After the terribly disappointing national events of late last week, my reading this week has been in what are known as the “Pastoral Epistles,” Paul’s writings to two other ministers, Timotheus and Titus. I was reminded this morning while reading through Titus of something I’ve intended to write about for the past month or so, namely, a lack of new ministers as the result of the failure of local churches to engage in personal evangelism.
What led me to this observation? Simple. Often times, when a pastor resigns and moves to another area or passes away, it leaves a void in a church body that isn’t easily filled. The church with a pastoral vacancy must then seek out a man from another area, which in turn causes a vacancy somewhere else. Some churches go years without a pastor. There really isn’t a surplus of elders in each area to call upon to fill the void. Of course, some areas are more affected by this than others.
I might also add a “pet peeve” of mine. Sometimes, a church will lose a pastor and actually have available men, but due to a taste for, dare I say, spiritual caviar, local men are overlooked as the church body searches for someone with a big name or impressive oratory skills. In a similar way that college football programs produce a short list of big name coaches with an impressive resume, and then narrow it down to the best possible candidate and make him an offer, so likewise sometimes churches pursue a new pastor. I find this a terrible shame. If you CAN look close, please DO look close. This seems to be a consistent Biblical pattern.
Back to the point: Well, you might say, “the Lord must raise up preachers. So, if we have a shortage, it must be His will.” It is very true that God must raise up preachers. He alone enables men to preach through the Holy Spirit and only through the Holy Spirit is our “understanding opened” that we can have the level of knowledge and wisdom we need to teach God’s Holy book. But I remind you of the words of Paul to Titus:
“For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I appointed thee…” Titus 1:5
There was a void in Crete, an Island in Greece, and Titus was to actively seek out called and qualified men to ordain as elders. There was a void. Titus was to work to fill that void. This means that we, in the church, also bear some responsibility in the raising of ministers. It isn’t puppetry.
So what does this have to do with evangelism?
Make no mistake, we are to be actively engaged in evangelism, the discipling of new people in the faith. God alone makes sons through spiritual birth. But we are called to make disciples, students, out of His sons and daughters. This begins in the home, then to friends, and also even to persons we happen to come across in our daily lives. We sometimes sit around, wondering why no one new is joining the church and numbers decline, but the answer is here. We haven’t been seeking out God’s children and sharing the gospel. Early disciples went everywhere preaching the gospel (Acts 8). Early preachers often conducted dialogue with strangers in synagogues and even in the market place and public. We’ve let this aspect of ministry slip and to be frank I don’t even know where to begin with some of it.
But due to a lack of evangelism, in many places there is a general lack of people. Because of a lack of people, we find no surplus of men in the church out of which ministry can be raised. In short, for the church – and her ministry – to persist in our area, there has to be a passing of the torch from one generation to the next. If there be no one to pass this blessing and responsibility to…well, you see the void we are experiencing now.
So my conviction and admonition is simple. Let us return to our work and calling, which on a basic, fundamental level includes sharing the gospel with newcomers. Then, churches are filled with worshipers and new ministry can be raised up.
A final encouragement, in Matthew 28 Jesus comforted His disciples (and us today) with the promise that He would be with us alway, even unto the end of the world. The world still stands. We are Jesus’ disciples. He who has all power in Heaven and in Earth is with us today. So let’s get busy!
Originally published July 2015