The approaching end of our first semester at our Protestant Reformed Seminary and the beginning of the second served to remind me that two of our present five seminary students expect to graduate this year, the Lord willing. That also means that after this year our churches will have only three students left in our seminary department (There are none in the pre-sem department at present.), and these three will be three years away from graduation (1986).
That also served to remind me of the fact that our churches need more students. Note, please, that I did not say: our seminary needs more students. But: ourchurches need more students. For this is, indeed, not a private need which we at the seminary have. The seminary is the seminary of our churches, and the needs of the seminary are the needs of the churches. The students are trainees for the ministry of our churches. It is indeed the churches which need more students.
It is also the churches, and the covenant homes in our churches, which must produce these students—under the providence of our God, of course.
For that reason I am also calling your attention to this need. We do not have and we do not want a recruitingprogram at our seminary. It is the calling of the churches to produce students for the ministry in our denomination.
But, you say, the need is surely not great. It might even be argued that there is no need at all. After all, we will have two graduates next June for whom there are at present no open places in the churches. Besides, in only three more years there will be three more graduates. What will we do with all the potential candidates for the ministry?
My answer is: I don’t know. Neither do you know. None of us can lift the veil and peer into the future.
But let me remind you, in the first place, of the Scriptural truth that the harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few, and of the consequent necessity to pray the Lord of the harvest that He will send forth laborers into that harvest. Do we believe that? Then let us obey the injunction, and pray fervently.
Let me remind you, in the second place, that we soon forget. It was not too many years ago that our churches and our seminary suffered from a very severe shortage of ministers and students. There were years when we had one or two students in our seminary but when the need for more students and more ministers was looming large on the horizon of our churches. Also at that time there were some who did not foresee the coming need. There were others who saw the need and who pleaded that it be met. Then there came a time when it became necessary to take emergency measures and to institute a speed-up program in our pre-seminary and seminary departments in order to meet the need as soon as possible. And now when the need has apparently been met for the time being, and when there is even an apparent surplus of potential ministers, are we about to fall into the doldrums again and to be satisfied that there is really no great need?
That would indeed be shortsighted.
And it would be wrong.
And it would be dangerous.
I say again: you and I do not know what the future holds, or rather, what the Lord’s plan holds for our future. We do not know what sudden need may arise. We do not know what fields of labor the Lord may have for our churches, what calling we may have in even the immediate future. And we do not need to know. We need only believe, and obey.
In the third place, let us bear in mind that the need for students is also long-range. A high school graduate who needs all of his pre-seminary and all of his seminary training, remember, is eight years away from candidacy for the ministry. Put in concrete terms, that means that a student who begins his pre-sem program next fall would graduate in 1991, if the Lord tarries. How far off that seems. How much can transpire in our churches before that time, much that could change our needs and make them even greater and more pressing.
Hence, let our churches and our people remember this need before the throne of grace.
And let our elders and parents impress this need upon our covenant young men.
And let our young men consider the question whether the Lord has not bestowed on them gifts which would indicate that the Lord is pointing them in the direction of preparation for the ministry of the Word.