“Come to Heidelberg Theological Seminary and help the church by becoming a preacher.”
More than likely you have heard about the Macedonian Call recorded in the book of Acts. “And a vision appeared to Paul in the night. A man of Macedonia stood and pleaded with him, saying, ‘Come over to Macedonia and help us.’ Now after he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go to Macedonia, concluding that the Lord had called us to preach the gospel to them” (Acts 16:9-10). Absent the vision, this is a similar call, a seminarian call to men, and especially, younger men of the Reformed Church in the United States (RCUS), to come to Heidelberg Theological Seminary and learn how to preach “the Holy Gospel, which God Himself revealed first in Paradise; afterwards proclaimed by the holy Patriarchs and Prophets, and foreshadowed by the sacrifices and other ceremonies of the law; and finally fulfilled by His well-beloved Son” (HC #19).
As with the Macedonian Call, this is an urgent call. Our denomination is facing a critical shortage of men who will be the next generation of preachers and teachers. That the church should and must produce preachers is the clear and necessary inference from the apostle Paul’s letter to Timothy: “And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (II Tim. 2:2). The RCUS should be producing preachers from among its own sons. Sadly, that production has not been forthcoming, hence, this urgent call to the Gospel ministry, especially to the young men of the RCUS. This is a call for men who love the RCUS and its commitment to the Reformed faith, and who have a desire “to earnestly contend for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3).
The RCUS needs more of its young men to desire the office of pastor or teaching elder. The apostle Paul, again when writing to his young protégé, Timothy, says: “This is a faithful saying: If a man desires the position of a bishop, he desires a good work” (I Tim. 3:1). This is not only a good desire, but also a desire to be encouraged. Who should desire this office? Those who have the gift. The apostle Paul exhorted Timothy: “Do not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you by prophecy with the laying on of the hands of the eldership” (I Tim. 4:14). And again in II Tim. 1:6: “Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands.”
What is that gift that must not be neglected? That must be stirred up? How can one assess or know that gift? Can someone else recognize it in another? Let’s try to answer these questions.
When the apostle Paul returned to Lystra on his second missionary journey, some of the Christians called his attention to this extraordinary young man, Timothy, who had a very good reputation, free from scandal, and of whom great things were expected. So Paul decided to take him along on his journey. “Then [Paul] came to Derbe and Lystra, and behold, a certain disciple was there named Timothy, the son of a certain Jewish woman who believed, but his father was Greek. He was well spoken of by the brethren who were at Lystra and Iconium. Paul wanted to have him go with him” (cf. Acts 16:2-3). Thus began Timothy’s formal training under the tutelage of the gifted apostle Paul. In addition, Timothy was the product of a covenant home: “I call to remembrance the genuine faith that is in you, which dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am persuaded is in you also . . . . you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (II Tim. 1:5; 3:14-15). Surely this is the description of young men in the RCUS!
Parents, pastors, elders, what are you doing to foster this desire in those young men who exhibit the gift for the ministry? What is that gift? What to look for?
We’ve already seen the remarkable character Timothy displayed. We are given more information with regard to what Paul saw in Timothy. “This charge I entrust to you, Timothy, my child, in accordance with the prophecies previously made concerning you … having faith and a good conscience” (I Tim. 1:18-19). “Having faith” indicates Timothy had a certain knowledge whereby he held for truth what God had revealed to him through the teaching and preaching of the apostle Paul. “Having a good conscience” indicated an awareness of certain things being right or wrong, and the ability to pass moral judgment upon oneself.
Do you know someone like this? Such should be encouraged to go to seminary, prepare for the ministry, seek the recognition of his gifts by the church through “the laying on of the hands of the eldership” (I Tim. 4:14), and become, like Timothy, “a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (II Tim. 2:15).
Rev. Vernon Pollema