Jesus displayed a passion for ministerial development. He focused His attention on twelve disciples, training them through an intense three-year program of lessons, demonstrations, and supervised field work. The result was a company of men whose lives had been changed by grace and who were prepared to reach others with the good news (2 Tim. 2:2).
In Matthew 9, we catch a glimpse of Jesus’ heart for the lost as well as His zeal to see His Father send new laborers into His harvest field. He said, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest” (Matt. 9:37–38). He then sent the Twelve to engage in the very work for which He prayed (10:1–15). Later, He commissioned the seventy-two with the same exhortation to pray for still more laborers (Luke 10:2). Jesus summons us to both pray and work toward the development of new harvesters.
How might we share Jesus’ passion for ministerial development and work toward that end? A good starting point is to encourage young men to prayerfully consider gospel ministry. For most young men of high school age or younger, the idea of serving as a pastor or missionary isn’t even on their radar. It’s not even visible by satellite. When STEM subjects are mentioned, no one is thinking about systematic theology, exegesis, and missions. Science, technology, engineering, and math increasingly dominate the vocational horizon. But why not encourage young men to also consider what Thomas Aquinas called the “Queen of the Sciences,” namely, theology?
We need to approach this starting point realistically. If most adult congregants balk at the notion of leading a four-week Bible study, you can be sure that the average teen will balk at the idea of considering the ministry as a vocation. But when you observe a young man in whom the Spirit of God is clearly working and who exhibits nascent gifts for ministry, why not tell him so and encourage him to prayerfully consider Jesus’ call in Matthew 9? Never underestimate the power of a single word of encouragement. Every minister has at least one pivotal person who helped to clarify his call to the ministry. That person might be you.
Once potential ministers have been identified, we may share Jesus’ passion for their development by fostering local church environments in which rudimentary gifts can be tested, developed, and financially supported. Most churches are understandably wary of entrusting teenage boys with too much responsibility, with the frequent result being that they are not entrusted with any responsibility at all. Yet, how can the church gauge a man’s giftedness for greater ministry unless he is given smaller opportunities to test his gifts under supervision (Matt. 25:23)? Areas such as greeting, ushering, accompanying an elder on visitation, assisting with children’s ministry, and helping with service projects, athletic outreaches, or mission trips all provide avenues to test and develop potential ministerial gifts.