Called or Just Employed?

We were a small church meeting in what was formerly a convenience store. Smoking-cigar.jpg

Less than 36 months earlier, I was single, driving a UPS truck and a recent graduate of the University of North Texas. Now I was married, living in North Alabama and driving two hours each Sunday to preach at this church in middle Tennessee.

On this particular Sunday, I had just walked out of the double glass doors onto the gravel parking lot. Parked near these doors was his white Cadillac convertible. Inside was our wealthiest member. He was in his 50s, divorced, and gave the largest dollar amount each Sunday morning. He was already in his car, lighting his cigar. He motioned for me to come over to his car. The electric window on the driver’s side began to slowly come down.

He glared at me, looking very angry. He told me not to mention African-American people in the sermon anymore. (“African-American” wasn’t exactly the term that he used.) That morning, I had mentioned racism in my sermon and he wasn’t happy.

I stood there for a few seconds and didn’t say anything. I was stunned. While I had faced this attitude before, I had never had anyone demand that I not preach on something that seemed so biblical. Finally I said, “I will not ignore an obvious application in the Bible.”

Needless to say, he was not happy.

This was an important moment for me. I had to decide whether I was employed by the church (having a “preaching job”) or whether I was called by God, with my obedience to him being at stake.

The call makes all the difference.


Can you recall a time when you had to decide if you were called or just employed?

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10 thoughts on “Called or Just Employed?

  1. I really liked the story and the lesson. Parishoners sometimes try to use church as a place (sometimes the only place) they feel the power of influence.

    What was the fallout of the story, I’d be interested to know.

    • The fallout? In some ways, there was very little, Fritz. He had become more and more disconnected from the congregation due to his preoccupation with other interests, etc. There would later be another incident that was more public in which a guy lashed out at a number of people. Again at least part of the issue was race.

      For me, these incidents helped me realize that we had not come as far as I had thought. I was a young preacher (my first year) and I thought we were way beyond these kinds of attitudes. I was wrong.

  2. I was in my first year of ministry and was preaching through Romans. I came to chapter 14. I told Tiersa on Saturday evening, “If no one comes to me angry after tomorrow morning’s sermon, I didn’t preach it correctly.”

    Glory to God!


      • I did. And I had a few conversations that morning and over the next few days that truly facilitated positive growth and change in the subsequent years. Although I’ve always been confident of my calling in ministry, that Romans 14 morning in a very real way forced me to prove it (to God and to myself).

        Glory to God!


  3. I once preached a sermon out of James 2 and made applications to racism. This was in a church that had several members who had a problem with African-Americans. When I had earlier asked the preacher (I held another ministry role) what some members thought of Blacks, his answer was a simple, “They don’t like them.” Thus, I made race an application of the text for that sermon. After it was over, an elder asked me with a slight smile, “Do you feel secure about your job?” I did not lose my job, but it is hard to say whether there was any impact from the sermon.

    • Phillip,

      Great to hear from you. Thanks for this story. I suspect that many of us who preach have many stories that have never been told regarding preaching and this issue. Amazing. Thanks.