Having considered the above question and its meaning in two previous articles, we are now ready for some guidelines toward a proper answer. In following these guidelines a person must, above all, remember that the matter in question is an intensely spiritual one, from which it follows that one’s attitude must also be spiritual. No one may approach this matter coldly, as though it were a mere mathematical problem, so that if only he follows the correct method, he will inevitably arrive at the correct answer, whether that turns out to be a Yes or a No answer. This must certainly be remembered in our entire consideration of this subject. Of course, as I have suggested before, this must always be our attitude when facing the question of our place and calling in life. We may not be carnal. We may not be moved by mere carnal considerations of material gain and fame. We may not carnally assume the attitude that this matter of life’s work is simply up to us and is a matter for our own personal determination. A covenant young man or young woman must surely seek and choose his place and his life’s task as before the face of God. Above all, therefore, this means that these questions are to be confrontedprayerfully, in order that we may know that, whatever our answers are, we are in the way of God’s will and are able in that way to serve Him. Needless to say, all this is emphatically true of the particular question with which we are dealing at present.
Nevertheless, our attitude must not be one of sickly mysticism. If anyone expects to have some kind of special revelation and to obtain an answer to his question by this means, he is doomed to disappointment. He will behold no bright light and hear no voice as did the apostle Paul on the Damascus road. And if he claims to have seen a vision in the heavens of the letters, “P.C.,” he had better consider well whether those initials mean “Preach Christ!” or “Pick Corn!” The Lord our God works through means; and this implies that we must adapt our questionings and searchings for answers to His ways and means, prayerfully and in obedience to His Word.
With the above in mind, I want to suggest some guidelines to be followed in seeking an answer to the question, “Should I prepare for the ministry?”
The Objective Need
It goes without saying that unless there is a need for ministers, there will not be young men who prepare for the ministry. This is so obvious that it may be termed a truism. There certainly is absolutely no sense in preparing for the ministry of the gospel if there is no need for ministers. But this is also from a practical point of view a factor to be considered in connection with the subject under discussion. Perhaps we may speak here of a kind of law of “supply and demand.” Where there is a need, a demand, there we may expect that a supply will be forthcoming to meet that demand. And according as the demand is greater or smaller, we may also expect, normally, that the potential supply will be greater or smaller.
In other words, the need, the demand, should speak loudly to us, and particularly to those who face the question, “Should I prepare for the ministry?” This need will be, and ought to be, one of the factors that is considered in facing this question.
Is there such a need?
We may confront this question from a principal point of view, first of all. This we must do, of course, on the basis of Scripture.
From this point of view, I would answer that as long as Christ’s mandate to preach the gospel to all nations’ is valid, there will be a need for preachers, and, therefore, for those who devote themselves to preparing for the ministry. As long as Christ has His church in the midst of the world, there will be such a need. As long .as the elect must be gathered by His Spirit and Word, that is, from the beginning to the end of the world, there will be such a need. As long as it holds true, “How shall they hear without a preacher?” there will continue to be a need for young men to prepare for the ministry of the gospel.
I need hardly add that this means: always, until Jesus comes!
You object, perhaps, that this is only true in general and that I am belaboring the obvious? I deny this, and insist that this is the position of faith and that this is a truth that should speak loudly to us as Protestant Reformed Churches and as Protestant Reformed believers. Far-fetched and improbable though the very suggestion may seem to be, if ever the time should arrive that all our churches have pastors and that every potential missionary position would be filled and that we had even a surplus of candidates for the ministry, and if then the churches would decide that the seminary should be closed and that it should be announced that we need no more seminary and pre-seminary students, I would insist that the wrong of the situation would lie not in the surplus of candidates for the ministry, but in the churches that fail thankfully and obediently to make use of that surplus. In such a situation the churches would certainly be obligated to examine themselves in order to determine how it came about that there was a surplus of potential ministers in the light of Christ’s mandate to preach the gospel.
Actually, of course, the imaginary situation I pictured above is far from reality. We are accustomed to speak at present not in mild terms of “need,” but in terms of “an acute shortage;” and there surely is no danger that we will have a surplus of ministers.
And in connection with that shortage, in the light of the principle of Christ’s mandate to His church to preach the gospel, that abiding need should speak especiallyto us as Protestant Reformed Churches. Why? Because we believe and profess that our Protestant Reformed Churches maintain and proclaim the gospel in all its purity, the gospel unadulterated by the philosophy of men! That profession certainly impliesthat there is no higher calling, no more glorious task, than to be a Protestant Reformed minister of the gospel! But that very profession also implies that the Protestant Reformed gospel ministry is a very, very serious responsibility for any minister, for any potential minister or seminary student, and for our churches in common. In this light we may certainly say that while the abiding need for ministers will continue, also in our churches, nevertheless there ought not to be a shortage, especially not in churches where the pure gospel is professed.
This certainly should be a factor,—and an important one,—in considering the calling to the ministry. It certainly merits the consideration of our covenant young men who stand at the threshold of their life’s work. But more than that, it certainly merits the prayerful concern of our churches, of our officebearers, and of all our people.
In conclusion, however, let me also point to the fact that here is the highest possible incentive to devote your life and talents to the ministry of the gospel in our Protestant Reformed Churches. Outwardly and from a worldly and materialistic point of view, there is no incentive to be a Protestant Reformed minister. But if you are spiritual, and if as a spiritually-minded young man you are looking for an incentive, here it is: the Protestant Reformed ministry is a ministry in the service of the pure truth of the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ! I can understand that in modernistic churches there is no real incentive to enter the ministry; and in churches where the truth is adulterated that incentive to prepare for the ministry is also bedimmed. But what more glorious incentive could there be than the truth and the love of the truth as it is in Jesus? Young men, consider that incentive1 Pastors, elders, parents: call both the need and the incentive to the attention of your young men!
(to be continued)