A couple of weeks ago I wrote about conserving the results of Falls Creek and CrossTimbers summer camps. That article incorporated all the summer camps, rather than just the youth camps. This week I want to address the conservation of those who sensed a call of God on their lives to serve in full-time Christian missions and ministry.
At age 14, I walked the aisle at Falls Creek, answering the call to full-time Christian ministry. I was totally consumed by music at that point in my life and thought God was calling me to music ministry. When I returned home from camp, little was said regarding my commitment. Once a year, I received a letter from the Sunday School Board (LifeWay), affirming my commitment, but no attempt was made to guide me in the decision I had made while there.
It was five years later, as a young adult, that God renewed and clarified my call to preach. While little comes of “what if” contemplation, I have often wondered what would have happened if I would have been shepherded and developed during those early years after my initial decision.
I want those who make commitments to full-time Christian ministry and missions to be discipled and encouraged each step of the way. The local church must take steps to walk these children and young people to full engagement in ministry preparation and involvement. God was faithful to call out laborers for the harvest, and the church must prepare them for the task.
The Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma helps by offering a conference, The Call Conference, at Oklahoma Baptist University each year. This year, the conference takes place August 26. This conference is designed to encourage and develop those who have made commitments to serve in ministry. Attendees hear from others who are involved in ministry and gain insight in how to move from commitment to service.
Yet, the local church must take the greater responsibility to walk beside these young people who have committed to Christian service. Pastors and staff are vital in this process. Leaders need to take responsibility to encourage, train and involve those committed to ministry and missions in the work of the church.
Like Jesus walked with His disciples, so should pastors and staff walk with these young people called to ministry. I think there is no better way to start these folks on a journey toward ministry than for the local church to encourage pastors and staff to let these young people track alongside them in actual ministry. Give them special attention and assignments that involve them in the work of the ministry of your church. Teach them to walk with the Lord in a daily quiet time and in prayer. Take them with you to witness.
It is also important to keep those who have committed to ministry before the people of the church. Provide opportunities for them to give testimony, read Scripture during a service, lead in prayer or lead in musical worship. Share with the church their commitment and keep the church praying for them.
There is a great need for this especially among our Native American churches. This summer, there were 31 commitments to ministry made at Indian Falls Creek. We have a large number of our Native American churches that have no pastors. We, as Oklahoma Baptist churches, must conserve the fruit of this camp and all the others this summer.
God is calling. What are we, as local churches, doing to help prepare and involve those called to launch into the harvest fields?