It has often been stated that the Lord Jesus referenced only the church twice in His earthly ministry. The first time is in Matthew 16 wherein he stated that the gates of hell would not prevail against the church and the second in Matthew 18 wherein He envisions the necessity of church discipline against an impenitent member. In these two statements, it has been said, we have the church triumphant and the church militant (struggling). The history of the Church bears both these marks. There are glorious stories of triumph and grievous stories of shame, infidelity, and retreat.
For over thirty years I have been part of Reformed Baptist Churches. I have pastored one church for over 31 years and have sought to help other churches get planted. I have been involved in ministerial training in the US, Africa and the Far East. I have witnessed much of the good and sadly some of the bad an ugly of our little movement. While I find much to encourage my heart about the spread of confessional Baptist churches in recent years, there are also matters for concern. One of the greatest needs before us is the upcoming leadership crisis in many of our churches.
While there are numerous Calvinistic Baptist movements marked by vigorous and youthful leadership, our churches are not yet among their number. There are many of our churches where there are sole pastors and some of those churches are pastored by men of advancing years. Not only can they not find a lay elder in their local church to bring about a biblical plurality, they do not know who will lead their flock in the decades to come. No pastor I know wants their churches to fade away when they are gone. They desire that God will replace them with robustly confessional men who love the Lord and His people and who will lead them to the green grass and cool waters of His Word for decades till they themselves are replaced.
What kind of men? We desire biblically qualified men who have a passion to selflessly shepherd Christ’s flock. We desire men of giftedness who will be able to feed the flock. We desire men who will love and serve others with love and humility. We also desire men of doctrinal fidelity and conviction. As convictional Reformed Baptist we desire men who are robustly confessional. That means, for us, men who embrace the truths of the 1689 Confession with firmness, conviction, patience, tenacity, knowledge and joy. Men who embrace Baptist Covenant Theology. Men who love the Lord’s Day and are not ashamed of its place in the Moral Law. Men who believe in the centrality of the church and the commitment of members to its life together. If our churches are to remain committed not only to Orthodox and Reformed Christianity but to 1689 Confessionalism then we must do at least three things.
The first we must do is pray that the Lord of the Harvest will raise up laborers (Matt 9:38). As one has well said, only the God who made the world can make a gospel minister.
Secondly, we must invest in our younger men. We must lay bare afresh what we believe and why we believe it and pray that the Lord will instill in the rising generation a passion for these truths they have grown up with in a way that does not lead to pride, judgmentalism towards brethren who differ, and isolation. We can and must be a people of narrow convictions and broad affections and associations.
Thirdly we must act. This may mean proactively encouraging young men to consider the ministry. Pastors need to look for men to mentor and invest time and resources in. Look to give younger men opportunities for ministry—prison ministries, nursing homes, homeless shelters, youth gatherings, Sunday School classes, and eventually morning or evening worship services. We should be willing to invest time and resources into young men whose lives and gifts encourage us to believe that they may be useful leader in the church. This may mean supplying them with good books, paying for them to go to conferences and investing in their seminary education. It will also mean an investment in time. Pastors need to devote some time regularly to pour into the future generation. This may be done formally, as in some kind of pastoral theology class or inviting a man into an elders’ meeting from time to time. It may mean taking a man with you to visit a member in a nursing home or hospital. It may involve taking a brother out to breakfast or lunch and addressing issues of pastoral ministry. We need to lead the people of God in prayer for the rising generation with hope that God will own and bless His truth in them till His Son returns in glory.
Jim has been with RBC since 1990. He was set aside by the church for full time ministry in November of 1991. Jim was brought to faith as a teenager and soon began to experience a desire to preach God’s Word. He trained for the ministry at Columbia Bible College in Columbia, SC (now Columbia International University) and at the Trinity Ministerial Academy in Montville, NJ. He married his wife, Becky in 1989 and they have been blessed with three daughters and one son.