(This post first appeared at Theological Matters)
“This is a heart message to my brothers in a holy cause, seeking to lay upon their souls Christ’s cry for Gospel recruits. … Will we do our part in calling out … those He has called?”
This is the heartfelt plea of L.R. Scarborough, the second president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, imploring pastors to call out the called. Pastors calling out the called is an action largely missing today. It is becoming extremely rare that Southwestern Seminary receives students who have responded specifically to a pastor calling out the called. I know of a former Alaska pastor who would routinely call out the called from his small congregation and have up to 14 students go to a sister seminary 3,500 miles away to become equipped for ministry. Unfortunately, this scenario has become a rare occurrence—and it should not be. I take the mandate of Matthew 9:38 seriously and am increasingly concerned that young men and women are not generally being encouraged to pray and think about the possibility of God calling them into vocational ministry.
Southwestern Seminary—along with other seminaries in the U.S.—finds itself in the company of secular universities, participating in the task of actively recruiting prospective students rather than receiving prospective students sent by churches. That is, instead of primarily being sent “called out” students from the church, Southwestern actively seeks students as the “calling out” agent. In this beauty pageant with other schools, Southwestern must use Cooperative Program and other gifts to support staff and initiatives for recruiting students.
The mission of Southwestern Seminary is to assist the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention through the biblical education of God-called men and women for their respective ministries that fulfill the Great Commission and glorify God. In short, Southwestern equips God-called men and women. We are not ideally supposed to be in the business of seeking and marketing to students in the same manner a soft drink company targets students. Rather, Southwestern is to be in a cooperative partnership with churches. That is, the church calls out the called and sends students; the seminary then equips the students and provides a network of supportive resources and relationships; the church supports the seminary through the Cooperative Program; and together, the church and seminary are ultimately involved through equipped individuals in planting churches and sharing the Gospel to the ends of the earth.
There are two parts to a ministry call—“God calls and man calls out.” There is first an inward call. God speaks through His Spirit to men and women He has called to ministry service, filling them with a sense of urgent commission. Charles Spurgeon identified the first sign of God’s call to the ministry as “an intense, all-absorbing desire for the work.”
Second, there is an external call, what Scarborough referred to as the “human side to a divine call.” Baptists adhere to the belief that God uses the pastor and congregation to call out the called to ministry.
Pastor, when is the last time you preached a message calling out the called? Have you challenged your congregation to ask themselves if they sense that God is calling them to ministry, whether as a pastor or another servant of the church? Have you identified members of your congregation who burn with an urgent compulsion to proclaim the Word, share the Gospel, and care for the church? If you are doing these things, then a sincere “thank you,” and please don’t cease. L.R. Scarborough stated:
Preach on the need for more workers, the attractions, opportunities, rewards, trials, sufferings, the heroics of the ministry and mission work. Preach on the qualifications of the ministry, evidences of divine call, the need of high preparation, the blessings of the sacrificial and obedient life of the ministry of the Gospel.
It is proper stewardship of pastoral responsibility for the Pauls of ministry to call out and invest in young Timothys. Scarborough stated, “The mightiest responsibility of securing recruits for the field forces in Christ’s Kingdom lies with the ministry itself. … The pastors … are the foremost agents for securing volunteers.”
Pastor, you are the greatest influencer for a man or woman who is sensitive to God’s call. There are approximately 7,300 students in the six seminaries from 46,500 churches. This is roughly one student per six churches being sent to be equipped. Imagine the cohort of church planters, missionaries, pastors, children’s ministers, music ministers, etc. that could be raised and equipped if each of the 46,500 churches committed to sending at least one student. We’d instantly have a sixfold increase in students being equipped and deployed around the globe. The harvest is there if churches will send the laborers.
In conclusion, “the need for more workers in the harvest fields of God was never greater. … The need and call for recruits are mighty and crushing … I lay it hard on the hearts of the pastors … let us do our duty, call out the called and help God supply the mighty demand for more and better preachers.”
Dear Pastor – Southwestern Seminary faculty and/or admissions staff are here to serve you if you would like them to assist your church to call out the called, including thanking the congregation for their support of Southwestern through the Cooperative Program; providing an update on the exciting things God is doing through the faculty, staff and students of Southwestern; and answering questions about resident, online and hybrid degree plans. Preach the Word. Reach the World.
 L.R. Scarborough, Recruits for World Conquests, Fleming H. Revell Company: New York, 1914, pp. 30-31.
 Ibid, p. 24.
 Charles H. Spurgeon, Lectures to My Students: A Selection from Addresses Delivered to the Students of the Pastor’s College, Metropolitan Tabernacle, Sheldon & Company: New York, 1875, p. 42.
 L.R. Scarborough, p. 28.
 Ibid, p. 33.
 Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention, Book of Reports of the 2016 Southern Baptist Convention, 2016.
 L.R. Scarborough, p. 23-24, 34.