ONE of the greatest problems facing practically every mission field is finding qualified young men who will respond to the call of the ministry. The materialistic atmosphere that permeates the world and creeps into the church is at the very root of the problem. Materialism—an opiate to the spiritual life of the church and the individual—has led many of our finest young men to enter one of the professions rather than respond to the call of God to the ministry.
Ellen G. White makes this statement, "Let not our young men be deterred from entering the ministry. There is danger that through glowing representations some will be drawn away from the path where God bids them walk. Some have been encouraged to take a course of study in medical lines who ought to be preparing themselves to enter the ministry."—Gospel Workers, p. 63. Please note these words: "Some have been encouraged" not to enter the ministry but to enter other lines of work. We need doctors, nurses, teachers, and technicians, but there is danger in encouraging young men to enter these other lines of work who have been called of God to enter the ministry.
One might ask, "If it is God who calls men to enter the ministry, why is it necessary to encourage and inspire them to accept this call? If they are truly called, will they not respond on their own?" The story is told of a young man in London who was perplexed about his future and came to Spurgeon for counsel. With hesitation he asked, "Do you think I ought to be a preacher?" To which that revered man of God replied, "Not if you can help it."
Need of Encouragement
Such a reply may be justified under certain circumstances, but generally speaking, our young men need counsel and guidance and encouragement when it comes to accepting the call of God to enter the ministry. We read: "I saw that God had laid upon His chosen ministers the duty of deciding who was fit for the holy work."— Testimonies, vol. 1, p. 209. This is a tremendous responsibility. Maybe we have been waiting for young men to come to us and tell us that they have been called of God, when we should be going to them.
In the greatest of all conversions, that of Saul of Tarsus, God left it to one of the leaders in the church of Damascus to point out to Saul that he had been called of God to enter the ministry. Many young men in our churches today are waiting for this same counsel and advice.
Men are not born as ministers. Paul, speaking of this in Ephesians 3:7, says, "Whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God." Ministers are made ministers by the grace of God. It does not depend alone on talent and capabilities. When God takes over a man He remakes the man.
As previously pointed out, the root of our problem is materialism; but there are other contributing factors that are keeping many of our finest young men out of the ministry. In many mission fields the ministry has not been exalted in the eyes of our people as God would have it. God, speaking through His servant says, "The highest of all work is ministry in its various lines, and it should be kept before the youth that there is no work more blessed of God than that of the gospel minister."—Gospel Workers, p. 63. Our failure to get this point across to our young people and their parents has turned many prospective ministers into other lines of endeavor.
It is sad to say, but there are many in the ministry today who are not the example and inspiration to our young people that they should be. The result is that many of our young men say, "If that is what a minister is, then I want no part in it." In years gone by, some have been taken on who were untrained and uneducated and without sufficient dedication and consecration to make up for this lack. And with the passing years they have been unable to keep pace with the changing times. It is imperative that our ministers be given the best training available in the fields where they live, and granted the same opportunities for advanced training that is provided for those in other lines of mission service. With right standards for the ministry we will find many more of our most talented young men responding to God's call "to preach the word."
The Pastor's Attitude
One of the greatest influences in helping a young man to decide for or against entering the ministry is the attitude of his pastor toward the ministry. Is he absolutely sure God has called him to the ministry? Does he have a personal, daily, living connection with his God and Saviour? Does he know and understand the thrill of "fishing for men"? Does the minister rejoice in his work or is it a toilsome burden? If the clock of time could be turned back, would he still accept the call to the ministry? If the answer is Yes to each of these questions, then we may be assured that God can use such a pastor to inspire young men to enter this phase of His work.
It is of paramount importance that the pastor teach the young people under his care how to "fish for men." If a young person once feels the thrill of a "catch," it will be much easier to help such a one to recognize a call from God when it comes. To the first men ever called to enter the Christian ministry Jesus simply said, "Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men." They had already seen Jesus; they knew Him, He had what they wanted, and they were prepared to forsake all and follow Him. It is this same confidence that we as Christ's representatives on earth must impart to the young people in our churches.
Many of our young men who should be studying for the ministry are in other lines of endeavor because we as ministers and teachers have failed to do our part. Notice this striking statement taken from the book Fundamentals of Christian Education, pages 113, 114: "There are numbers that ought to become missionaries who never enter the field, because those who are united with them in church capacity or in our colleges, do not feel the burden to labor with them, to open before them the claims that God has upon all the powers, and do not pray with them and for them; and the eventful period which decides the plans and course of life passes, convictions with them are stifled; other influences and inducements attract them, and the temptations to seek worldly positions that will, they think, bring them money, take them into the worldly current. These young men might have been saved to the ministry through well-organized plans. If the churches in the different places do their duty, God will work with their efforts by His Spirit, and will supply faithful men to the ministry."
Reasons for Rejecting the Ministry
In this striking statement there are six reasons given why we are losing many of our best young men to the ministry. First, because their ministers and teachers do not feel the burden to labor with them. Second, we do not show them God's claim upon them-. Third, we do not pray with and for them. Fourth, we permit other influences and inducements to attract them. Fifth, because of this failure, temptation to seek worldly position and money becomes predominant in their lives. Sixth, there has been a lack of well-organized plans in directing them to the ministry. This should be a challenge to every preacher and teacher to put forth wholehearted, consecrated effort into directing our young men where they will recognize God's call to them before they become entangled in Satan's "web of materialism."
As so well pointed out in the quotation from Christian Education, it is the duty of the pastor, the teacher, the church leaders—yes, of the church as a whole—to help our young men realize the responsibility that is theirs to respond to the call of God to give this message to a lost and doomed world. By the grace of God we must enable them to understand that "the greatest work, the noblest effort, in which men can engage, is to point sinners to the Lamb of God."—Gospel Workers, p. 18.
It must be with conviction, with positiveness, with a great burden for souls upon our hearts, that we appeal to our young men and say, "Has not God called upon you to sound this message?"—Ibid., p. 65.