Have you ever wondered how, exactly, an Evangelical man (or, in some instances, woman) becomes a prophet, preacher, or evangelist? What’s the process one goes through to become a spokesperson for the Evangelical God? In this post, I will detail how someone becomes an out-front spokesperson for the one true God.
First, a candidate for the ministry must be a saved/born again/bought-by-the-blood child of God. A prospective prophet, preacher, or evangelist must a clear, definitive testimony of salvation. An added bonus is a life before Jesus that includes drug use, drunkenness, sexual deviance, Satan worship, or atheism. The more fantastical the testimony, the more likely it is that congregants will think a person is a bona fide man of God.
Second, a candidate for the ministry must be baptized. This is the first step new believers take in their new life with Christ. Some Evangelical sects also believe that ministerial candidates must give evidence that they have been baptized with the Holy Ghost. Such Spirit baptism is often evidenced by speaking in tongues.
Third, a candidate for the ministry must know that God is calling him to be a prophet, preacher, or evangelist. How does one know that God is calling him? Well, he just knows. Calling is a feeling, a psychological/emotional impression. I was saved and baptized at the age of fifteen. Several weeks after my conversion, I felt led by the Holy Spirit to go forward and confess to the church that I believed God was calling me to preach. The church was thrilled over my confession of ministerial ambition. Two weeks later, I preached my first sermon. For the next thirty-five years, I never one time questioned my calling. I just knew beyond all shadow of doubt that God had called me into the ministry. I was as sure of this calling as I was the fact that Jesus had saved me from my sins.
While some Evangelical sects have educational requirements for ministerial candidates, other sects, along with Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB), Charismatic, Pentecostal, Southern Baptist, and non-denominational churches have no requirements others than salvation, baptism, and calling. Countless Evangelical churches are pastored by men and women who don’t have a lick of post-high school education. The same can be said for evangelists. Years ago, I attended a revival meeting at a holiness church near the Baptist congregation I was pastoring at the time. The evangelist, an older man, would have his wife read the Bible for him. I had seen this tag-team approach before, but this evangelist was having his wife read because he, himself, could not read. Yet, I am sure if I asked if he was a God-called preacher of the gospel, he would have said with great assurance and certainty, yes.
Within the broad, diverse Evangelical tent, it is not uncommon to find prophets, preachers, or evangelists with little or no relevant ministerial training. God saved and called them, end of discussion. And as long as they believe God called them, that is all that matters. Sure, scores of Evangelical ministers have college educations. However, a closer examination of their educational backgrounds often reveals that they attended unaccredited Bible colleges or institutes (local church-based schools). These institutions often provide perfunctory, superficial educations that are little more than Sunday school classes. Even for men who attend accredited Evangelical colleges and universities, the academic level of their instruction is often woefully lacking. Readers might be surprised to know that the overwhelming majority of Evangelical ministerial graduates lack through, comprehensive training in the teachings of the sixty-six books of the Protestant Bible. All too often, ministerial students take survey classes that are little more than shallow commentaries on the Bible. Worse yet, most Evangelical pastors are not fluent in the original languages the Bible was written in — Hebrew and Greek.
Many Evangelical sects and churches use ordination as a gateway of sorts for men and women who say God has called them to be a prophet, preacher, or evangelist. Ordination is a stamp of approval put on the candidate by the denomination or church. In the IFB church movement, churches often call for a council of like-minded pastors to come together to examine the prospective ministerial candidate. Often, these examinations are little more than rubber-stamp approvals of the candidates. Who are they to say to no to what God has said yes to. How does the council know God has called a person into the ministry? Do they get some sort of impression or feeling that affirms to them that the candidate is a God-called prophet, preacher, or evangelist? Nope. they just take the candidate’s word for it.
Certainly, sects, churches, and ordination councils look for external evidence of calling. Is the prospective prophet, preacher, or evangelist active in the church? Does he or she have a passion for soulwinning? Does he have the requisite skills necessary to preach and teach? You would think this last point would be essential, but having listened to scads of sermons, I can tell you that a lot of pastors and evangelists are terrible communicators. In the early 1980s, I helped my father-in-law start an IFB church in Buckeye, Lake, Ohio. Dad had a real passion for evangelism, but his sermons, to put it bluntly, were atrocious. Dad graduated from Midwestern Baptist College in 1976. Somehow, he got all the way through college without ever learning to construct an outline and deliver a coherent sermon. Outlining always came easy for me, so I sat down with Dad one day and tried to teach him how to make a sermon outline. Sadly, my instruction did not stick. How he got through Midwestern without learning the basics of sermon construction is impossible to comprehend. I suspect that to his professors and pastors, Dad saying he was called by God into the ministry was all the mattered. Hey, who are we to say this guy isn’t fit to be a preacher? I left the church in Buckeye Lake in 1983, moving a half-hour south to Somerset to start a new IFB church. Dad closed the church six years later, and never pastored another church again. He continued to preach, but most often his congregations were found in nursing homes and jails — places where sermon quality didn’t matter.
What happens if a man’s church or sect doubts his calling? Does that mean the prospective candidate can’t be a prophet, preacher, or evangelist? Silly boy, of course not. You see, the calling card trumps all others. If a man says God has called him, how dare any sect or church say no to what God has said yes to. This is especially true with churches that are non-affiliated or independent. If a man finds disapproval in these settings, he’s free to move on to another church that is willing to acknowledge his calling. And if he can’t find a church that will put their stamp of approval on his life, there’s nothing to keep him from starting his own church. Thanks to the First Amendment and non-existent tax laws governing churches, little stands in the way of a man starting a new church. Over the course of twenty-five years in the ministry, I started four churches and pastored three churches that were first-generation church plants. Nothing ecclesiastically or governmentally stood in my way. I was a God-called preacher of the gospel, and that’s all that mattered. With Bruce and God, all things were possible.
Are you a former Evangelical prophet, preacher, or evangelist? Did you consider yourself called by God into the ministry? Were you ordained? Did you have a Bible college education? How in-depth was your training? Please share your experiences in the comment section.
Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.
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