If there is anything else a man can do other than preach, Martyn Lloyd-Jones maintained, he ought to do it. The pulpit is no place for him. The ministry is not merely something an individual can do, but what he must do. To enter the pulpit, that necessity must be laid upon him. A God-called man, he believed, would rather die than live without preaching. Lloyd-Jones often quoted the famed British pastor Charles H. Spurgeon: “If you can do anything else do it. If you can stay out of the ministry, stay out of the ministry.” In other words, only those who believe they are chosen by God for the pulpit should proceed in undertaking this sacred task.
“Preachers are born, not made,” Lloyd-Jones asserted. “This is an absolute. You will never teach a man to be a preacher if he is not already one.” It was clearly the case in the life of Lloyd-Jones. He realized he was not joining a volunteer army.
What constitutes this call to preach? Lloyd-Jones identified six distinguishing marks of this divine summons to the pulpit. He himself had felt the gravity of each of these realities weighing heavily upon his own soul. He believed the same spiritual forces should come to bear on all preachers.
First, Lloyd-Jones affirmed there must be an inner compulsion within the one called to preach the Word. He stated there must be “a consciousness within one’s own spirit, an awareness of a kind of pressure being brought to bear upon one’s spirit.” He identified this as an irresistible impulse, as “some disturbance in the realm of the spirit” that “your mind is directed to the whole question of preaching.” This inner coercion becomes “the most dominant force in their lives.” Lloyd-Jones explained, “This is something that happens to you, and God acting upon you by His Spirit, it is something you become aware of rather than what you do.” In other words, the drive to preach becomes a burden upon the heart that must be fulfilled. It is a holy preoccupation within the soul that causes the one called to step out in faith and embrace the work.
This divine calling, Lloyd-Jones believed, grips the soul and governs the spirit. It becomes an overwhelming obsession that cannot be discarded. It will not go away nor leave a man to himself. He explained that there becomes no way of escape. Such a strong force lays hold of the man that he is held captive. Lloyd-Jones recognizes this when he states:
You do your utmost to push back and to rid yourself of this disturbance in your spirit which comes in these various ways. But you reach the point when you cannot do so any longer. It almost becomes an obsession, and so overwhelming that in the end you say, “I can do nothing else, I cannot resist any longer.”
Second, Lloyd-Jones emphasized there will be an outside influence that will come to the one called. The input and counsel of other believers becomes influential to the one destined for the ministry. It may be the feedback of a pastor or the affirmation of an elder. It could be the encouragement of another believer. When they hear this person speak the Word, perhaps in a class or Bible study, they are often the best discerners of the man who is called into the ministry. In other words, observant people often recognize the hand of God upon that person before he senses it. Those who best know God and most love His Word often can detect who is being set apart for this work. They give insightful affirmation to the individual being called.