Previous article in this series: October 15, 2019, p. 43.
There have been many urgent calls to our churches and her members to pray for the young men of our congregations to consider the ministry of the gospel in our churches. It has been stated that we as a denomination are headed for a very serious shortage of ministers in the next few years. This is largely because the PRC has many pastors who are nearing the end of their ministries and because so few new students are arising with the burden of the call to begin their studies. Our people have been urged to make this continually a subject of our daily family devotions, a matter of pleading with our covenant God for the future welfare of God’s church among us. It is, after all, the Lord who calls and raises up ministers of His word. He also in His sovereignty at times does not send them. Sometimes He sends a famine of the hearing of the word to chasten His people.
Many are asking what the reason is for the shortage of ministers among us. Some are convinced that one of the chief reasons for this is recent criticism and judgment of ministers in the context of several major controversies. Some have gone so far as to say that God is judging and chastening our churches by not giving us ministers. The office of the ministry is no longer held in high esteem among us. The preaching of the Word through this office has been too easily subjected to serious criticism and public judgment. Whether or not the above thoughts are indeed true we leave God to judge.
We all believe that no one should enter into the sacred office of the ministry unless he feels in his heart that he is called of God. We believe that only those who are sound in doctrine and godly in daily walk should be encouraged to consider the high calling of God that the ministry indeed is. Many false prophets have arisen in the church where the elders did not keep guard on Zion’s walls. In this way evil men have usurped the office. Many of these arise from seminaries where the truth of God is no longer maintained and defended. False preachers are a great danger to the church and can soon subvert even whole denominations. God’s gift of faithful and qualified ministers is a very important matter.
The elders must exercise utmost care that no unsuitable men enter into the office of the ministry. This great concern should be shown as soon as any young man begins to talk about a possible call to the ministry. The church needs truly good and godly men. She needs highly gifted and called men, truly called of God. They must be those who have understanding of and love for sound doctrine. They must be those who show themselves to be devoted to a life of holiness. They must not be men of worldly pride and ambition. They must not be self-willed or proud, boasting in themselves. They must be devoted to the glory of God, seeking the true welfare of the church of Jesus Christ. Ministers of the Word must maintain the traditions of the faith, the absolute truth of God’s Word, which is the very foundation of the church. The church must maintain a high standard for her ministers. She must not be merely interested in the numbers of her ministers. Having a few good men is better than many who do not truly show themselves to be men of God.
The greatest biblical example of the influence of the home in inspiring and nurturing young men for the call to the ministry is the home in which the great evangelist
Timothy was, in God’s providence, raised. I find it so wonderful that the great apostle Paul should have made mention of these things in his letter to Timothy. What a powerful influence the godly grandmother Lois and godly mother Eunice had on young Timothy as he was growing up in their home. It is possible that Timothy had a pagan father or that his father had passed away in his early life. Because of the many wars that were being fought in those days, many young men were dying on the battle field. Women were left to fend for themselves in the raising of their covenant children. What great lessons we can learn from this biblical history! What a great inspiration even one or two godly men or women can have in their very important roles in their covenant home. What great benefit this can be for the faithful church in years to come! In the Old Testament we remember godly Hannah who prayed for and prepared Samuel for his office in the church.
God can raise up ministers of His Word by the wonders of His grace even from backgrounds and circumstances that are full of sin and wickedness. It might have been thought utterly impossible that someone could have been called to the ministry after having grown up in such circumstances. Yet it is undoubtedly true that in most cases men are called to the ministry from the homes of those that are outstanding in faith and godliness. Love for the truth that the church is commissioned to preach must fill the hearts of her members and characterize fathers and mothers in our covenant homes. Usually worldliness, covetousness, pride, and materialism in the home will have a serious negative effect on the raising of children. They will be encouraged to choose life careers that are lucrative and have great prominence and glory in the world. Those called to the ministry must be ready for many sacrifices and great hardships in life. Training for such a career includes being prepared for such a calling. I can remember when I began thinking about the ministry one man said to me, “Can’t you think of something else to do in life? You had better realize that ministers can expect ridicule, hatred, and opposition for the whole of their life.” They receive this sometimes even from their own family members. Ministers of God must be ready to be on the forefront of the battle when persecution and enemies arise. They must be men of great courage, wisdom, and strength to endure these things.
Is the fact that so few ministers are arising from our midst a reflection of the spiritual state of many of our homes? Have we thought at all about this? Have we considered it a possibility that the reason why a denomination of almost 9,000 members has so few of its young men desiring the ministry might be the worldliness, covetousness, and materialism among us?
The home of the evangelist Timothy had outstanding persons in it. The teachers in this home were outstanding in unfeigned faith—genuine, sincere, and fervent faith and godliness. So outstanding was this faith that it served as a mighty inspiration that led Timothy to the call of the ministry. “When I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois and in thy mother Eunice, and I am persuaded that in thee also” (2 Tim. 1:5).
The ministry requires outstanding, God-fearing men devoted to His glory in the whole of their lives. Men who are worldly, covetous, proud, and self-seeking should not be encouraged to consider the ministry. The church today is plagued by men who seek their own glory and to enrich and aggrandize themselves. Many of the mega-church ministers in our land are scandalous examples of this. We must not be deceived by the large followings that these have and by the grand show of stadiums full of zealous listeners. We must not be deceived by their boasting and glorying in themselves. We must not follow the personality cults they have made the religion they promote to be. Many are being led astray by pop-psychology, and health and wealth prosperity preachers. These false preachers promote a popular and worldly form of Christianity. These are not godly ministers. Some are even an utter abomination in the sight of God in spite of the high opinion they have of themselves and the very popular following. It is astounding that such wicked men can somehow still claim to be followers of Jesus the Son of God, who had nothing in this world and who was the supreme example of humility, seeking only to do those things pleasing to God and to the glory of His heavenly Father. He was ready to be hated of all men and finally to be condemned and nailed to the accursed tree of the cross. Jesus said that if we are to be followers of Him we must expect not to be popular but to be hated in this world.
If our homes by the Spirit and grace of God are going to be His instruments to call our young men to the gospel ministry, they must be God-centered, seeking God’s glory above all. There must be a great love for the truth in our homes and a seriousness about maintaining sound doctrine. Our homes must be characterized by a love for the true church, shown by active, zealous involvement in her life and ministry. It is not God’s will that the gospel be preached by some great human organization independent from the oversight of any church. The gospel must be preached by the faithful church supported by faithful and zealous members and ruled by properly called and ordained godly elders who, as a very important part of the exercise of their office, rule over the ministry and the men called to the ministry.
There must be in our homes a consciousness of the seriousness of the great battle for the truth in which the church is always engaged. The church is surrounded in the world by many great enemies. The devil himself assaults her on every side, the forces of darkness oppose and persecute her. So in our homes we need to pray for and encourage our young men to be strong in the truth, diligent in standing with the church. We need to encourage those who show themselves to be young men of great courage and steadfastness to consider the urgent need for ministers. We need to teach our children to be sharply distinctive in maintaining the truth, strong in the knowledge of the truth, holding fast to the traditions of the faith.
There is an ever-increasing urgency about all of this as the end of the world and the judgment of God approaches. We need to press this urgency on our young men as they are growing up in our covenant homes. As the day of the Lord is coming, pray earnestly that God will call our young men who are strong, courageous, and zealous to lead us in preserving His truth among us! Godly men! It is usually out of these kinds of home environments that God is pleased to raise up young men for the ministry. Our homes must teach and promote the greatness of the cause of Christ’s kingdom and the tremendous significance of the preaching of the true gospel as the power of God to realize the final end of this kingdom in the glorious return of our exalted Lord Jesus Christ.
We must ask ourselves and examine ourselves whether we are lagging in the zeal that should characterize us as God’s people. Do we convey to our children that we are profoundly concerned about the apostasy of the church in our day? Do we speak to our children about the ever-increasing evil and dreadful wickedness of the world in which we are living? We need men of God to lead our churches by God’s calling in the great spiritual warfare of our times. No, God is never dependent on men nor on the giftedness or learning of men. He is not dependent on numbers, nor does He glory in numbers. He saves and preserves a church that is the tiniest remnant of the whole human race. And He is pleased to use a few good men to be mighty, courageous preachers of His Word. Let us pray that God will raise up such among us. None will ever be made strong for this office except by the power of God in them.