Called To Preach #3 – How They Started

February 6, 2008

You might be interested to know how various well known preachers today got involved in the great task in the first place. After reviewing some previous interviews on the blog, I’ve collated a few below.

Thabiti Anyabwile

“I was asked to speak at a “youth day” event at a church in my home town. I thought it was going to be an event after the morning service with 20-30 teenagers in the church basement. When I arrived, I found out that I was the guest preacher for the morning service! I tweaked my planned talk from John 4 and did the best I could. A little lady came up to me afterwards and asked, “Where are you in your walk?” I had no idea what she meant and mumbled something like “I’m trying to grow in the Lord.” She clarified: “No… I think you may be called to the ministry.” I put that behind me thinking she meant well but was probably a bit overly enthusiastic. Soon after, a number of people began commenting in much the same way this little lady had, expressing appreciation for what they regarded as speaking gifts whenever I would lead a Bible study, small group, or some other address. So, it was through the saints that those gifts became evident to me.”

Tim Keller

“I preached about 200 different expositions a year for the first nine years of my ministry (when I was age 24 through 33.) During that time I was considered interesting and good but I never got a lot of feedback that I was anything special. I’ve grown a lot through lots of practice.”

Voddie Baucham

“As a young college student, I went on a preaching mission with several teammates of mine. I was a relatively new believer and had no experience sharing God’s word. Two of my mentors guided me through the week and helped me discover my gifts in preaching for the first time. I felt as though something in me was awakened for the first time. I’ve been preaching ever since.”

Derek Prime

“Soon after my conversion in my early teens it was my turn to speak in a small young people’s group in the church fellowship to which I belonged. It so ‘happened’ that the pastor was present that evening and at the conclusion of the meeting he spoke to me in such a way that the secret thoughts and convictions I had had about wanting to serve God as a pastor/teacher were encouraged and confirmed. My Bible Class teacher soon after took me with him when he conducted services as a lay-preacher, encouraging me first to take part in some small way and then to preach. From that introduction an increasing number of invitations came to me to speak and preach.”

Derek Thomas

“As a student at Aberystwyth University, I was encouraged on several occasions to speak on behalf of the Christian Union at a retirement home. Then, I recall Geoff Thomas asking me to speak on a Sunday afternoon in a church a few miles outside Aberystwyth. There were three people present, one of whom was the organist who sat behind me! These were the dawning of my sense of exhilaration (and fear!) about being called spend the rest of my life as a preacher. That was thirty-five years ago and I’ve been preaching ever since.”

Conrad Mbewe

Initially, soon after I became a Christian in 1979, I just had a burden to share Christ in personal witnessing contexts with individuals. I did not realise that this burden would one day find expression in preaching to entire crowds. At that time I was a student at a local university in Zambia. From time to time, I would be asked to prepare the Bible study lesson and teach our Growth Group in our hall of residence. These were small groups of Christian students who got together once a week to study the Bible. I found that I could handle the text and draw out appropriate lessons. In due season, around 1982, one of the elders at church asked me to join him in leading the Bible study group that comprised the young adults in the church, especially those who were in college and university. In this period, I sharpened my skills further. Before I graduated in 1984, however, I was chosen as chairman of the university Christian fellowship, and that meant preaching at least once a semester. This was for the last two years of my undergraduate days. I found great fulfilment not only in teaching the Word of God but also preaching it. It was clear from the feedback that I was getting, that God had gifted me in this way. This was quite apart from a sense of call that I experienced in a very definite way at a very subjective level sometime in 1980. So, by the time I graduated from the university, my gifts in preaching were confirmed, and I was just waiting for the Lord to open a door into full time pastoral studies or full time pastoral work. In 1987, the Lord opened the latter door and I became a church pastor.

Vaughan Roberts

I never really wanted to do anything but be a pastor-teacher after I was converted in my later teens but, being very shy at the time, I couldn’t imagine that anyone else would think I could do it. Helping at camps for teenagers gave me opportunities to give short bible talks. That led to more invitations and encouragement from people I respected that I did have some embryonic preaching gifts.

Philip Ryken

By the grace of God, even as a small boy my heart was drawn to using my talents to the very best of my ability, and in a way that would bring glory to God. Pastoral ministry always seemed to be one way to be a faithful steward of whatever gifts the Lord had given me. I generally paid close attention to what various ministers were doing in the pulpit, and would sometimes imagine what it would be like to preach the gospel. As I envisioned it, this would be in a church where people were eager to listen and taking notes.

I can remember going out with my father for ice cream when I was in the eighth grade and talking about what I would do with my life. Pastoral ministry was one calling that we discussed, and I went in to speak with our pastor about what it was like to be a pastor, what books I ought to read, what was hard about the pastoral ministry, and so forth. It was not until college, though, that I became clear in my inward call. When Lisa and I began dating our freshman year it was already apparent to her that I was heading in that direction. In general, there was a growing sense that this and this only is what I was born to do: preach the Word.

Peter Grainger

My father, grandfather, and great grandfather were all Methodist local preachers. As a teenager, I accompanied my father to the churches where he spoke and began by reading the Scriptures for him, singing (!), then leading and finally attempting to preach (around the age of 16).

Liam Golligher

“About the age of 12 I felt a great desire to preach the gospel. I started to read theology and to prepare short talks which I practiced aloud in the fields behind our house. I made a real impression on the cows I remember! Well from the age of 15 I started preaching to real people. I took on every kind of speaking engagement that came my way. I went into the weirdest contexts and spoke for anything from 5 minutes to 50 minutes. I mostly preached badly but I told myself, ‘there’s always next time!’ and I kept at it. I still preach badly but believe that I’ll do better next time. I believe you learn to preach by preaching. I’m still learning. The lesson I’ve learned is that call to preach stems from inward constraint and the confirmation of the church.”

Steve Cole

“When I was in college, I tried teaching the Bible and found, much to my surprise, people seemed really to be helped by it. I never actually preached to any extent, though, before I began in the pastorate 30 years ago.”



  1. Colin,

    Thanks for putting these answers together in this format. I benefited from reading this.

  2. “Woe is me,” a man of unclean lips whom God has called to the preaching and teaching ministry.

    Thanks this helpful post.

  3. Colin,
    What an interesting post! Thanks for putting these comments together.

  4. Yes, I found it very interesting and shared it on our seminary alumni blog.

    As one who often gets to help train up young men for ministry I’ve become more and more convinced of the role of the local church in confirmation with regard to gifting and calling.

  5. 9 years ago the Lord spoke to me in a deep booming audble voice. These are his exact words…listen to me carefully…you will be preaching in the power of the Holy Ghost. I still cant preach for peanuts. Does anyone out there have advice about it.

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