I’m frequently told we need more leaders. The statement usually relates to pastors or other staff but often includes volunteers, as well. This especially is true in the Hispanic community and in smaller churches that cannot afford full-time staff.
This is not a new concern.
Jesus said: “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Therefore, beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest” (Matthew 9:37-38).
The Apostle Paul wrote: “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? How will they preach unless they are sent?” (Romans 10:14-15)
I remember frequent occasions as a child being challenged by a pastor to consider whether God was calling me to the ministry. Guest preachers at camps reminded us of the harvest field and the need for preachers and missionaries. Are we still offering this invitation?
I recently heard a pastor say to one of his church members when he introduced her that her 9-year-old son was going to be a preacher when he is grown.
It is obviously God who calls, yet can’t we prompt, and are we not commanded to beseech the Lord of the harvest?
We also face the challenge of equipping those who are called. I was 18 years old when I was called to be pastor of a small church near Hope, Ark. It was the practice of this church to call college pastors. Even though I must have tortured them with my sermons, they were patient, prayed for me and encouraged me. This also probably helped me to be a more eager student.
In our Baptist tradition, we do not have to wait until we have completed seminary to serve on the staff of a church. I have spent some of the best years of my life helping to form and lead a Baptist seminary, yet many churches may never be led by seminary graduates.
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I recently met Ishmel Gaspar, pastor of Iglesia Bautista Sublime Gracias, a church near the Mexico border. He is a bivocational pastor who has started a church in his home. I do not know what his level of formal training is, but I do know they have led a significant number of folks to Christ, are equipping them as Christ-followers and are feeding more than 1,000 people every month who live in their colonias.
The western heritage churches model laypeople being called out as leaders in their churches, equipped through a certification program from Truett Seminary and trained in weekend seminars. The Baptist University of the Américas also has several locations where ministry certification is offered in Spanish.
We must continue to provide ministry preparation at all levels—certificate, diploma, associate, bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral. We must pray and call out leaders into the harvest. We must practice the 2 Timothy 2:2 model of Paul selecting and training gifted leaders who in turn will lead others. Perhaps it isn’t too late for God to call you.
Randel Everett is executive director of the Baptist General Convention of Texas Executive Board.