I have just drafted a document entitled “Guidelines for Ministerial Care under the Deacons of Bethlehem Baptist Church”. I hope to present this to the Deacon Council for consideration at the August meeting. The purpose is to create a procedure whereby young people who sense a call to full-time Christian ministry can come under the care of the deacons for guidance, council and support through their preparatory years. This care would be provided with a view to assessing the person’s gifts and maturity in the hopes of sending them into church ministries at home and abroad.
Gordon MacDonald portrays the local church as a “Seedbed for Missions”. There is no doubt in my mind that Bethlehem is becoming just that. And I am going to water and plow and fertilize this idea with all my might. There was a day when leadership streamed into our conference from BBC. That day can come again. It is coming more quickly than we thought. It will be one of the most exciting dimensions of our life together.
Why is this happening? And what changes will it involve? It is happening first of all because the Lord of the harvest is sovereignly at work to honor his word which is taking root in many young hearts. When the great God is exalted, ambassadors lay themselves at his feet. Second, it is happening because there are so many young people at Bethlehem who have said, “Not my will but Thine be done”. Third, it is happening because Tom Steller is the coming pastor for student and educational ministries. His teaching gift, his contagious love for God and the panorama of his theology will continue to capture the minds and hearts of Toshavim. Fourth, it is happening because Bethlehem Baptist Church is vintage mission soil.
But now for the changes. There has been a lull in BBC’s history of leadership harvest. As a result, our missions focus has shifted almost entirely to raising money for people and projects already in service. We are not prepared for the impact which so many seedlings in our midst will have on our soil. We are on the brink of a new decade of nurturing and sending ministerial and missions leadership from Bethlehem Baptist Church.
I am ready to sound the trumpet for them to stand up. But I am almost scared to. What would we do? Would we say, “God bless you. Be fed and clothed.” And then return to the status quo? The seedlings would soon die and the soil would stagnate. Amazing opportunities as a “seedbed for missions” lie before us. Here’s what we must do.
- We must create the attitude in all our members, especially the youth, that BBC wants to encourage and support people from its own number in their call to ministry.
- Structures of support must be created so that young people know what procedures to follow.
- We must pray that the Lord of harvest will send out workers from us.
- And we must plan it into our budget. What is now a very modest contingency fund in the Missions Budget must expand dramatically into a “Seedbed Fund” to encourage and support the broad range of needs which our seedlings will have. And we must be prepared to lengthen the list of missionaries who look to us for regular substantial support.
Let us pray and dream together of being an incredibly fertile garden for growing future pastors and educators and missionaries. The Lord of harvest will not let such a church go wanting.
Plow in hand,