PBW Day 1: The Call

The most important day in a preacher boy’s life is the moment he receives THE CALLâ„¢. If the fledgling preacher has grown up in a fundamentalist church, this event can happen anytime from pre-school onward — although most will find it expedient to experience it sometime in junior high. If you’re not coordinated enough to make your fundy high-school basketball team (motto: “It’s a good thing we’re playing for heavenly rewards not earthly trophies”) , being a preacher boy is about your only hope of gaining any kind of status.

The date and surrounding circumstances of THE CALLâ„¢ must be carefully documented. One just can’t be too careful about remembering each detail for the sake of later sermon illustrations, pulpit committees, and parole boards. The elements of a good call story are these:

– It must happen during a sermon by either 1) a famous fundy preacher 2) A pastor who has been at the same church for over 20 years 3) Dad. If a preacher boy happens to get THE CALLâ„¢ while fishing or relaxing under a fig tree it’s best if he keeps that to himself until the next available altar call following a sermon by one of the above.

– It must include a heart-warming story about how terrible the preacher boy’s first experience with preaching was due to his ignorance and poor judgment on the part of whoever mistakenly let him into the pulpit. This should inspire the listeners to be amazed at how far the preacher boy has come since then by comparison. The worse he is now, the more tragic the story from the past must be.

– It must conclude with words that express how thankful the preacher boy is that he is not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. It would probably be best to omit references to how slim his chances at gainful employment were if he had not received THE CALLâ„¢.

Many are called but few are chosen. The rest are sure to eventually find jobs in sales.

107 thoughts on “PBW Day 1: The Call”

  1. A good “Jonah” story about how the mog fought against The Callâ„¢, only to be beat into submission by God, also makes for great sermon illustrations later on.

  2. It’s particularly important to have a good “call” story if your father is the pastor of a large fundy church (and you already are pre-ordained to follow in Dad’s footsteps and be the next Sr. Pastor). So, in order to deny any allegations of nepotism, a good “call” story helps. . .somewhat. 🙄

  3. As great–and accurate–as this post is, the absolute best gag in it is the trademark symbol. It’s so perfect because all those callings seem to have been produced at the same factory. 😀

    1. Wow. I didn’t even notice that the first time. I really have to start looking at these posts more carefully.

  4. Somehow receiving the call usually usurps the reason for the call in the first place. It’s like getting drafted in the first round, but never delivering a post season playoff run.

  5. You forgot that when most people testify about the cal, and describe it in their lives, they weren’t looking for it, and really didn’t want it. They’ll say things like, “I fought against the call…” This is opposite to Scripture in every way possible. “He that desireth the office of a bishop desireth a good thing.” Also, you have to work in preacher boy competitions during fine arts week at fundy schools.

    1. I wonder if the reason some of them have to make it clear that they wrestled a LOT with God before surrendering to the call is because they believe a preacher has extreme authority over their people and because their method of preaching is to rant and rave and holler at people. If they say they WANTED to be a preacher, then it looks like they’re admitting to WANTING power over people or admitting that they like screaming at people. They probably DO like it, but it’s just not the thing to admit it!!! 😕 A man with a true pastor’s heart is a servant, gentle and easily entreated, not a power-hungry hot-tempered egomaniac.

      1. PW,
        That is one of the most insightful and close to home responses I have read. Thank you for those words. (george posted this in the wrong place)

    1. How about the “draft pick” call? Much like the “I didn’t wanna do it” call, but, the PB was a First Rounder, what ELSE could he do?

    2. also the near death experience that resulted in them being forced to accept the call…almost reeks of Calvinism, I’m just saying 😆 … and the poor sods that they’ve heard of that didn’t accept the call and were immediately smote by the Lord.

  6. Love thed unqualified to work in any other field — but God doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies the called! All God’s people said……

    1. Just heard a great line in a movie: The wages of sin are no where near as lucrative as the Lord’s work! 🙂

  7. You hear a lot of those kinds of testimonies by counselors at the Wilds. Those kids are excellent at articulating how they “fought against God and lost.” I guess, as a POW of the Almighty, the first punishment is to spend a whole summer instilling legalism on vulnerable teenagers. 🙁

  8. I work in telecommunications and the phone in this pic has more meaning than you realize. The Old Rotary system allowed one to dial your home number from your home phone… hang up and answer your own phone call.
    You know kinda like the Fundie Call to be a preacher, self initiated.

    1. Ha! I remember doing that for fun as a kid! We had two “extensions,” so I could call, and when someone else in the house answered the phone in the other room, pretend to be calling from somewhere else.

      1. Our phones looked just like the one in the picture, too. (If you wanted a color other than black, it cost extra every month.)
        Come to think of it, if the kid in the picture had more hair, that could have been me.

  9. The Age range is spot on as well. I know an MK whose family settled in our area. As a 12-13 yr old he actually said,”When I grow up I want to be a preacher and have other people support me.” Out of the mouths of babes….

    Warning: Rabbit trail
    He has since matured and gotten away from the IFB cult, in fact he was kicked out of the Christian school he was attending and not allowed to attend his senior year because he held to the doctrines of Grace. They would not let him come back for his senior year because of his “Calvinist” beliefs. The school was afraid of his radical ideas on Grace and the Sovereignty of God.
    End Rabbit Trail:

    1. He went to Ambassador, didn’t he? Darrell, please spotlight that den of lunacy one of these days.

  10. I used to teach at a Fundy school, and it amazed me how many of my students were “called” each year during school revival services. After we had had the obligatory altar call for salvation, lasting at least fifteen minutes, the altar call for Christian service inevitably followed, probably to clear out the few kids who were still in the pews.

      1. Ah, but then fundy preacher can’t feed his ego by seeing people respond to his preaching. 🙄

  11. Is “THE CALL” really trade marked?

    Anyway great piece. I never really had THE CALL…not the preacher call. But I do remember some preachers trying to get kids to go forward they would dilute the call to just “committing your life to God.” IOW saying to God do whatever you want…if that is pastor great, if that is teacher at a Christian school fine, whatever. The purpose was to get kids to come down the aisle for the call…hopefully the preacher would then be able to convince the kid later on that it was really for preaching. Also if you did the “commit” rather than THE CALL then you could include the ladies which would further bump your numbers.

  12. Silly how Paul listed all those qualifications for elders and forgot to list THE CALL. “Timothy, look for THE CALL.”

    Rabbit Trail: A friend I went to Fundy U with just posted a video of his 4yr old “preaching” behind daddy’s pulpit. Thus said “preaching” was 6 seconds of yelling, pulpit hitting, and waving big Bible. Just like daddy. End Rabbit Trail

    1. That’s a typical 4-year-old’s understanding of what preaching is.
      What’s Daddy’s excuse?

  13. It’s also good to include heartwarming little anecdotes such as how the mog’s “mother always used to tell about how she’d find me in the back yard on a tree stump, preaching to the cows!”

    1. And that time he tried to Baptize the cat… it was after that experience he knew that cats were demonic and straight from the pits of hell… 😈
      Why anything that would act like that when someone was doing something to them for their own good has to be Satan’s Own! Cats with a captial “C” and Rhymes with “P” and that stands for pool! …and those cats “mew” and that rhymes with “Pew… and those in the pew remind him of that cat and so he will spend the next 20 years or so taking his deep seated frustration with the cat that took offense to being baptized out on the cats in the pews. O course he’s doing to the pew what he did to the cat for their own good dontcha know, and that’s just swell!

  14. Here in the UK, Channel 4 – which, in all its sensationalising glory – did a documentary about both these kids. It was disturbing. Not only to see how Channel 4 were so patronising about Christianity, but how these kids got put into these positions. I have no doubt that God can use young people for amazing things. This, however, is just… weird.

  15. Once again, Darrell, you have the best picture archive in the whole Internet. The written text on this one is pure gold, too.

  16. Pretty much describes me, except the part about sales; I ended up in IT.

    But yeah, famous preacher and all. Happened at camp (of course) with Tom Farrell preaching (of course). Concluded with Farrell telling me that if I desired the office of a bishop, I desired a good thing, and Satan wouldn’t put it in my heart to be a preacher, so therefore if I wanted to be a preacher it must have been God. Upon returning to my home church we had one of those “camp report” services where everyone lined up uncomfortably in front of the church and read platitudes about the last week in a monotone voice, not making eye contact. The sponsors went first, and one of them announced before I could even get to the mic that I was going to be a preacher and even named the school that I would be attending (thank GOD I didn’t ever consider going there). So much for making my big announcement.

    Five years later, now in college, another big-name preacher (Morris Gleiser) suggested that maybe I didn’t have the personality to be a youth pastor and that I should consider other avenues of ministry. Oddly enough, that may have been the beginning of the end for me in Fundamentalism, and it came from an uber-fundy to boot.

    The way I see it, God fixed the awful advice of one Fundy and used the advise of another Fundy to steer me away from Fundyism. Go on, keep saying God’s a fundamentalist. 😎

    1. IT is the 2nd most common field for ex-preacherboys, after salesman. How else can you make a decent living if your degrees are unaccredited?

      But I think the distinction is that the IQ of the IT guys are at least a couple standard deviations above mean… the logical inconsistencies of fundamentalism stick in their crawl more and eventually they drop out on their own accord.

  17. Oh, Preacher Boys. They were the WORST to date. So self-righteous. I may have to get up and vomit while remembering this. I was “dating” one at BJU and he was going out on Minutemen and spent EVERY minute of every day from the start of the semester to when they left doubting his salvation (I think this was a requirement of going out on that kind of team) and being grouchy to me because of it. He also told me that “there are girls here who you can tell, just by looking at them, that they love Jesus.” He was referring to me wearing too much eyeliner.

    And yet, I wanted to date this peculiar beast. I wanted to be accepted into the Boj-y circles, be asked to pray in Bible conference, and wear big white-collared shirts for the rest of my life. I even took “the minister’s wife” from Beneth herself to prove what good preacher-boy girlfriend material I was. They didn’t fall for it, thank God, and I escaped and found my way here.

    1. Your typical Fundy U’s aren’t the only ones with the preacher boy problem. I’m on the verge of escaping a certain SBC seminary (rife with fundamentalism, if you ask me) that is inundated with boys who can’t practice much of the righteousness they parrot. Leaves the poor fellas confused and vacillating between hyper-inflated self concept (as m-o-g’s) and a crushing sense of failure (because the previous status didn’t somehow erase their libidos).

      Glad you escaped, Sarah! For that matter, glad I escaped! I got sick of attempts to preach and paw at the same time. Married myself an egalitarian archaeologist, instead.

      1. Hmmmm… a Southern Baptist seminary rife with Fundamentalism. I’m guessing SBTS, SEBTS, NOBTS, or SWBTS? Yeah, I know that’s like four of the six…

        1. It’s definitely on that list. I’m biding some time. Actually mere days away from graduation, and because of certain developments, I’m not giving any excuses to not hand over that paper. 😛 I’ve been reading this site so long, holding my tongue about the abuses and fundamentalism that can be seen in this bastion of evangelicalism.

          I remember meeting new guys at parties who were able to detail their ideal wife within the first 20 minutes of meeting. Incredibly awkward. I also met girls who were entirely open about wanting to find their very own preacher pet/boy. Guess that’s fine, if that’s what they want, but there’s no pretending it wasn’t a strange environment!

        2. Well, if you’re afraid of retaliation it’s either SBTS or SWBTS. Given your Fundy cred, I’m guessing SBTS.

          In which case, yes, I know just how full the place is of kookbaggery.

        3. Yep, I’m going with SBTS, too. What you’ve described reminds me of my last semester or two of Fundy U, so I completely understand your reticence about revealing details about your identity. Best of wishes in making it to the end of the tunnel and out of that world!

    2. The tone of your post perfectly mirrors the frustration I felt during my time at BJ. So much time and effort spent trying to fit in, play the part, be a “spiritual leader.” Fortunately (although I didn’t think it was fortunate at the time), I was blessed to have some truly self-absorbed “spiritual leaders” over me to tell me just how unfit for service I was. After three years, I decided they were right!

    3. Amen! I once dated a preacher boy back in… it would have been early high school for me. He had a problem with me wearing makeup. I had a problem with me having facial scars. He told me to quit wearing makeup. I didn’t, but I toned it way down to cover my scars. He dumped me… and then started dating a Tammy Faye clone! Whatever! For those who say I wasn’t “submissive” enough, all it took was one look at my replacement to realize that I was actually too submissive, and he wanted a bigger challenge.

      He’s a preacher somewhere in Kansas now, and he didn’t marry the Tammy Faye clone.

        1. Actually, he was living at the church’s children’s home, so it’s not like we could go out on a date at all. I’d just get to see him at church.

  18. “If a preacher boy happens to get THE CALLâ„¢ while fishing or relaxing under a fig tree it’s best if he keeps that to himself until the next available altar call following a sermon by one of the above.”

    This is brilliant.

  19. I also dated a preacher boy while at a certain fundamentalist University. No comment except what a fortunate escape!

  20. I surrendered to the almighty call my 1st year attending FU. When asked to give a testimony I very conveniently “remembered” actually receiving the call when I was 13 at bible camp but rebelled against the call all through high school. fortunately, many wise and holy men of God told me through divine guilt trips what the Holy Spirit wanted me to do, so instead of following the wicked desires of my sinful nature and serving my country in the military, I gave it all up for God and went to Bible college instead. Suddenly I was obviously right with God, because the people of my fundy church asked me to preach.

    Three years later after becoming a Christian, I left the unaccredited fundy cult I was attending because I wanted to worship Jesus instead of the guys that preached in chapel. I am now trying to enlist like I wanted to in the 1st place, but with this economy it will be a while and I am working fast food in the mean time. “The call” screwed me over.

    1. @forgiven, God bless! God can restore the years the locust has eaten! He will use you now and in the future!

  21. Don’t forget that the universities feed this sort of thing. Preacher-boy-kids get discounts at Fundy U.

  22. I never really gave it much thought until now, but having spent a lot of time around preacher boys, there were some really horrible opinions on women in that group. Basically the prevailing view was that the primary role of women in a ministry relationship was that of the prop – make the food, keep the kids happy, put out as necessary, etc. Dates were framed in hunting terms, with the “hunter” tracking the “game” until he could move in for the “kill.” All sorts of judgments were made just on first look, with snide comments to the other PBs about how that girl certainly wouldn’t make a good preacher’s wife, or how anyone who dresses like that wouldn’t be a spiritual equal.

    And we wonder why there are so many marriages on the rocks in Fundy ministry circles these days?

    1. That’s about right. Preacherboys only saw women as their personal slaves for sex and housekeeping. Some of them do wise up, however. Unfortunately, not nearly enough.

      I used to ride this one PB to death about treating his wife right after he married a really nice person at church who quite honestly deserved much better. Mom says she keeps him in line pretty well now. 😉

      AFA the PB that got away: I was actually quite proud of him one Sunday. I was home for Christmas, and he had brought his wife and kids in to see their grandparents. He got asked to preach. It was a poorly-kept secret that the pastor’s marriage was a trainwreck. So what does PB do? He’s the only PB I’ve ever seen who started bragging on his wife from the pulpit and talking about how much he loved her without also cramming the “submission” word somewhere in the speech. The pastor did not look thrilled. I was delighted. :mrgreen:

  23. “It would probably be best to omit references to how slim his chances at gainful employment were if he had not received THE CALLâ„¢.”

    Most of these kids have never known anything exept their fundy church, school, and youth group. They are woefully ill-equipped to deal with life outside of fundyland. It is one of the many reason we got out. We did not want our children to head down the fundy road, being fearful of the world and the people in it. Many times, when one of the young men of our former IFB church claimed to be called to preach, my husband and I would comment to one another, “What else can he do? He would get eaten alive in the real world.”

    Heavy sigh…exhale. So glad to be out.

  24. I had a dynamic youth pastor. Many people got “The Call” while there. Few of us are still in ministry.

    This is the best “call” I know. It’s a poem by George Herbert:


    Come, my Way, my Truth, my Life :
    Such a Way, as gives us breath :
    Such a Truth, as ends all strife :
    And such a Life, as killeth death.

    Come, my Light, my Feast, my Strength :
    Such a Light, as shows a feast :
    Such a Feast, as mends in length :
    Such a Strength, as makes his guest.

    Come, my Joy, my Love, my Heart :
    Such a Joy, as none can move :
    Such a Love, as none can part :
    Such a Heart, as joyes in love.

  25. Darrell – I’m looking forward to the next posts… especially if they have any titillating details of how a Preacher Boy finds a Preacher Wife. It sucks that women are so blatantly left out of the Call to Preach equation… sure – they can now be called to Teach and lead – but so rare is a woman behind the pulpit the top dog in churches – outside mainline protestant – non-existent.

    1. Duh… Preacher Boys hang out with the El Ed majors.

      And have you never heard of the girls called to be a pastor’s wife? I’ve met them atma Southern Baptist seminary, though usually they say it’s a call to (or burden for) “womens ministries. The really hot ones also have a burden for “church planting” because that’s what the stud Preacher Boys do.

      1. Duh… Preacher Boys hang out with the El Ed majors.

        That, and music majors. Bonus points for snagging a church music major. That way, you can get your money’s worth with a piano player. That was the thing when I was in school – PBs finding music majors or minors so they could kill two birds with one stone. Not only do they get a wife, they get a piano player and potentially a music teacher! And if they’re good enough they can give lessons to people in the church to make up the financial gap when the church pays them half of minimum wage.

      2. I’ve met several pastor’s wives who are nurses. That way they have a salary with benefits so even if the church isn’t going well, their familiy stays solvent. I never was interested in nursing, but I’ve wished from time to time that I had a more practical degree to help our family finances. My education degree from BJU and my ability to play the piano are just not skills in high demand in our area!

    2. Besides the mainline Protestant churches– where women preachers are more and more normal– there are the Pentecostal churches. The Pentecostals were way out ahead of most of the others in leadership and preaching by women. Many of them were also racially integrated long before other churches.

      Regular readers will know I’m far from being a Pentecostal, but we might as well give them their due.

      1. Someone hasn’t told our big Pentecostal church here that with regards to women preachers. In an idle moment I e-mailed them to ask why they never had any women preachers at their conventions and I got the normal verses from Timothy and I Corinthians in reply. Which, of course, I’d never noticed before in my twenty or so years of Christianity. But I think the real reason is so they can keep the women playing the piano.
        Good to hear this isn’t universal across Pentecostal churches. And this same church is also very multi ethnic.

        1. Pentecostal churches are not very uniform at all in their policies. They’re only loosely affiliated (if at all) in bodies like the Assemblies of God.
          So I should have said, SOME Pentecostal churches were way out ahead of most of the others …

        2. Well I’ve just remembered another local Pentecostal church where the pastor’s wife used to preach regularly, so it does vary, as you say.

  26. And if you don’t personally get a call your pastor (or youth pastor in this case) can get it on your behalf. The YP at our fundy church would take one or two senior high boys he thought had “potential” and take them under his wing. He calls it mentoring.

    One boy was determined to go to med school, but after this mentoring experience he chose to attend FU and is a preacher today.

    1. Yes I can recall a few older leaders along the way who would “see ministry potential” or whatever in youngsters and get them to go to camps, missions trips, conferences or whatever in hopes of them getting the call.

      It always seemed a bit like rigging the game to me.

        1. In response to Don’s post:
          “They just need to be “bent” to the mentor’s will.”

          This comment brings to mind the time the pastor preached to the youth, “Give me your heart”. “Me” in this sermon was the pastor.

        1. No, fundies have to use Samuel, and other OT. The idea of calling is vocational to all humanity in the New Testament to be the people of God in your lives, and be honest in your work whatever it may be.

      1. My former pastor would call me out from the pulpit to say that I was CALLED into the ministry and that God was dealing with me and he could see it. I never went to a Fundy U instead I went to the local public university and now I have a great job in the Gov’t. So glad that I didn’t answer THE CALL.

    2. I had a friend who gave up a medical scholarship at a secular college to pursue a degree in bible translation at BJU. I tried my best to talk him out of it. (As did many other people) But most of the teachers and his ex-girlfriend at my fundie high school thought going into the ministry was a better choice for him. (This was the 1980’s after all, the decade Hal Lindsey claimed when the Rapture would happen. It was urgent we save as many souls as possible.)
      He never used his degree; he never translated the bible into another language. He never left South Carolina. He doesn’t have a passport. He got married right out of college, had a family and has worked a series of menial jobs every since (sometimes three jobs at once). He got laid off from his last job a year ago and is still unemployed. It still makes to angry and depressed at the lost of such great potential. But he’s where the Lord wants him to be. (Like 10% of America)

      1. Ah, yes, Hal Lindsey:
        1970s: Armageddon will be any day now, broguht on by the USSR (oops).
        1980s: This will be the last decade for earth as we know it.
        1990s: Rapture will happen by 2000.
        Since 2000: Hal Lindsey is apparently still around, but really, who cares what he’s saying now? He’s the kind of guy who loses money betting on the instant replay.

  27. I once heard him say (paraphrased), “Can’t you just see it? He does not feel called yet, but it is so obvious.”

    1. Obadiah, feeling offish,
      Said, “It must have been those crawfish.”

      (From “Obadiah Overcome” in ALPHA BETA CHOWDER, by Jeanne Steig)

    2. Ahh – it was what some of us call the “Liver Shiver” – whether it is a Call, or being saved for the umpteenth time, or all of that….. 🙄

  28. Humor aside, it’s completely pathetic that a supposed “MOG” would manipulate people like this.

    I am familiar with men who should have NEVER, EVER, EVER, EVER gone into the ministry. Why did they? Because at a young age (teens to early twenties), some completely stupid fundy preacher told them that it was “God’s Will” that they go to “Bible College” and go into the ministry. After all, the really *dedicated, surrendered* Christians, go into “full-time Christian service” (translation–pastor, evangelist, Christian school principal, youth pastor, etc).

    Who cares if they were just newly a Christian and had no idea what they were getting into? Who cares if they couldn’t support their wife (and MANY children to follow)? Who cares if they couldn’t devote time to their marriage or family? Who cares if they were COMPLETELY lied to and manipulated by someone older who SHOULD have known better (but probably didn’t because they were too brain-washed themselves).

    Okay, off my rant for now.

    1. I’ve heard it said about more than one such person that they may have “overheard someone else’s call” to the ministry.

    2. Along that rant:
      How many mothers have guided their sons into the ministry with a sledgehammer until they finally answer the call to go into “full time” Christian service. (I never saw in the Bible where One could be a part-time Christian??)

      Get on me and wanna know,
      “Hank why do ya preach?”
      Hank why are you the Pope?
      Why must you add to the Laws that God Wrote?

      Stop and think it over,
      put yourself in my unique position,
      Ya know last fall momma said I got called,
      It’s a Family Tradition.”

  29. The last IFB pastor we had told my husband that he’d heard “THE CALL” on his behalf. He put an ungodly (pun intended) amount of pressure on my husband until it was beginning to wreck his health. One of the many reasons we finally left.

  30. The reality is that it is an unwritten rule in the Fundie world that a Pastor MUST have preacher boys that he can repoduce his ministry through. The Cult must go on. There are egos that need stroking. 🙄

  31. I have a feeling that this week is gonna hit me kinda hard. Mainly because this was kinda “real” with me. By real, I mean this whole messed up scenario of said THE CALLâ„¢. (Despite the fact that my picture looks John Lennon-esqe) I was headed down the road of the PB quite early on. I think I was actually in elementary school 😕 for my first round. Then later in junior high. Bleh. I was TOTALLY convinced of it my entire [high school] school career. Part of me “felt THE CALLâ„¢”. Part of me actually wanted to. Part of me felt “the wrestling with the Holy Spirit”. I can only thank God above that, somehow, He smacked me upside the head GOOD right after I graduated and was about to head off to the good ol’ Fundy U. Seriously. I’d be screwing myself if I didn’t have his extreme gut intuition to run the other as fast as I could.
    That said, I am extremely thankful that I got off of the downhill path to Preacher Boy before it was too late and slid into the fundy hell of hells.

    Just thought I’d share my story of how messed up IFB-land can make a 20 year old. 😐

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