| | How to Strive for Spiritual Gifts and a Pastoral Calling
Paul urges us to strive to acquire or exercise spiritual gifts or charisms: e. g.
"But strive for the greater gifts...(1 Corinthians 12:31)"
"Pursue love and strive for the spiritual gifts, and especially that you may prophesy (14:1)."
"...rekindle the gift of God that is in you through my laying on of hands (2 Timothy 1:7)."
Of course, we need to pray about this. But beyond that, how are we supposed to strive? And how does one strive to discover whether one is called to ministry, ordained or otherwise? In my view, such striving surely requires experimentation and risk-taking. Please share your thoughts on this question.
Before I retired as a UMC pastor, one of my top priorities was to discern undeveloped gifts of the laity and provide opportunities and support for trying their hand at preaching or testifying from the pulpit. Sometimes this took considerable prodding due to fear, shyness, and feelings of inadequacy. But these people always seemed grateful for the experience and were usually eager to try again. I asked them to fill in for me during my vacation, during my required absences for church conferences, etc., and on annual laity or youth Sundays. As a result, I had a church with many competent preachers. The discipline of sermon preparation and delivery is an excellent way to grow in the faith.
But how can we know whether we are called to be full-time preachers or pastors? This is a complex subject, but let me illustrate what I look for in a new preacher. We learn by trial and error and sermons by newbies are often somewhat awkward and flawed in certain ways. What I look for is not so much how talented the sermon delivery was, but how badly the new preachers wanted their sermon to be better. I ask myself whether they long to be Spirit-anointed preachers and instruments of spiritual transformation. On the other hand, some people are natural public speakers and exude confidence, but seem to lack a call to the ministry because they lack the passion to be a blessing.
Missionary/ author Dr. E. Stanley Jones has been described as the Billy Graham of India. He recounts his first stab at preaching. He was 19 and his whole family was present. As he began his sermon, he misspoke and made a grammatical error and a pretty female college student near the front rolled her eyes. An embarrassed Stanley's mind went blank and he froze for an agonizing minute in the pulpit. Then he sat down in complete humiliation. But the Lord seemed to be saying to him, "Is that it? Don't you even have a testimony to my grace?" So he awkwardly stood up and confessed, "OK, I bombed as a preacher, but I want you to know how much I love the Lord Jesus." Jones went on to become one of the greatest Methodist preachers of the 20th century.