The Just One Challenge

 

 

 

This is part of a mural entitled “Lord of the Harvest” painted by Paula Nash Giltner. The mural is located in the lobby of the Casteel Administration Building at Ozark Christian College, Joplin, Missouri.

 

By Kevin Ingram and Matt Proctor

Bob Russell believes the Restoration Movement has a problem. The retired senior minister of Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, sees a declining number of students interested in ministry.

“As I talk with our Bible college presidents, I’m seeing a real drop in students who want to preach the gospel,” says Bob Russell. Why? “Various factors may contribute,” he answers. “The secularization of society, the postmodern mind-set that denigrates anything authoritative, the declining number of teens in Christian service camps, and the passive involvement of ministers in the lives of teens.”

Whatever the reasons, Russell believes the bottom line is churches are not recruiting future laborers for the potential harvest. “And that’s a crying shame,” he says. “The independent Christian churches are one of the few Christian movements to actually experience an increase in church attendance over the past two decades. We now have more megachurches per capita than any other movement. Some of our new church plants serve as models for the evangelical world, and some of our preachers are being called to pulpits of denominational churches that want to return to biblical principles.”

But Russell wonders who will follow today’s leaders through those doors of opportunity. “While the Restoration Movement is witnessing its most significant influence in a century, we may soon be experiencing a severe shortage of ministers and missionaries.”

Plentiful Harvest, Few Workers

Around the world, kingdom opportunities far outnumber kingdom workers. Consider these statistics:

• Of the 61 million people living in France, less than 1 percent are evangelical Christians.

• There are 6,500 languages in the world, but there is NO Scripture translation for 4,400 of them.

• Only 21 percent of Americans attend religious services every week. In fact, the United States remains the fourth-largest mission field in the world.

• While there are 3,100 Christian missionaries in Brazil, there are 420,000 spiritist mediums.

• There are only enough church plants to keep up with one-eighth of the U.S. population growth.

• Of the 16,000 people groups in the world, 6,600 groups are unreached with the gospel.

• 62 people around the world die without Christ every minute.

• With 3 billion unreached people worldwide, each current U.S. Bible college student would need to tell 1 million people apiece for everyone to hear the gospel.

These numbers underline the truth of Jesus’ words in Matthew 9:37, 38, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” Truly there is a shortage of ministers, missionaries, and other kingdom workers.

For these reasons, Russell has agreed to serve as honorary spokesman for a Matthew 9:38 prayer initiative championed by the independent Christian church’s college presidents. “I’ve joined with more than two dozen of our college presidents who have issued the Just One Challenge—asking God’s people all over this nation to pray for just one more worker for the harvest field. Based on Matthew 9:37, 38, the Just One Challenge is a unique, united effort on the part of these presidents to motivate thousands of our people intentionally to pray for and recruit future preachers.”

The Just One Difference

At the heart of the Just One Challenge is a question for each of us to consider: Will you pray for just one more worker for the harvest field?

After all, just one person can make a difference. Just one splash of paint changes the landscape of the canvas. In God’s hands, just one little mustard seed can become a great tree, just one little boy’s lunch can feed a great multitude, and just one kingdom worker can make a great impact.

• Roy Weece, longtime campus minister at the University of Missouri, baptized more than 10,000 people in his lifetime.

• Gwen Stone, with her husband Sam, raised sons Jeff and Dave to love God, and now both lead strong, evangelistic churches.

• Throughout her 30 years in Christian higher education, Eleanor Daniel helped design VBS curriculum that taught countless children across the nation about Jesus.

In God’s power, every single kingdom worker can leave a lasting influence. Will you pray for just one more?

Whom Should I Pray For?

Ask God to show you one person—a potential kingdom laborer—for whom you can pray. He or she might be a teenager or an adult at midcareer. She might be the brightest student in the youth group, because God’s mission needs the best leaders. Or he might be rather average, because God delights in using unlikely people (1 Corinthians 1:27).

Would you pray for that person by name each day? Perhaps the Lord will prompt you to give your “just one” a word of encouragement. Let the person know you are praying for him specifically and plant in his mind the seed that God might want to call him to ministry.

In 1955 at Camp Northward, Wayne Smith met a young high school graduate named Jack. He had sensed a call to ministry, but after winning an agriculture scholarship, Jack was planning to enroll at the University of Kentucky. He reflects back, “After lights out one night, Wayne talked to me for a couple of hours, telling me all the reasons why I should stick to my original intention to study for the ministry.”

Jack turned down the scholarship, enrolled at Cincinnati Bible Seminary, and discovered that Wayne had already paid for half his school bill. Jack Cottrell went on to become a professor at Cincinnati Christian University, where he has taught for more than 40 years, influencing thousands through his teaching and writing.

Lost and Found

Encourage the church where you worship to make this a priority. Every congregation must not only be a consumer of full-time Christian leaders, but also a producer. Ask your pastor and key leaders, “When was the last time our church sent someone into ministry?” Make this a priority.

One way to help meet the need is by joining in prayer with congregations across the nation on November 14, the Sunday before the National Missionary Convention. On this Just One Sunday, make Matthew 9:38 a special prayer emphasis during your church’s worship service.

The need is not just to keep the current ranks of ministers and missionaries filled—we must go beyond and increase their tribe. It’s a case of lost and found: because the world is lost, more evangelistic leaders must be found.

Jesus said it clearly, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.” Partner with us to meet this need. Pray regularly, pray fervently, pray specifically, and trust God for his provision.

Bob Russell concludes, “Of course we all know genuine prayer results in action, so I want to invite Christian leaders all across the country to join with us in honoring the Lord’s request. Let’s make the most of this present opportunity and aggressively, wisely pray for laborers for the harvest field . . . because ‘As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work’” (John 9:4).

Kevin Ingram serves as president of Manhattan (Kansas) Christian College and Matt Proctor is president of Ozark Christian College in Joplin, Missouri.

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1 Comment

  1. October 20, 2010 at 3:00 pm

    As a Christian college ministry professor and a father of a son currently committed to becoming a pastor, I understand full well the issues related to encouraging young people to enter full-time vocational ministry. Nevertheless, I do have a few additional thoughts:

    1. The family is ground zero for these commitments. Many Christian parents, including those strongly committed to the faith, often dissuade their children from ministry and encourage them to go earn secular degrees. I know youth pastors who also discourage students from going to Christian college because they no longer see a need for it (as it did little for them, they say). Plus many larger churches now hire and train from within.

    2. Most restoration colleges still have a “field of dreams” mentality about educating pastors and Christian leaders. We expect interested individuals to come to us and work within our frames (location, time, space). With the growing popularity of online education, more and more people prefer staying “home” and learning through e-portals. We need a pure online restoration school. Trust me, there are thousands out there waiting for it.

    3. The recession is creating new priorities. Many ’09 and ’10 college graduates (like my daughter) are NINJA (no income, no job, [no] assets) and saddled with deep debt. In the 90s, many Christian colleges moved to a tuition-driven model (and away from individual/church gifts) to finance their institutions and that’s starting to bite back. Churches disconnected funding and colleges kept raising tuition. Unfortunately, the recession has caused many would-be pastors to remain in their jobs and/or to choose less expensive educational programs.

    4. Finally, the world is changing and many teenagers/young adults who’ve grown up in the church really struggle to stay there. The fastest growing demographic for the “former churched” are ages 18-35. Many schools of ministry still teach pastoral leadership like its 1985 or 1995 or even 2005 (and its not). What good does it to be trained for a work that no longer exists? Young Christians interested in leading tomorrow’s church simply recognize few schools of ministry provide the resource they’ll need. We need a new type of restoration seminary for the emerging 21st century church led by leaders who understand the new culture.

    I applaud the “Just One Challenge.” My only concern is what will these recruits really receive when they commit to pastoring tomorrow’s church. The future is now.

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