Summary: This sermon is about answering the call to preach the Gospel! Will you go tell the Good News?
I. What if this morning you woke up to hear God’s voice distinctly calling you into the ministry?
-What would be your excuse? too young? too old? don’t know the right words? don’t know enough Bible?
-What if the disciples hadn’t followed?; or Moses hadn’t gone to Pharaohs? What if Mary hadn’t given birth to Jesus?
-What if the twelve had scattered but never gone and preached another word about Jesus?
-What if my Grandfather Rev./Dr.Dewey Whitwell hadn’t been a minister? What if Rev. Pleasant Whitwell (4th Great Grandfather on my mother’s side?) hadn’t been a Primitive Baptist Minister in Tennessee? What if my Great-Great Grandfather Captain John Wesley Shelton hadn’t been a minister? I liked finding him on the 1850 Census in Adams County, OH. His listed him, and his age and on a separate line it read "Minister of the Gospel". I think four of his sons became ministers. His grand-daughter, my Grandmother Edith Shelton married Rev Ernest Bradford. What if Ernest had not answered God’s call to preach? Or his two sons Rev. Orla Bradford and my father Rev Charles Bradford? -- Okay, maybe you get the point! There are few more ministers that I have found in my history, but thanks be to God, that faithful people, like Jeremiah have answered God’s call upon their lives.
The influence of my father and grandfather’s upon my own life and ministry I know is enormous! My own call to hear the gospel of Christ is certainly based upon their faithful witness, and that of my mother and grandmother’s. But they have not only influenced me, but how many countless lives have they touched, not in their name, but in the name of Christ! There are times I wished that I knew how many people my grandfather’s, father and I together have as they say: "hatched, matched and dispatched?" In other words, how many people have we baptized, married and buried? And I know that their influence on me, and their witness about the Lord Jesus Christ, is relevant to my own calling and willingness to step forward and serve the Lord when he called me into service.
And today, I want to honor that call, by remembering it, as I near the completion of my first ten years of pastoral ministry. And giving thanks to God for all that He has done!
My dad used to tell a story about a guy who went into the ministry, but his preaching wasn’t very good and his ministry wasn’t very successful. He finally was called on the carpet to examine the "fruits of his ministry" (as John Wesley would have called it). They pastoral review committee inquired of the man, "Tell us about how you were called". The man began to tell how one day out on his farm, the weather was nice, but everyone knew that a rain was coming, when all of a sudden he heard a voice booming from within "Go PC". He inquired of the Lord, "What do you mean?", but again all the farmer heard from within was "Go PC!". And so, explained the man, "I packed up and left my farm and began to "PC" - to "Preach Christ!". The review committee study his sermons; examined his ministry and gave him the following report: "Young man we agree with you, that on that day on your farm, just before a good spring rain, we trust that you did hear the voice of the Lord saying "Go PC!", but after that we wholeheartedly disagree with your interpretation of the Lord’s calling. We surmise, my good man, that when you heard "go PC" it was the Lord telling you to "go Plant Corn!".
II. Some fourteen years ago now, I began to realize that the Lord was calling me into ministry. Like Jeremiah’s call, I trusted that it came from the Lord, and I had a few excuses. Can the Lord really use me? I do have some skeleton’s in my closet, some past sins that certainly the Lord wouldn’t want! Did you ever notice that Moses’ argument to God why he couldn’t go to Pharaohs was not that "he had killed a man"? I didn’t have any seminary training, and it would have to wait! I was under contract with the U.S. Army, and God would just have to wait!...and the list goes on...Until I arrive in San Antonio Texas, and we are back home in the United Methodist Church, and my friend Rev. Sue White tells me about being a local pastor.
But I still had some excuses: But I am still in the military! That was until after Desert Storm they offer "early outs", except in my MOS (specialty). My Special Agent in Charge, My Commander, My BN Level Commander, even the Criminal Investigation Command all "non-concurred" on my request for an early out saying that "I was critical in a shortage MOS"... but the Department of the Army concurred and I was released in March or April of 1992, four years early. A year later, April of 1993 I was introduced to be the pastor of the Cotulla UMC, and this May marks the end of ten years of pastoral ministry for Laurel and myself. And I remain here in response to God’s call to PC! Preach Christ!