Who Will Send Them?
By Terry Allcorn
Each generation has been rightly concerned about passing along their faith to the next generation. David referenced the generation-to-generation process in Psalm 145. Mary sang of how the mercy of the Savior would extend to all generations in Luke 1. Paul proclaimed that God would be glorified through the church and in Jesus “throughout all generations” in Ephesians 3.
Preachers and preaching play a central role in spreading the gospel globally and generationally. As more preachers proclaim salvation through the blood of Jesus, the broader the message spreads cross-culturally and the longer the message extends cross-generationally. This underscores the key role all schools associated with the Restoration Movement need to play in training ministers and preachers.
Many of us are concerned about the declining number of graduates called to ministry from our Restoration Movement schools. Some have theorized that adding other majors, seeking regional accreditation, and increasing the number of sports programs have had a negative effect on the number of students majoring in ministry. I’m not convinced of that.
Adding majors that fit within the broader mission of the colleges and universities provides options for those students who want to live and learn in a Christ-centered environment, but who do not feel called to ministry. It also has provided trained workers for professions where Christians are desperately needed.
Accrediting organizations are not hindrances; they primarily ask schools to prove they are fulfilling their mission in every area of the institution.
Concerning athletics, many of the more effective ministers I know selected a school based on the fact they could continue to enjoy their favorite sport while training for ministry. Further, as I look at the ethnic makeup of many university-level athletic teams, I am hopeful that athletic programs can serve as a pathway to sharing the beauty of the Restoration Movement to a broader range of ethnic groups.
Whether or not one agrees that the above shifts have had an effect on the number of ministry graduates, it would seem there must be other causes. If not, then schools that offer only ministry degrees, avoid accreditation, and offer no athletics would not be experiencing a similar decline in ministry graduates. There must be additional factors.
The Church-College Partnership
From my perspective, the conversation needs to shift to the rhetorical question posed by Paul, “How can anyone preach unless they are sent?” (Romans 10:15). As we seek to raise up more preachers in the Restoration Movement, the solution must involve an enhanced partnership involving the entire movement. This partnership must include senders, trainers, and receivers.
Senders. My personal experience has influenced my views a great deal. I was one among several from my home church who went to a Christian college or university aligned with this movement to train for ministry. My preacher regularly lifted up the call of ministry. My youth minister invested in me even when I didn’t exactly look like a sound investment! The elders allowed me to occasionally preach or teach. Those same elders helped pay for my ministry training and ordained me at the end of it. They serve as wonderful examples of senders. And, currently, they are enjoying the fruits of that sending because they have called a Timothy of the church to serve as minister.
If there is a trained minister preaching from your pulpit, and if there are other ministers, teachers, deacons, and elders in your congregation, please understand that they quite possibly were sent out by another congregation. I encourage each church to send out three times the number of ministers who are serving on their staff during each decade. The decreasing numbers of preaching majors who are graduating from our schools can be solved only by increasing the number of students sent to Christian colleges and universities for ministry training.
Camps and other youth-focused parachurch entities can supplement the local church in calling and motivating our best to consider a life of ministry. However, these groups do not cover all of those called to ministry. Many of the most effective preachers have come to the pulpit as a second or third career calling. The local church needs to be attentive to those who may be good ministry candidates after they have served careers in the military or some other setting.
Trainers. Of course, Christian colleges and universities also have a strong role to play in ensuring we continue to produce well-prepared preachers and ministers. Since reengaging with Christian higher education through my role at Kentucky Christian University, two things have become abundantly clear to me.
First, as Christian educators, we must increasingly emphasize the importance of ministry, and specifically, preaching.
Second, we must recognize that the needs of the local church are changing. For example, churches dearly need ministers who have heavy preparation in the fields of business and human resources to fill roles that are emerging in the larger churches. I’m also seeing a growing need for dual-career preachers to serve smaller churches. While many dual-career ministers have migrated to education as a supplemental source of income, there are also dual-career ministers working in business, counseling, medical fields, and others.
Picture the futility of colleges and universities trying to accomplish this task alone. I was recruited for ministry from my local church (as were many of you), and I was encouraged to consider a Christian university long before my name ever appeared on a college’s recruitment list. That, in itself, points to the important role the local church plays in the success of our Restoration Movement schools.
On behalf of all ministry training schools, from single-purpose minister training schools to Christian universities with multiple majors—including preaching—we all need the help of every church. We all need students who are grounded in their faith and who have a call to ministry.
Receivers. While I am the first to call for more preachers with degrees in preaching, we have graduates with a variety of degrees who are serving in full-time support ministries in local churches. It’s common that they spend their early years of service in youth and associate ministries before being called to preach weekly.
This is where the third piece of the church-college partnership comes into focus. The local church plays a key role in mentoring the newly graduated leader for a lifetime of service. The local church must play both a retentive and development role in the leadership life cycle. And colleges and universities also have a role in retaining and retooling ministers by providing encouragement and training to ministers in the field.
Most institutions are still exploring this part of our mission, and it will likely be accomplished in partnership with other parachurch organizations.
The Need to Innovate
All that said, Christian colleges and universities need to seek innovative ways of attracting and training ministers. Here’s some biblical advice I received from Jim Book, senior minister at Kissimmee (Florida) Christian Church: “Cast the nets on the other side of the boat.” In other words, be willing to try something different.
To achieve this, I believe we need to learn lessons from the successful outreach programs of local churches and Christian camps. Both have used a myriad of tools to bring people to a setting where they can learn about the gospel. Camps tout fun activities and the peacefulness of the outdoors. Growing churches use everything from midnight basketball to programs that target preschool moms. We don’t need to copy those innovations, of course, but we need to learn from them.
As we expand our degrees, we need to continue holding up the high calling of vocational ministry to all students. As we expand our athletic offerings, we must hire coaches who will inspire the student-athletes to consider a life of vocational ministry as much as they inspire athletic achievement. If we are launching programs to accommodate second-career ministry candidates, the programs should be edifying and inspiring, and not just a means to an end.
It is up to all of us to inspire the next generation of Christian leaders by teaching the clear and timeless truths of the inspired Word of God. May God bless us all as we join together to send, train, and retain the next generation of preachers and ministers.
Terry Allcorn is in his first year as president of his alma mater, Kentucky Christian University.
Published in the August 2020 issue of the Christian Standard.
View on Christian Standard’s website: https://christianstandard.com/2020/07/who-will-send-them/