People I meet often ask me a question similar to the following, “Why did you choose to be a minister?” or more commonly, “How did God call you to ministry?” I do not usually introduce myself as a preacher or minister, but allow people the opportunity to ask what I do. I am regularly amused at their reactions. Some seem surprised, others immediately put up a wall of defense, and some open up to me asking more serious questions and looking for guidance in different areas of their lives. Yet, as I write these posts on ministry, I asked myself the same question, “Why did I choose to be a minister?” My answer to myself reveals part of my justification of writing a book about ministers to ministers by a minister.
Why ministry? First, my religious convictions result from godly parents that ensured their children were brought up in a Christian environment. Both parents were Christians when they married. My mother grew up in a Christian (Church of Christ) home in Pensacola, Florida. My father’s Ohio home was a religiously divided house. His father grew up as a denominational Christian and maintained an allegiance of sorts to his upbringing. My father’s mother was a member of the Church of Christ, but did not attend faithfully until her later years because of family and distance reasons. Her sisters (my father’s aunts) were influential in my father’s decision at 17 to become a Christian. After a tour in the Navy, my father settled in Pensacola and eventually met and married the woman who would become my mother. Together they raised three sons (I am the middle child). My mother is a Bible class teacher and retired from serving as secretary at Escambia Christian Elementary / Middle School (a Church of Christ funded school) where my brothers and I attended most of our formative years. My father serves the church as an elder, and interpreter for the deaf. He was for many years a deacon and also filled the pulpit on occasion. This upbringing grounded me and my brothers in scripture; consequently, we all serve the church in some capacity. My older brother is an elder, Bible class teacher, speaker at Christian camps, and makes regular mission trips to Ecuador. My younger brother is a Bible class teacher, song (worship) leader, worked for a Christian apologetics company based in Montgomery, Alabama, and preaches on occasion. They both married Christian ladies and are raising their children to serve God. Our upbringing has much to do with who we are and the choices we make for our lives.
In my case, there are four events in my life that lead to my decision to preach as a minister. The first of these occurred when I was only seven years old. In May of 1974,
I was in Sacred Heart Children’s Hospital after being struck by a car. While I was in the hospital, I overheard the nurses, nuns, and my parents talking about how thankful they were to God that I survived. I learned later that the doctors were unsure of my survival during the first three days I was in the Intensive Care Unit of the hospital. As a seven year old, I thought that God must have a special plan for me. I determined I would be a Christian and serve him in some way with my life (although at the time I was going to do this while playing point guard for the Boston Celtics). The second event came a few years later as we were vacationing in Ohio. While visiting the Rome Church of Christ in Proctorville, Ohio, I struck up a conversation with one of the members about the bulletin board in the foyer. He commented to my parents that he thought I would either be a politician or a preacher. My mother responded, “I hope he’s a preacher.” I was 10 or 11 years old at the time. I think of this event regularly. The third event came when I was in seventh grade. The minister (Jim Wisdom) at Leonard Street Church of Christ (our home congregation) asked me and my best friend if we wanted to preach on Titus and Philemon. We agreed, thinking he was joking. We had quite a surprise when he announced to the congregation in his introductory remarks that evening that we were preaching in four weeks. The preparation for, and delivery of, that sermon kindled a fire. I knew from that point on I would preach when I had the opportunity. The final event was my junior year in high school. I began to consider what I was going to do with the rest of my life. The school counselor suggested we look at what interested us; accordingly she suggested that one way to do that was to look at the papers we wrote for English and literature classes. Almost without fail, every paper in some way brought out a spiritual or biblical thought from what ever book, short story, or poem assigned. There was and is an inner drive to communicate the Truth of God and His Word in what ever avenue available. This final event and the accompanying inner reflection on the other three events lead me to choose to dedicate my life to ministry/preaching.