bits from bob....

What is the church's role in raising up, identifying and developing future ministers?

by Bob Young
[permission is given to reprint with credit noted]

Statistics tell us that preachers continue to leave full-time ministry at a rapid rate. They also tell us that the number of preachers entering ministry is decreasing. That the church is already experiencing a "preacher shortage" is almost certain, although the shortage may not be visible in geographic areas where the church is strongest. In fact, many smaller churches have been aware of the preacher shortage for over a decade. Smaller churches seek ministers but cannot find anyone willing to work in difficult or isolated areas for less salary. In the current religious climate, the church must actively and aggressively engage the question of minister development. Who will the next generation of preachers be? Who will shoulder the majority of the responsibility in helping to facilitate ministry development in the lives of young men and women? Can the church depend solely on the efforts our Christian colleges, universities, and ministry training programs?

My prayer is that the church will rise to this challenge as it did 2000 years ago. Paul and Barnabas were sent out by the local church (Acts 13:1-3). Paul exhorts Timothy the young minister to entrust biblical truths to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others (2 Tim. 2:2). While Christian colleges, universities, and seminaries can play a key role in equipping ministers, they do not identify and raise up ministers. Churches identify and raise up ministers. Church members, leaders, elders, and preachers are an important part of the process. Parents are a key in encouraging young people toward ministry. Here are four things the local church can do to encourage future ministers.

  • Pray that God will help the church be faithful to biblical teaching and genuine disciple-making efforts. This will provide an encouraging environment where the power and potential of the gospel is apparent.
  • Pray that God will help identify those young men he is calling to ministry. God knows who they are, even if the young men do not yet know it and even if the church does not yet recognize it. Pray that God will be involved in the process of encouraging and identifying those he calls to ministry.
  • Pray about the possibility of the church hosting an internship ministry for these young men--a place where they can hear and experience their calling and become more fully equipped for ministry.
  • Pray with and for these specific young people. Encourage them to ask questions about the stirrings of their hearts concerning their calling to ministry. Encourage them to share their fears and their excitement. Challenge them. Teach them. Give them opportunities to serve, to teach, and to preach.

    I am a preacher today by God's grace and calling. I know also that He used my home church half a century ago, and especially the elders of that church, to help me discern and embrace his calling on my life. I know that God used ministers who spent time with me and encouraged me. I know that God answered the prayers of nameless church members who took seriously the work of the church to be involved in ministry development. I pray that the contemporary church will continue to take this process seriously--as God raises up ministers and missionaries who will lead the church in the task of taking the gospel of Jesus Christ into all the world.

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    Last updated July 24, 2011