Someone has said that the mark of a great church is not her seating capacity, but her sending capacity. I have to admit that until recently, I never truly considered the bittersweet joy that must come to the heart of the pastor who sees God call members out of the church for service. This realization came as I sat in the back of the room in which a presbytery was grilling – I mean, asking questions of – an ordination candidate.
My ordination candidate. A man in my church. A man that had fully surrendered his life to God’s calling, had gone through Bible college and graduated, who had served faithfully for 7 years in our church, and was planning to start a church. A man whose family would leave a hole in our church that would seem – humanly speaking – difficult to fill.
In front of me sat the man who had been my official pastor for 5 years and my unofficial pastor for 13 more – Dr. Bob W. Smith. I wonder if anyone even knows just how many men and women have surrendered, been trained, and then sent out of the Baptist churches that he has pastored over the last 50 years of ministry. It occurred to me that the true greatness of the Trinity Baptist Church of Arlington, TX, during the 20+ years that he pastored, was not just the fact that souls were saved and baptized every week, or that a thousand or more people assembled there every Sunday, or that on high days that attendance would jump up as high as 2500 – but the sheer number of men and women that were trained and SENT OUT to serve God around America and on foreign fields.
The picture above was taken in 1996 of just the adult “preacherboys” (we didn’t get in a huff about being called that back then) in the church. All 13 of us, and our families, were very active servants in the church. Within a few years of this picture, almost all of us would be sent out to serve in other ministries as God directed. 5 became pastors, 2 became missionaries, 2 became assistant pastors, and the others served in other churches in different ways. By the way, that was just in 1996. Many others surrendered before and after this picture was taken. Trinity Baptist Church was not only a hive of soulwinning activity – it was the launching platform for men who have served God around the world.
How many of us would enjoy seeing so many of the best workers in our church leave – and then constantly go through the process of reaching new people to fill their pew and then training new people to fill their place?
It is easy for preachers to become jealous or critical of large churches, without realizing that God often raises up these great churches to be a launching pad for many preachers and ministries. It should, in fact, be the desire of every church to see men called of God, surrender, get the training they need, and then see them “sent forth” to serve in leadership, whether in the US or abroad. The harvest is great and the laborers are few – and as tempting as it might be to “hoard” every quality man into one’s own section of the harvest, the Lord of the harvest is still calling some to GO and others to SEND.
Acts 13:1-3 Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers; as Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen, which had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. (2) As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them. (3) And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.
Of these 5 notable men, God called forth Barnabas and Saul. They, no doubt, left holes in that great church’s ministry that were hard to fill. Yet by giving up those two men to God’s work, countless churches were started and influenced through their ministry. In fact, all of history was changed when these two men were sent forth.
Does your church have a desire to send more than MONEY to the field? What about MEN? And if God does call men into the ministry out of your church, will you let them GO?
Thank you for reading. God bless.