Chuck Lawless heard his call while sitting on the front pew of a church. (Pixabay)

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I was 13 years old and in church for the first time in my life. I had just professed faith in Christ at the end of a service, and my pastor told me to sit on the front pew and complete the church membership form. I did so, understanding little but my desire to do whatever I needed to do to be a good Christian.

That's when it happened. My pastor stepped behind the pulpit and began making announcements, and I heard in my head these words: "I want you to preach my Word." I realize I may have readers who question my theology or wonder about my memory, but that's what happened. The words were so strangely clear to me that they have never wavered in more than 40 years. God called me to preach that day.

Here's why that calling still matters to me today:

  1. It gives clarity to my life. My roles have changed (pastor, seminary professor, missions team member), but my calling has not. Whatever seat I'm in, I know my calling is to preach the Word. Frankly, I believe I could fulfill that calling while teaching high school English as long as I proclaiming God's message.
  2. It encourages me to press on. Ministry can be difficult some days. More than once, I've thought about other things I could do. What I can't ignore, though, is that remarkable day decades ago when God saved me and called me.
  3. It helps me to counter discouragement. I wish everyone would listen to me when I preach, but that doesn't happen. I long for everyone to get saved, yet not everyone responds that way. Some days, I preach and then wonder why I'm so rotten at the task. Still, though, my calling trumps my discouragement.
  4. It reminds me that God knows and loves me intimately. He called me ... a 13-year-old kid who had already planned his life as a teacher ... a new believer who had not been raised in church ... a guy who could not have named any books of the Bible at the time. Somehow, however, He spoke to my soul that day.
  5. It reminds me of the power of the local church. God called me internally that day, but my church later confirmed that calling externally. They prayerfully saw something in me that they felt worth supporting. I will always be grateful for that Pisgah, Ohio, congregation that gave me my ministry start.

Why does your calling matter to you?

Chuck Lawless is dean and vice president of Graduate Studies and Ministry Centers at Southeastern Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina, where he also serves as professor of evangelism and missions. In addition, he is global theological education consultant for the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention.

This article originally appeared at

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