“Don’t enter the ministry if you can possibly do anything else and be happy.” Young men often hear this kind of advice from working preachers. I myself have tried to quit a hundred times! During the sleepless gray hours after many a Sunday I have worked countless letters of resignation to be read the following week to what I hoped might be a stunned congregation. But the letters have never been read, never even been written.

One day, perhaps, the gnawing sense of personal inadequacy and the mounting pressure of humanly insoluble problems may be too much, and I will write and deliver such a pronouncement.

I’ve been in the ministry twenty-seven years now. I started preaching my first sermon while a sophomore in college. The vision began, however, at a Christian youth camp when I was sixteen. Never have I forgotten the vigor and enthusiasm of several young ministers who at the time stimulated a burning and abiding idealism.

My father died suddenly when I was eleven, and I was deeply impressed with what I can only call a “God-consciousness.” My attitude toward church became less casual. One summer the usual interests in sports and girls and the long hours of after-school work in a grocery store were capped by a special climax. In those depression days one week of camp in a rented fairgrounds was all either the church or the church families could afford. During such a week came my crucial decision. Standing alone under the stars on a warm, sweet summer night, I knew I had to preach. Unsophisticated as it may sound, I was aflame with the desire to spend my life in sharing with all whom I could reach the transforming power of Christ that I had come to know.

My courageous widowed mother sold everything, and we moved to the state capital ...

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