This time of year a lot of attention is given to gifts – giving them, getting them, and guessing what they are or should be. Expensive? Thoughtful? Unique? Or maybe trendy, techy AND tasteful all at the same time! And don’t forget the sales – Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and both sales extended for “just one more day!” in case you didn’t spend enough or feel like you (and only you) were dumb enough to miss out the first time around. The whole thing can be enough to bring out the Scrooge-e-ness in just about anybody.
Those of us seeking to be Christ followers find ourselves caught between participating in all that Christmas offers and avoiding the excesses. In our own ways, each of us reclaims and proclaims the truth of Jesus during this season, as we should. But it isn’t easy. Do too little, and you feel worse than Scrooge. Do too much, and you feel like you’ve sold out. No doubt, someone you know will agree with you either way.
Amidst the attention about giving, there is one vitally needed gift we can give the Lord. It doesn’t cost any money, initially, but it could be priceless. You might not have any immediate satisfaction from it, but it could have eternal ramifications. It lies within anyone’s ability to give. It is at once both simple and profoundly complex.
That one priceless, eternally significant, especially needed thing you can give to God’s kingdom work is asking someone to consider becoming a pastor-leader in Christ’s body.
Why should we do this rather bold thing? First, in inviting someone to consider becoming a pastor-leader, we have the opportunity to take “ego” out of a call to ministry. While a person needs to have a clear sense of God’s call on his/her life in order to pursue the ministry, it is immensely helpful if that same person isn’t the initiator of the conversation. To say, “I have a call to ministry” can seem arrogant and presumptuous, even when there is no pretext of self-centeredness in that person. Second, we can help awaken something God is doing in someone’s life, helping him/her name a spiritual restlessness that really comes from the Lord.
How would we go about asking someone to seriously consider God’s call? We need to pray at length, asking the Lord to help us be sure it is the Spirit’s idea and not our own. One significant indicator would be the ability to name concrete reasons why this person would be a good pastor-leader. Leaders in the New Testament had experienced a conversion to Christ, were people of character, and were competent in ministry. By competence, Scriptures show these people’s ministries produced fruit. (See Acts 5:12-16; 6:1-7; 9:36-43; 18:24-28; Romans 16:1-5.) If the person is not actively engaged in some kind of ministry in the church, encourage him/her to get involved. Continue to pray for and with that person as he/she tests the waters to see if there is any fruit.
If the Lord is calling this person to full-time ministry, what happens next? Even the most talented and gifted person needs the benefit of preparation and training along with mentoring and support from a local church. Our role is to encourage the person to avail him/herself of this training. Churches in today’s world need pastors who are as prepared as possible. There are several excellent part-time and online programs available if a person is not able to pursue education at a school full-time. In the meantime, the leadership of the church and the congregation can publicly recognize their understanding that the Lord is leading a person into pastoral leadership by the process of licensing. (For a full explanation of the process, which is intended to lead to ordination, see Mission Northwest’s process at this link.)
One of the most recently ordained people among Mission Northwest churches is Sun Kim, pastor at First Baptist Church of Des Moines, WA. One of the most recently licensed people in Mission Northwest happened in October. Andy Paz – pastor at First Baptist Church of Filer, ID – was licensed for ministry in anticipation of ordination in the next year. Filer First Baptist will also be taking steps to license Teresa Hardin and Thomas Klein in January 2017. There are several others in different parts of the region also working toward ordination.
Why do we make such a big deal out of this? One answer is practical: without skilled and called pastors, churches do not thrive and they struggle to reach out. History has shown clearly in the northwest that without a pastor and without a place of its own, a congregation generally flounders and dies. The other answer is Biblical: pastoral leadership is the Lord’s pattern for shepherding a congregation as found in the New Testament. It is the local church that embodies and carries the message of God’s love and grace in Jesus to a broken, lost world. Pastors are those specially charged with leading congregations and training disciples for the fulfillment of that mission and work.
You are in a position to give an extra special gift to the Lord’s kingdom in this next year. Consider those you know and prayerfully consider asking one or more of them, “Have you ever thought the Lord might want you to be a pastor?”