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Giving our sons as pastors

Our pastors and professors have repeatedly sounded an urgent plea for preachers, a need that has been expressed for several years now. We know the need and sincerely pray this petition. Yet there is another common reaction among us: 

“Who would ever encourage their son to be a minister in times like these?” 

This cry has been echoed in our church parking lots, uttered by our mothers, and whispered in our homes. Who would ever give their son to endure such scrutiny from without and from within?  

The Pharisees tried to trap Jesus with his words. In our time, critics seem determined to destroy a man and his denomination when they are dissatisfied with what he says. We feel the Lord’s hand heavy upon us as gross sins come to light and as tragedy after tragedy is announced. Now we’re processing the shock and sorrow of losing another pastor. 

My husband and I have hoped that our son will seek the ministry. Are we reckless? My mind dwelled on this dilemma. Who would give up their child amid dire circumstances? 

God’s word gives a clear answer:  

Abraham. Jochebed. Jephthah. Hannah. Jesse. Mary. 

The Bible is rich with stories of parents who fiercely loved their covenant children and labored diligently to protect and nurture them. And yet they were willing to give their most precious gifts back to the Lord out of pure, overflowing love, obedience, and gratitude to him. 

That’s not to say that these parents never felt sheer terror and heartfelt agony for their children, or that they never missed them. Even the greatest heroes of faith were only human. 

Abraham waited a lifetime for a covenant son to be born, and then God tested him. In obedience to his Father, Abraham went as far as binding Isaac, placing him on the altar, and taking up a knife to slay him. Who wouldn’t have trembled? 

The desire of Hannah’s soul was to bring forth a covenant child, and even before he was conceived, she vowed to give him back to the Lord all the days of his life. She only saw her beloved young Samuel once a year when she and her husband offered the yearly sacrifice and brought him a new coat. 

Think of Jesse, knowing that his young musician-shepherd son would be faced with many troubles as king of Israel—the temptations that come with power, the rebellion of God’s people, and the danger of leading the hosts of Israel into battle. 

And then there’s Mary. Her firstborn son endured the worst possible torture and humiliation. He bore not only the wrath of men, but the eternal wrath of God against the sins of the elect while she stood by and watched. 

With this perspective, the challenge that faces us isn’t so extreme: Adults: encourage our young men to be pastors. Young men: consider the ministry. 

Parents, our most precious God-given “talents”—our children—should not be hidden away within the walls of our homes until Christ returns. How can we join this great cloud of faithful witnesses and gain interest on our children for Christ? 

Young man of God, if someone approaches you to say that they see pastoral qualities in you, listen. Do not be quick to label such a person and their comments as pushy or meddlesome. Receive this exhortation as a high compliment and as Christian encouragement, and then prayerfully consider the ministry.  

On the other hand, if someone tries to discourage you from the ministry, you may listen, but you must follow where the Lord leads, even if it brings the burdensome feeling that you have rejected your parents’ or superiors’ plans for your life. In honor and respect, declare with confidence that you have sought the Lord’s will for your life, and his plan is clear.   

You can enjoy and thrive in the rigorous seminary coursework. You can handle the calling of pastor with all its challenges and, don’t forget, its manyjoys. Thousands of God’s people want you to succeed, and no matter how old you are, your parents who love you so much will be here to hug, encourage, and comfort you as earthly pictures of our heavenly Father. Jehovah is your sovereign guide and refuge, and the Spirit of Christ dwells within you. He will preserve you! 

Our dear sons, if you express interest in the ministry—and that is our fervent prayer—may we as your parents be willing and ready to give you as pastors! 

Erika is a graphic designer and mother in the home. She worships with her family at Kalamazoo Protestant Reformed Church and also serves as the design manager and typesetter for Beacon Lights.