Previous article in this series: April 1, 2018, p. 293.
Every believer has a God-determined calling in this life. Few passages in Scripture emphasize it as strikingly as the psalmist’s confession of God’s sovereignty over his life in Psalm 139. While he was yet “in [his] mother’s womb…[his] substance was not hid from” God, which is to say, God knew his unformed substance (vv. 13, 15). Indeed, adds the psalmist, “Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them” (16). God forms the believer in the womb for membership in the glorious body of Jesus Christ. Each believer is fashioned to fill a particular place and perform a specific function in the church. With that purpose in view, God determines the various gifts, personality, and life-experiences that shape each person for that place in the church. Included in God’s plan is the believer’s vocation. In addition, the Holy Spirit bestows spiritual gifts “to every man to profit withal” ().
As we have pointed out previously, some vocations enable a believer to serve God more directly than other vocations, through a direct service to the church. Two vocations that stand out are the Christian school teacher and the minister of the Word. Through these two vocations God blesses His church now, and for the future. For that reason, before any other vocation is considered the youth of the church must ask: Does God call me to teach in a Christian school? Does God call me to preach the gospel?
In this last segment on vocation we face the question, How do you determine whether or not God calls you to one of these vocation? As we have indicated in the previous articles, if God calls you to a particular work, He furnishes the necessary qualifications. For what qualifications ought one to search, then? The calling of teacher and preacher are in many ways so similar that one can speak of the qualifications of both simultaneously. And this we will do, setting forth four spiritual qualifications first, and then three natural abilities that one ought to possess for either calling.
As regards the requisite spiritual qualifications, they are not unique to teachers and ministers. Just as the qualifications for elders and deacons in I Timothy 3 should be found in all believers, so these that we set forth will be, ought to be, in every believer. Yet these qualities must be clearly manifest in those who pursue either of these vocations.
First and foremost, all those considering the calling of either teacher or minister must love God. Love for God produces a desire to give themselves to the praise and glory of God, which in turn is manifested in a life of grateful obedience. Loving God, they must recognize in themselves a love for God’s truth, and hence for the source of truth, the Bible. In addition, since the call is not general but specific as to the content of the teaching/ preaching, they do not merely say, “We want to be teachers.” Rather, they are convicted that God calls them to teach in harmony with the truth as God gave it to the Protestant Reformed Churches. Likewise, the call to the ministry. Therefore, we say that without a zeal for God, His cause, and His truth, no one ought to pursue these vocations.
Second, prospective teachers and preachers must find in themselves a genuine love for God’s people, particularly the youth. This brotherly love enjoined on all Christians truly desires the good of God’s people, and truly desires to help them as one is able. Do you have this yearning to give your time, abilities, and heart—to give yourself—for the good of sinful saints? Then, perhaps, you have the call to be a teacher or a minister.
Closely related, since both teaching and ministry are positions of service, the desire to serve must also be part of your spiritual makeup. Self-promotion has no place in these vocations. The proud must stay far away. Despite what you might imagine, God does not need you, no matter how gifted you may be. Ultimately, under God’s judgment, the proud will fail, for God’s people cannot abide such pride, and God will not tolerate it. A desire to serve, coupled with humility and meekness, these are the spiritual virtues found in godly, effective, beloved teachers and ministers.
A fourth spiritual trait that must be manifested in prospective teachers and preachers is godliness. This is the life of daily conversion described so well by the Heidelberg Catechism in Lord’s Day 33. It is the mortification of the old man, manifested in “a sincere sorrow of heart, that we have provoked God by our sins; and more and more to hate and flee from them.” It is the quickening of the new man, evident in “a sincere joy of heart in God, through Christ, and with love and delight to live according to the will of God in all good works.” Is perfection required? Obviously not. Yet fellow believers must see the work of the Spirit, the Holy, sanctifying Spirit, in the lives of those who will be teachers and ministers. Without this, the instruction of the teacher and the preaching of the minster will be undermined, for the walk will contradict the instruction, making it hypocritical and of no effect.
If then, upon examination, and with help of others, you behold these gifts of God in you—love for God and for His people, a desire to serve, and the life of sanctification, God may well be calling you to be a Christian school teacher or a minister of the Word.
Yet more is needed. God also bestows specific natural gifts to equip certain saints for teaching and for preaching. The most obvious prerequisite is the ability to teach. This mysterious gift from God equips one to convey knowledge in an understandable and interesting way—the teacher doing this in the light of Scripture, and the preacher teaching the truth of Scripture itself. Capable instruction also demands interpretation of the information—the teacher in the light of the Bible, and the preacher interpreting the Bible itself. And, effective teaching applies the truth to the lives of God’s people. Young people, examine yourselves and consult wise believers to determine whether God has given you these gifts to teach.
Second, as to natural gifts, both teachers and ministers need leadership qualities. To be effective in these vocations, you must have a certain level of self-confidence to stand before others and deliver your message with some authority. This is a difficult quality to assess, but again, you can be greatly helped by the judgment of others.
Third, both vocations demand the desire and ability to study. Do you like to read and study? Much study is required of both teacher and minister. They unceasingly pour out of themselves and their knowledge, and therefore, they need continual replenishment. Without serious, continual study, they become stale, for there is no development. Teachers and ministers who fail to apply themselves to their studies become a burden to the school and the church, respectively. Do you enjoy learning, even delight in gaining knowledge through study? Then you may well be called by God to one of these vocations.
These are some of the basic qualifications for which our youth must search themselves. They will not have all the qualifications at the same level as an experienced teacher or minster. Training is required, and then experience through working in their vocation. Those who seek such vocations should try a stint of teaching in some capacity, and in this way have opportunity both to evaluate themselves and seek the judgment of others. If you begin to see these God-given spiritual and natural gifts, talk to teachers; talk to ministers. They can help you in your struggle to know God’s will for your life.
Yet there is another element that is often a guide to knowing God’s will as to our calling, namely, availability. In Christian schools and in churches, this is rather referred to as “need.” In Protestant Reformed schools and churches the need is pressing. Let’s start with the schools. Months ago, the weekly bulletins in Protestant Reformed churches started carrying notices of open positions in Protestant Reformed schools—already eleven positions in January. As of this writing, schools are seeking teachers to fill sixteen positions! From a brand new educational effort in Edmonton, to expansions of high schools in Redlands and Randolph, to a variety of needs in established grade schools and high schools, many teachers are needed for the next school year.
According to the Teacher Education Development (TED) committee of the Federation of Protestant Reformed Schools, this pressing need will continue for the foreseeable future. A significant (happy) reason for this is that the schools are growing. Besides, schools will always have a certain turnover of teachers—women called to the new and high calling of being wives and mothers; men who, for various reasons, decide they are not called to teach, and seek another vocation; retirements. There is much reason for concern. Our schools need teachers. This makes the consideration of the calling more pressing.
As regards minsters, looking to the next few years, we can be specific. In the upcoming school year, no students from the PRC will enter the seminary. After the class of 2019 graduates (with two graduates, D.V.) there will be no graduates from the PRC for three years—in 2020, 2021, and 2022, though, we trust, there will be graduates from a sister church. Not until 2023, then, is there the possibility of a PRC graduate. At the same time, we hope a minister will soon accept the call to assist Covenant Evangelical Reformed Church in Singapore, and in 2019 a replacement for Prof. Cammenga will be called, opening churches for the aforementioned two graduates of that year (2019). By 2023, it is quite likely that six other ministers will have retired and Prof. Gritters’ replacement called. That means there could well be seven vacancies by the year 2023. In five years the need for ministers will be tremendous. That means the need for seminary students is urgent now!
Over the years, the Lord has blessed the Protestant Reformed schools and churches with a steady supply of teachers and ministers. Through these dedicated servants God has instructed, built up, and admonished the Protestant Reformed Churches in their generations. What a blessing! Will this continue?
The Heidelberg Catechism teaches that “God will give His grace and Holy Spirit to those only, who with sincere desires continually ask them of Him, and are thankful for them” (A. 116). Since teachers and ministers are gifts of God through whom God imparts so great blessings, one may rightly paraphrase that answer, “God will give His gifts of teachers and ministers to those only, who with sincere desires continually ask them of Him, and are thankful for them.”
It is obvious, then, what our response to this need must be, first and foremost—prayer! Let us steadfastly beseech the Lord to provide laborers for the Christian schools and the churches. But also, let us be encouraging our youth, from childhood on, to consider first whether God calls them to these vocations.
And to the youth reading this, perhaps because your parents love the Protestant Reformed schools and churches, and therefore placed it in your hands to read, I exhort you seriously to consider these pressing needs. Pray diligently that God will make known to you His will, and where He calls you to work. When seeking his vocation, a spiritually minded person’s interest is neither money nor prestige. Rather, his concern is how God evaluates his life and work. Therefore, he asks, “To what life and work does God call me?”