that often, especially in the African-
It was in seminary that I began to understand that there were generally two calls that people experience: an inward calling and an outward calling. The inward calling is that “inner tug”. It is that still small voice that God uses to communicate with all of God’s children. In reality, we often hear it although we may not acknowledge or accept it. The outward calling comes through other people seeing and confirming in a person what God has already said to that person through the inward calling.
While exercising one day, prior to entering seminary and I recall praying and totally surrendering to God. Having experienced this ongoing inward tug I prayed ‘Lord, if preaching is what you want me to do, then I will. However, I have to know, without a shadow of a doubt, that You have called me to do so and I have to be better at it than anything else that I’ve done in my life.’ I recall recounting specific situations in my life where I KNEW God was speaking to me and telling God that I have to know far greater than I did in each of those situations. I also recall recounting specific skills and tasks that I successfully accomplished in my life. I told the Lord that I had to be better prepared and better at preaching than I was at any of those other accomplishments.
Perkins School of Theology requires all of its seminary students to take a Spiritual Formation Class. It is in this class that the students are encouraged to spend time with God on a much deeper level. I was assigned a class partner named Becky. One day in class, our professor encouraged us to go out for a walk around campus and “listen” for God. We were reminded that God speaks in many different ways (through nature, people, situations, circumstances, etc.) and we were encouraged to listen for God in all of these ways. As Becky and I were walking around campus listening for God to speak through trees and other means, we began to talk. I asked her, how she knew she was called. She responded to me, “I told my mom that I think God is calling me to preach. Mom said, yes, I think you will be a good preacher.” Becky said that she and her husband talked about it, they quit their jobs, sold their ‘stuff’ and moved to Dallas to go to seminary.
I thought to myself, ‘that is the weakest call experience that I’ve ever heard’!!! She thought it, her mom said yes, and she and her husband sold everything and moved to go so seminary, really??? A few days later God began to reveal to me all of the times that people said that they saw a calling on my life. God showed me back to age 13 very specific incidences where people, that I had never met offered to me the outward calling on my life. However, I was reluctant to accept their words, because I had been taught “don’t let no man call you!!!!” It was then that I began to understand that it was not man calling me, but God confirming in me what God had already said. When I became totally honest with myself, it was something that I always knew – God called me to preach God’s word. I was waiting for this huge call experience liken to ‘A little grey cloud with white fire’ as I heard one evangelist proclaim. But for me, there was no major occurrence, no Damascus Road experience; no little grey cloud with white fire; but there was a clear call of God in which God showed me that what I was experiencing for years, was the inward and outward calling on my life.
I surrendered and said, ‘okay Lord, but what about the second part of the prayer’? I have to be better at it than anything else I’ve done… God answered in an instant and I could only laugh as I was already in seminary working on a master’s degree in theology which was better preparation than anything that I have accomplished in the past. I was now ‘doing my best to present myself to God as one approved, a worker who correctly handles the word of truth’ (2 Timothy 2:15 NIV).
It was through this experience that I understood that yes, God called me and God’s calling on my life is clear and has been clear since age 13. Unlike Becky, it took me a little longer to accept it. I am to preach God’s Word and lead God’s people. I am to minister to those who need to hear the Word of God. My response is simply to do what God has called me to do.