By Keith Burden
By virtue of my position, I attend many denominational meetings where preachers are present. I enjoy rubbing shoulders with these men of God. It is an honor to serve those who have a deep love and respect for the Word of God. They put in the time and effort to “rightly divide the Word of truth” in order to feed the flocks they lead. It is evident they have a genuine concern for the people they serve by the way they minister to their needs. Free Will Baptists have good reason to be proud of those who occupy their pulpits each Lord’s Day.
Unfortunately, Free Will Baptists also have good reason to be concerned. As I have traveled across our denomination for the past 16 years I have noticed an increasing amount of gray hair among these spiritual soldiers. It isn’t uncommon to find pastors well into their 70s, 80s, and even a few into their 90s. We have an aging clergy.
Thankfully, others are responding to God’s call to the ministry. I rejoice when I hear reports of those who surrender to preach the gospel. I am encouraged to see young men attending our Christian colleges, preparing themselves to proclaim God’s Word. Nevertheless, I fear we may be losing the war of attrition. A growing number of churches have a difficult time finding candidates willing and capable of filling the vacancies that arise.
What are we to do? I suggest a few things we preachers can do to address this growing concern. First, we can personify what it means to be a minister of the gospel. I fear some people have a negative view of the ministry. They sometimes hear comments from preachers about being overworked, underpaid, and underappreciated. They also need to hear about the joys of ministry and the honor of being God’s spokesman. I am not suggesting we be dishonest or disingenuous. Rather, we should be positive examples of what it means to be a man of God, and thereby earn the admiration and respect of those we seek to lead.
Additionally, we can preach messages that challenge men to consider God’s call upon their lives. Let me be clear: Free Will Baptists believe ministers are “called of God to the work.” It is not our responsibility to call men to preach; however, it is incumbent upon us to challenge them to consider the possibility.
Most importantly, we can pray that others will heed God’s call. A shortage of workers is not a problem peculiar to our day. Jesus acknowledged this same concern in Matthew 9:37: “The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few.” Thankfully, the Lord goes on in the very next verse to give us the key component of the solution to this problem: “Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest.”
Brethren! The task before us is simple…not easy, but simple.
Personify, Preach, and Pray.
About the writer: Rev. Keith Burden served as executive secretary of the National Association of Free Will Baptists from 2003 to 2019.
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