This editorial is occasioned especially by two factors.
In the first place, this is the time of year when our Theological School Committee issues its annual “Call To Aspirants To The Ministry.” That call was issued already in our March 1 issue. In fact, actually the time to respond (March 20) will be past when this appears in print, although I have no doubt that the Theological School Committee would be overjoyed to hear from a late applicant. In the second place, the time of high school graduations is fast approaching; and this is naturally the time, too, when young men consider their future as far as higher education is concerned.
But the basic reason for this editorial lies in the fact that there is indeed an urgent need of students for the ministry in our churches. I do not know in how far our churches and our people are aware of this need and of its urgency. I know that this need has been called to the attention of our churches more than once in recent years, of course. But I do not know in how far the churches are aware of the need and of its urgency. Hence, I take this means to try to underscore the need and its urgency.
First of all, it is not my purpose in these lines to call attention to the urgent need in this regard which is always principally present. I refer in this connection to our Lord’s emphasis that the harvest truly is plenteous, but the laborers are few, and that we should pray the Lord of the harvest that He will send forth laborers into His harvest. My colleague at seminary, Prof. Hanko, called attention to this in a convocation address some time ago, an address which was also published in The Standard Bearer. In this editorial I rather proceed from that principal truth.
In the second place, my purpose is practical. It is my intention to call your attention to the present actual need in our churches. If you will, I aim to draw your attention to the special urgency in our churches of this always urgent need.
A look at some statistics will demonstrate this urgency.
Here are the facts:
1. This year, the Lord willing, we will have three seminary graduates, sufficient to meet the current needs of our three congregations which are without a pastor.
2. At present we have two pre-seminary students, both of whom have three years of preseminary training to complete. After this year’s graduation there will be no seminary students; and, unless something unforeseen arises, there will be no seminary students for at least another three years.
3. When and if our two current pre-seminary students begin their seminary training, it will be another four years before they can graduate. This brings us seven years down the road, to 1993, before there can be new candidates for the ministry in our denomination. This is the longest period in the history of our seminary and of our denomination in which there will be no new candidates. In previous years, the longest gap was six years.
4. By that time at least two of our currently active ministers, if they live and remain healthy, will be past 70 years old and of an age to retire. One of these is the Rev. G. Lanting; the other is the writer of these lines.
5. It is plain to see, therefore, that, given the above set of statistics, there is only the potential of maintaining our current number of active ministers. This leaves out of the picture the possibility of unforeseen attrition in the ranks of our ministers (a possibility which is very real). It leaves out of the picture the possibility—also very real—of an increase in the number of congregations and in the number of ministerial stations.
It is plain to see, therefore, that the need is very concretely urgent.
Now I am well aware of the fact that this conclusion is based on current statistics and on projections concerning future years of which we know nothing yet. Things may change. These projections may prove to be altogether wrong. The Lord may have some pleasant surprises in store for us in future years. He may also have some keen disappointments in store. Only our covenant God, Who has always provided for us as churches and Who, I am sure, will continue to provide for us, knows what He has in store for us in the future.
From that point of view, we must not and we may not and we need not worry and be anxious. That would be sinful.
This is not to say, however, that we should not beconcerned. To be blissfully unconcerned and careless is also sinful. For it belongs to our calling as churches to preach the Word. And as surely as that is our calling, so surely it also belongs to our calling as churches to bring forth and to train preachers of that Word. Those preachers must come forth out of the bosom of our churches!
What, then, must we do?
First of all, we must heed the injunction of our Lord, “Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest that he will send forth laborers into his harvest.” We must do this as congregations. We must do this as families and individuals. By this I mean not merely a general prayer for the welfare of our Theological School. But I mean that this specific need and concern in our churches should be addressed in our prayers.
In the second place, pastors and elders, but also parents and even teacher-counselors, should bring this need to the attention of our young men, particularly young men who appear to them to have talents and gifts and abilities to study and learn. I am well aware that there is a danger of “pushing” someone into preparing for the ministry against his better knowledge. This must not be done; in fact, it is one of the worst things that can be done. But there is also such a thing as wise and discreet guidance and encouraging young men to consider whether the Lord is pointing them in the direction of such preparation.
Finally, let me take this opportunity to address young men directly, particularly young men who are considering the question of further education upon graduation from high school, or even some of our young men who are perhaps already in college. Don’t make the mistake of looking at your future simply from a carnal point of view of what you may or may not like to do. But consider and seek the answer to the question, “Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?”