Christianity,  Theology/Bible

Are you a 4th Man?

Professor Kevin Smith brought the thunder today in Southern Seminary’s chapel with a message from Ezekiel 37. He’s looking for some guys who want to be a “fourth man.” You’ll have to listen to the sermon to find out what a “fourth man” is, but you’ll want to be one after hearing this message. Professor Smith will learn you a thing or two about whether or not you’re really called. Don’t miss this one. Watch the video above, or download the audio here.


  • judd Rumley


    I have listened to two chapels from Southern in the past year, Chandler on Hebrews 11 and this one. Both should be required for all incoming students. Both have convicted and comforted me. Thanks for the post.


  • Nate

    Judd, I’ll go one step further.

    I think all incoming students should have to serve at least one year in churches like Kevin is speaking about so they will understand the reality of ministry. It is far too easy for students to congregate to the “seminary” churches or mega-churches so they can be groupies. There are many churches in Louisville and I’m sure the other cities with seminaries that desparately need workers. The harvest is plentiful and the workers are few, but the Lord Jesus never said harvesting was easy work. I’m particularly tired of having students visit my church and then say, “I want to do ministry, but I really don’t care for the worship music.” (translated: It’s old and boring)

    You want to know if you’re called to ministry. Come to the 4th man churches and find out.

  • Ben

    I, too listened to this one and the Matt Chandler one (Hebrews 11), and thought they were great.

    I wish seminaries talked more about “calling”. Not in the “you’re called”, or “you’re not called” sense, which is what Prof Smith and Rev Chandler spoke about, but what if you really don’t know? What if some moments the call seems so real that it burns in your bones, and other moments you could walk away and feel nothing but relief? As I talk to seminary students (I’m a seminary grad myself), many of them are truly confused by their “calling”. Almost no one claims to be “called” like those in the OT or NT (i.e., through a profound and unusual encounter with the divine), but they feel compelled nonetheless. I’ve started to wonder if “calling” is a helpful way to speak of it.

    I suppose I’m asking the great academic minds to think deeply about “calling”, what we mean when we say it, what it looks like in reality, and what the lives of the “called” should actually reflect. Something about the usual thinking on the topic seems a little…off.

  • John

    First of all, this was a great message that attacks the myopic entitlement mentality that often accompanies seminary (and seminarians). But I echo Ben’s plea. I think this whole thing needs to be reexamined.

  • Tim Hawkins

    I serve in a church where I am the only staff person. There are no stoplights in this town of approximately 200 people. I create and fold the Sunday morning bulletins, my wife hardly attends services because she is usually in the nursery watching my two youngest children (I have four total), sometimes my wife and I have to make decisions whether or not to get gas for the van or buy groceries on any given week. I love the people here and I know that I am loved by them. However, often times their only response to my ministry is a comment on the length of the sermon (I try not to go over 30 minutes but sometimes it happens). Being the 4th man (I guess I fall under that category)is very difficult. It is easy to get hyped up about being the 4th man after hearing a sermon like this. The reality is that it is extremely tough. Not knowing how to encourage my wife because she’s wore out spiritually and emotionally because she is not able to sit under the preaching of the word because there isn’t anybody willing to work the nursery is a heavy burden to bear. Do I look for another church because she needs to be under the preaching/teaching of God’s word as well as in regular fellowship with other believers? This is a weight that I carry every time I stand behind the pulpit and address a people who are perfectly happy with how things are while my wife suffers (there are many other factors that add to her difficulty). Count the costs, love the Lord, love your families, love the Church, die to yourself, and prepare for much difficulty if you seek to be a 4th man.

  • Tim Hawkins

    Just to be clear, the question about looking for another church was rhetorical. I am not looking to the comment section of Denny Burk’s blog to find the answer (as much as I respect Dr. Burk’s blog, I don’t need it to direct me on this matter). Also, for those of you who may be tempted to offer me the necessary advice on how to solve the difficulties that I mentioned in the above post, I am surrounded by Godly people who know my circumstances intimately and have been used mightily by God to minister to my wife and I and encourage us to persevere.

  • Matthew Staton

    I tried watching it but it kept resetting at about the half-way point. From what I could see, I was encouraged, convicted, motivated.

    I appreciated being reminded that the Lord knows if dry bones can indeed live. I think this was a great thing to present to seminary students who might be seduced into forgetting the difference between a servant and a respected professional. I will just say that I do not take this as the final and only word on the subject as it relates to every situation and every family.

    It did give me a smile throughout the day to repeat “Can this valley of dry bones live?” “Lord, you know!”

  • Matthew Staton


    No advice. Just an “I hear ya.” I am not quite where you are but I’ve been close enough to empathize. We happen to have several stop lights! Thank you for what you are doing. It is Saturday evening right now and I can imagine that you and your wife are right now experiencing a mix of weariness and strength as you take care of things and get ready for tomorrow.

    I’ll pray for you tonight – for strength and encouragement for you and your wife. And if it would be the Lord’s will, that he would work the miracle of sending your wife a nursery buddy.

  • Deacon Godsey

    I am a 1992 bible college graduate who was in full-time local church ministry for the majority of the last 14 years, until I was laid off due to financial challenges facing our church (one of ten positions to be downsized.)

    For the past year+ I have engaged the combined challenge of doing any temporary office/admin work I can find, while looking for the Lord’s leading for our family’s “next step” in terms of our ministry calling.

    Earlier this year I interviewed & was a finalist with a “4th man” church and would have gladly accepted the invitation to serve there, but a difference on a specific theological issue eliminated that as a possibility.

    Since then I have formatted countless resumes, filled out innumerable application forms, written a variety of doctrinal and/or personal vision statements, all of which have (to this point) been greeted with the email every pastor-turned-professional-applicant loves to receive: “…thank you for praying with us as we seek God’s direction for this position. After reviewing your information, we have decided to pursue other candidates…”

    Right now, in all honesty, the “Can these dry bones live?” question seems more autobiographical than anything else. Our family is willing to go wherever, to do whatever, for as long as God calls us to do so – this has always been our m.o. and always will be. We’re willing and available, having applied at a variety of churches for a variety of positions – all of which I have experience in, but none of which I’ve been accepted for.

    In some cases, I know the lack of a Masters Degree is a major issue, so I’m tempted to pursue one (which I’ve always wanted to do, but have never felt freedom from the Lord to do…it’s always felt like my way of “making something happen,” or doing “what just makes sense,” as opposed to doing something the Lord was actually calling/leading me to do.)

    I’m probably just verbally processing at this point. I know God knows what He’s doing. I know I’m called, and that our family is called, to serving in the local church. We truly are willing to go anywhere and do anything; we’re just waiting on the Lord to open the door.

    For now, we continue to pray, seek the Lord’s direction and engage in the exciting application “hurry-up-and-wait” game, all the while trusting the Lord for the next temp or marketplace job, and looking to Him to continue providing for the needs of our family as we make ourselves available to serve in whatever He sees fit.

    Thanks so much to the Professor for telling it like it is, for the post itself, and to my friend for pointing me to it. Very encouraging, very confirming and a much needed reminder of reality…all of which are very much appreciated.

  • Jes

    Dear Denny,

    This post from Professor Smith has impacted my heart in a mighty way!

    I understand the context of his message…that it’s directed to pastors and those who are preparing lead a flock.

    Yet, it encouraged me as a Bible study leader, wife and homeschooling mother.

    I first posted a link to your blog a few days ago, that others might also listen to Professor Smith’s message.

    Then this morning the Lord woke me at 4 am with an urgency to share the call and commission that God has placed on my heart and my husband’s heart with regard to our children.

    Professor Smith’s message was a great part of the impetuous for this post. I invite you to visit and read if you have a few minutes.

    And, would you please give my deepest thanks to Professor Smith for preaching as one who is speaking the very utterances of God?

    Way to employ his gift for the building up of the body of Christ!

    Much love in Christ Jesus and many thanks to each of you there for standing firm,

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