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Praying for pastors: God alone can give His people an increase of harvest-workers

September 12, 2011 No Comment

by Robert Bugbee

God will have to give us the pastors we need. He promises in the Old Testament, “I will place shepherds over them who will tend them” (Jeremiah 23:4). The New Testament says it, too: “It was He who gave some…to be pastors and teachers” (Ephesians 4:11). I do not speak here about finding just any old sort of pastors. I suppose the church organization could figure out a way to recruit some kind of leaders to fill vacant positions. But the pastors we truly need, in sufficient numbers, who love Christ, are loyal to the Scriptures, who sincerely care about their people and the unsaved in the community around them—God Himself will have to give them to us.

You don’t need me to tell you how vital this is if you belong to a congregation which has no pastor and cannot seem to persuade one to accept your call. Or, you may be reading these lines at a moment when a hard-working and faithful pastor has just announced he is moving to another place. You may feel heartbroken because you’ve come to love him deeply and cannot imagine how you could find a new servant to fill those shoes. On the other hand, perhaps your church has received the blessing of a devoted pastor for a long time, who is committed to stay for years to come. When you really think about it, it’s quite clear only the Lord Himself could provide such a blessing.

God Himself must give us the pastors we need

At Synod’s convention last June, delegates talked and listened a great deal about the challenge of maintaining small seminaries in a country so huge and thinly populated as ours.  Delegates gave their blessing to an agreement between our seminaries in Edmonton and St. Catharines to work together, and be as efficient as possible with limited resources. When believers struggle with the challenges of pastoral training, it’s tempting for us to start thinking, “Why don’t the seminaries do a better job of recruiting?” On the other hand, seminary staff could wonder, “Why don’t local churches send us more students?” Church members could ask, “Why doesn’t the Synod do something to produce more strong pastors?” To be sure, all these groups and individuals have a role to play in identifying servants.

I repeat: God Himself must give us the pastors we need.

It’s fine to pass resolutions at the convention. It’s important for seminaries and Synod to work on recruitment strategy. On our own, however, the best we could ever do would be to rustle up a few more candidates. Even if enrolment numbers increase, we cannot turn them into servants who truly fear God and love people. The Lord alone can give us pastors in sufficient numbers and with the needed character.

… a sweet invitation to see where the real help will come from

When Jesus Christ looked around at needy people who were harassed, helpless and confused, like sheep without a shepherd, He could just as well have been watching the situation in Canada today. In our crowded cities and wide-open spaces, in our English- and French-speaking regions as well as the neighbourhoods where we hear new immigrant tongues, in long-established congregations and unchurched communities, there’s no shortage of needy people. “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few,” as Jesus said. So where do we start? He had an answer for that, too: “Ask the Lord of the harvest … to send out workers into His harvest field” (Matt.9:37-38).

This is not some harsh command! It’s a sweet invitation to see where the real help will come from! Because Jesus Himself invites us to do this asking, you can have confidence He listens and answers in His best way and time. You can scarcely imagine the blessings that can flow from it. When members of the body of Christ pray the harvest’s Lord to send workers into the field, don’t be surprised if the harvest’s Lord opens eyes to see some prospect He has nearby. When Christ’s pastors build a prayer like this into Sunday services, the Lord will help pastors and people understand He’s ready to use them as His instruments to speak to some young servant He wants to call and send. When members of a vacant congregation pray this way, it can encourage them to realize they are not alone in the call process, but that the harvest-Lord Himself is concerned about it, too. When congregations currently well-pastored ask and pray for harvest workers, it can instill deep gratitude for what they have and stimulate a desire to be encouraging toward the pastor God already sent in answer to such prayers.

I’m grateful for the good-will which marked our convention talks in June about seminary training in the Synod. And I have some ideas I hope to unpack soon about tackling this challenge of recruitment for the Holy Ministry. But God alone can give His people an increase of harvest-workers in this needy time. God alone can provide us, not just with any sort of leaders, but with pious, energetic, and loving pastors who will truly feed His people. I hope that, in your home and congregation, you will pray for pastors as a pressing priority, again and again.

Rev. Dr. Robert Bugbee serves as president of Lutheran Church–Canada

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