Why Young Men Don’t Go into the Ministry

pulpit1.jpg“And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, ‘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'” (Matthew 9.35-38)Jesus Christ knew that despite the thrill of following the Creator of the Universe and becoming an Official of His Royal Court – an ambassador of the Kingdom of the Living God – many would not go into the ministry of His Gospel.  So, he declared, “The Harvest is white unto Harvest, but the workers are few.  Pray the Lord of the Harvest to send out workers into the fields (Matthew 9.37)”We are seeing a trend today in the ministry.  In fact, I think we have a crisis.  The average age of seminarians today is 37 years old.  Why?  Well, I am certain there are a number of sociological reasons for this trend, but I want to offer one that is not always voiced today.I believe that God still calls young men to go into the ministry at 16,17,18,19,20,21 years of age.  It is just that not too many heed God’s call.Because of a few misconceptions, these otherwise outstanding candidates for a glorious career in ministry opt for business and law and medicine and other similar worthy pursuits. Then, 10-15 years later…if they are not completely burned-out in their careers which promised them money and prestige and influence and brought them only dissatisfaction, they began to reassess their calls to ministry.Now, there are some (and I was one) who was not called until having already established a first career.  The reason?  Well, for me it was that my life was so out of order and in complete rebellion at 20 years of age, that the first call I heard was just to surrender to the grace of God in Christ and trust in Him alone for my eternal life!  I am thankful that there are many like me in that regard.But, I am talking today about those who are of younger years and who should be considering God’s call to the ministry, but are not because of some misconceptions.Well, today, is your day.  I want to clear up a few of those misconceptions. Why don’t young men go into the ministry?

1.  They think money will bring them success and happiness.

The truth.  It won’t.  The ministry, however, will provide you with everything you need to live materially – and it will be fulfilling.  What price can be put on a job that helps people come out of sin into eternal life in Christ?  What price can you put on holding the baby of a family you led to Christ and then baptizing that child into the Church?  You are there at all of the important times in people’s lives – when all others are shut out – you are there…with your pitcher of living water to thirsty souls and your plate of Divine blessings to those who hunger for deeper meaning in life.

2.  They think The Ministry is boring work.

If the ministry is presiding over a dead ceremony once a week;  having tea with a well upholstered spinster whose tithes keep your kid in braces and occasionally braving the elements to lift a hand in the annual church maintenance fund drive…well, if that is the ministry…I WANT OUT NOW!But, that is not the ministry.  That is a caricature of the job and is far removed from reality.  The reality is that every week something new is happening.  It is  true that you preach, you teach, you administer the sacraments, you counsel, you administer, you organize, you lead…but, within those unchanging rubrics lie a world of diverse operations and a world of difficult assignments…and a world of decisive opportunities!In one week, I have saved a marriage, led a family to Christ, met with the leaders of my city, offered hope to a grieving family, taught a class on Evidences for the Resurrection, preached a message on the Doctrine of the Sovereignty of God and dedicated a new building!  Where else can you do this?When I think of the ministry, I think of the words of a great preacher who said, “Do not stoop to be a king when you have been called to preach!”The ministry is exciting!

3.  They think that Ministers are boring people.

 I can understand how some of you feel that way.  If the ministry is – as Hollywood often portrays it – milk-toast, weak chinned, wimps with old, oversized cardigan sweaters and a liberal message of “have a nice day” – then I would think it is boring, too.  If ministers are – as some ministers sinfully portray us –  as lazy lugs who do little to contribute to the good of anyone expect to contribute to the growing size of their pot bellies – then, I would think the ministers are boring people.I would have, you, though, to observe history and conclude for yourself if ministers are boring people.Consider the prophets of the Old Testament.Consider the Apostles.Consider the Reformers.Consider the founders of our nation’s institutions.Consider the leaders of the great social changes in our own country.Consider the dominant personalities of the day today.Ministers are not boring people.  Some ministers are just bad ministers.

4.  They want to be influential and they think that the ministry is not.

Again, this is a misconception born out of poor ministers and out of bad Hollywood scripts.If you want to influence society…be a minister.  You can change lives in a local church as a pastor or associate pastor.  You can mold lives in a Christian school, college or seminary as a teacher, professor, or as the headmaster.  You can travel to unreached people groups and change the course of a whole nation for the rest of history as a missionary.  You can change this nation as a church planter.There is no greater joy than changing one life at a time with the simple news of Jesus Christ – His grace, His atoning sacrifice, His invitation to a new life.Ministers have been and continue to be the most influential members of society at both the personal level and in many cases – the national and even world level.

Facing the Truth

The real questions is will you face the truth of the ministry as it is or will you hold on to your misconception.  To hold on to your misconception is to rule out the ministry as an option before you.To get real with it – is to risk something, though.  It is to risk giving your life up to Jesus Christ and the service of His Kingdom.I was once frightened of this.  I thought that if I gave my life to Christ and to His service, I would be in chains forever.I read Edmund Clowney’s Book, Called to the Ministry, and I came across something very interesting.  Martin Luther, the great Reformer, felt the same way as I did.  In fact, Luther felt that he had been given the gifts to become one of the greatest legal minds in all of Europe.  He was additionally blessed with exceptional gifts in music and might have enjoyed a status on par with the greatest musicians of Germany.  But…he was called to the ministry.  He said that his call to preach and to teach and to be an ambassador for Jesus Christ had become burdensome to him!  He was confused as to whether he should pursue these other outstanding fields…but, he could not…because he knew he had to give his life to the ministry of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  The ministry had become chains to him.  But, he said, “In my chains…I at last found my freedom.”That is the way I felt.  I embraced the chains of the Gospel.  Paul’s credo became my own:  “Woe is me if I preach not the Gospel!”In those chains, I have found the greatest freedom I have ever known.Today, I am asking you to consider if God may be calling you to the ministry.  I am asking some others of you if God might be calling you to some other form of Christian service. Jesus said in a parable:  “Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?”  and the unemployed laborers answered, “Because on-one has hired us.”  He said to them, “You also go and work in my vineyard.”How many today will heed the call?  How many here will stretch forward your neck and hands and take the yoke of Christ upon you as a minister of the Gospel…and find the greatest freedom and fulfillment that young and old men have ever known?

About Michael A. Milton, Ph.D.

Michael A. Milton, Ph.D., MPA (University of Wales; University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill), is an American Presbyterian pastor, theologian, and author.
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