Trying to talk a man into becoming a I preacher is like trying to talk him into marrying a certain girl—it shouldn't be done. Or so I used to think. If a young man comes seeking counsel in his preparation, that is one thing. But to urge him to change from engineering to the ministerial course, I felt, was tampering with his divine destiny
But that was before I came across a statement that changed my thinking. In speaking of the need of workers in the field Ellen G. White said: "There are many who would work if urged into service. . . . The church should feel her great responsibility . . . when money and influence should be freely employed in bringing competent persons into the missionary field."—Testimonies, vol. 5, p. 390. (Italics supplied.)
There are a hundred districts open in the North American Division alone at this moment. The manpower shortage could well be one of the most serious crises this denomination has ever faced. There are entire unions overseas that do not have one ministerial student in training! According to a recent study by Rudolph Klimes, president of Korea Union College, in the next ten years our manpower needs will outstrip our manpower production by thirty-five thousand. Perhaps there ought to be an increased boldness in the recruiting of young men to fill the gaps in the ministry. Our counsel is that a concerted program of this kind ought to be carried on in every church (ibid., p. 391).
Would not some of the following suggestions prove workable?
A Spirit-filled Ministry
1. Confront our young men with a sterling example of what the ministry is all about. For too long some of us have wept and moaned about the hard work, the goals, the long hours, the pressures, of the ministry. That this atmosphere is contagious is evident by the number of our most promising young men who see only in the sciences the fields where they can make significant contributions.
If every man in our ranks were consumed by a deeply spiritual, Spirit-filled ministry, the challenge to any observant young man in his district would be enhanced. But when we permit ourselves to be run about the conference on every conceivable pretext it is not long before alert young people interpret this as a spinning of the ecclesiastical wheels. And they are not interested.
How many young men have been inspired to lives of service by the example and inspiration of their godly pastor eternity alone will tell. What a challenge to those of us who have been "in the way" a long time.
2. This leads to a second suggestion, and that concerns our preaching. It is interesting to notice in the history of the Christian pulpit that when there has been strong Spirit-filled preaching the church has not suffered from lack of preachers.
Perhaps it would be worth while for each of us to go back over our subjects for the past twelve months of sermons. Have we been preaching from the Book, rightly dividing the Word of truth? Any hobbyhorses in your homiletical stable? Do programs and campaigns get out of hand so that the sheep are fleeced instead of being fed? Any specializing in the "string of pearls" sermon—stringing together some fine quotations with semirelevant remarks?
There are few influences as forceful in shaping a determination to be a minister of the Word as sitting under the preaching of a man whose voice and authority utters a consistent: "Thus saith the Lord."
Exalt the Ministry
3. Though many others could be added, a third suggestion will perhaps suffice. That is, a planned strategy of urging, directing, "bringing influence to bear" upon the hearts and lives of our young men from grade school up.
Let parents be encouraged to hold the ministry in respect before their children as the most sacred honor that can come to a young man. God had only one Son and He made Him a minister.
Encourage our grade-school teachers to hold up before all the students the fact that the ministry is the highest of callings.
In every academy and college let a program be instituted, directed perhaps by the local Ministerial Association secretary, conference president, college president, and college Bible department. This program ought to serve the purpose of passing on to these young men the knowledge that their church is intensely and personally interested in them because it so desperately needs their help. That here they will find all the challenge they can handle—spiritual, social, administrative, intellectual.
From the evangelistic field schools with which we have had the privilege of being associated, I have seen how these young men respond to such a challenge. Many of them come feeling that they are destined for a stereotyped, mediocre ministry. But when they have the privilege of winning their first soul to Christ, of working with a pastor whose church is a powerhouse of Christian witness, of seeing lives transformed by the Spirit of God, something happens to these fledgling preachers. I believe this kind of exposure on a wider basis can do the same thing for an even greater number. And this kind of environment will compel them to come into the ranks of the ministry.
Where else can we turn?