By: Thomas F. Booher
As a seminary student hoping to one day (if the Lord wills) pastor a church, I often get asked why I desire to be a minister. For a while I was thinking that my answer might be rather peculiar. In fact, I was afraid some would even consider it prideful or arrogant (and I believe some have). But as I was reading through the book of Matthew the other day, something Jesus said stood out to me. It’s exactly the reason I desire to pastor a church. I’ve been saying, or at least intending to communicate the same thing, but Jesus puts it so simply and beautifully that I can’t think of any better way to put it myself.
For a brief bit of context, I want to quote all of Matthew 9:35-38.
“Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people. But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, ‘The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.’”
If you are scratching your head wondering just where my motivation for ministry is found in this passage, I apologize. No, I don't desire to be Benny Hinn and claim to heal sickness and disease. I do, however, have compassion for God’s people because they are weary and scattered. I do want to, by God’s grace, give God’s flock guidance and direction so they can draw closer to Christ. Not only that, but I see, like Jesus saw, a great need for laborers in the ministry. I do believe the harvest is full, but there are too few good, faithful pastors. I have been praying and continue to pray that God would raise up and send out more faithful pastors to His Church so that the church can grow in wisdom, righteousness, and love. And I pray that if God sees fit, He would use me as a faithful laborer.
By faithful, I do not mean someone who is uniquely talented or gifted as a communicator. While communication is good and necessary, too much charisma, too much standing out can be detrimental to the calling of the pastor. The pastor’s job is not so much to be seen and heard, but to be understood. By that I mean this: a pastor’s job is to do nothing that promotes himself, and everything that promotes the truth of the message of the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ. The Church needs to be excited about Jesus, excited about who God is and what He has done, and not excited about the way in which the pastor turns a phrase or demands respect and praise for his excellent eloquence. No, what we need in the church are faithful and godly men who are adequately capable of preaching truth clearly and not afraid to preach the truth in love. In this culture, it had been easy to preach soft messages because the sheep have not demanded or desired more. Sadly, it now pays to preach soft, feel-good sermons. Otherwise, you may begin preaching against sin, and some sins today are being touted as so good and praiseworthy that to speak against them is to commit a hate crime.
Yet, despite all that, the biggest need in the pulpit is a recovery of the true gospel. Yes, I do believe many reformed churches have the biblical gospel and are preaching it. But the reformed church is small, and some cling to the gospel and proclaim it more faithfully than others. In short, what I am trying to say is that I think there is a need for laborers, ministers in the church, just as much today as when Jesus was engaged in His earthly ministry with His disciples.
So my two-fold motivation for the ministry is (1) a God-given compassion and concern for the spiritual well-being of the body of Christ, and (2) a deep seated belief that caring pastors who are equipped with the truth and have been personally conformed to the truth are in short order in the church today.
Please don’t hear what I am not saying. If I believed that I was such a holy person, I would probably be indicating just the opposite by my presumption and arrogance. I need greater holiness, I need greater conformity to the truth. I need to love God more and I need to love His people more. If nothing else, these needs haunt me. I want to love God and love His people more, but so often my desire to do so doesn’t meet the reality. I don’t love as much as I desire, and then I see that in reality my desire isn’t as strong as I should hope. And such is the cycle. But I pray a lot for the body of Christ, and I pray a lot that God would make me holier and further equip me and prepare me for the ministry. Above all, I pray that those already in the ministry would preach the truth in love, with all boldness and steadfastness.
It is the pulpit where the voice of God is heard. It is the pulpit where Christ speaks to His assembled body. If the preaching is weak (and when preaching is faulty, it is the sinfulness of man and not any weakness of God), the flock will be weak. Indeed when ministers in the church go astray, they aren’t really preaching anymore. And that’s scary, because the result is the silencing of the very voice of God! But when truth is preached, God’s Word rings out loudly and clearly to His people, and the people are nourished as the Spirit works through the true and living Word.
Shepherding is the great need of the hour. It is the great need of every hour, and until Christ the Great Shepherd returns, it will always be the greatest need. And it is this great, frightful need that I pray, by His grace, to meet in some small way, for His glory and kingdom. I pray that others would be similarly motivated, and that God would send them out into His harvest as well.
If you are not called as a laborer in this capacity, you are called to pray that God would send out such laborers. I hope you will do so. We need guidance. We need love, and we need rebuke and exhortation. We need to be brought low by the revealing of the ugliness of our sins, and then be lifted into the heavens by the proclaiming of our forgiveness through Christ’s shed blood and union with Him. We need this every Sunday from the pulpit so that we can remember it every Monday-Saturday from our homes. It must be our life anthem, the drum beat by which we march until, from our labors, we rest.