How does someone evaluate if God has called them to preach? Let them preach. Profound, eh? As obvious as this sounds, it is amazing the amount of men in local churches desiring to be pastors and considering a call to preach, but are never given the opportunity to actually preach. I have known men who spent close to 10 years at seminary finishing both an Master’s and PH.D for the sake of pursuing pastoral ministry and at the end of that time never stepped foot into the pulpit of their church of which they belonged.
Those who seek to pastor and know their need to be tested, trained, and affirmed for pastoral ministry, realize this must include logged time in a real pulpit in a real church preaching God’s Word to real church members (this rules out preaching class, sorry). Although I may be stating the obvious, here are a few places to start if you are a pastor who sees your neglect in this area and desires to engage better.
1) Provide opportunities. If you are counting on good book reading and preaching class to cover this bases, you are mistaken. Pastors, you must provide real opportunities before your people in public gatherings of the church for these men to preach. There is obviously some level of evaluation that will have already taken place before doing this, but before a man should pursue pastoral ministry and any kind of preaching ministry, time in your pulpit under your authority and the other pastors/elders is essential.
2) Provide intentional evaluation. Do not simply provide the opportunity and hope a few people in the church will give helpful feedback. Plan to sit down and evaluate the preaching experience with him. It helps even to meet beforehand and talk about his sermon preparation and remind him that a post-sermon conversation looms. Make sure you share things he did well and you thought were helpful as well as areas that need improvement. Use good judgment, but be intentional to evaluate.
3) Provide another opportunity. Unless that young man’s sermon was beyond awful, make sure he gets another chance. Most everybody’s first sermon is bad, and the second often times is not much better. How was your first sermon? Exactly. You knew it would be unfair to evaluate your calling on one sermon, so do not put the same pressure on the guys in your church seeking your guidance and affirmation. I just heard a young man in our church preach an excellent sermon, but it took a good 5 sermons before he learned how to apply the critic he was hearing. Do not give up on eager young men too quickly.
OK, so there is a starting point. If you sense a true call on a young man’s life in your church to pastoral ministry, let him preach. Provide several opportunities. Give feedback. Then, let him get back on the horse to ride again. Remember, the confirmation of his calling through your efforts may not be how good a preacher he is at the beginning, but how eager he appears to be to receive your guidance, critic, and care.