Somewhere around fifteen years ago, I realized that, here in Illinois, about one out of every seven of our SBC churches was without a pastor; this statistic held fairly steady for several years. This realization did not knock me over with a feather, but with the proverbial Mack Truck: ker-WHAM! It overwhelmed me with the words of Jesus to his disciples (and by extension to us) in Matthew 9:38. “Pray ye therefore the Lord of the Harvest, that He will send forth laborers into his harvest.”
So I began praying for the Lord to send forth laborers into his harvest, and especially to supply pastors for churches that are without them currently. Over a period of time I ended up with a list of churches without pastors to pray for daily, not just in Illinois, but some in other states, including those in Iowa who are in the Great Rivers, Northeast, North Central, and South Central Associations. My prayer is for solid Bible-preaching churches.
Not only do I pray for the current need, but also that the Lord would now be preparing the next several generations of laborers, and send them forth in multitudes; not only to be pastors, but also teachers, missionaries, evangelists, song leaders, piano players, and all kinds of needed workers. My prayer is not limited to concerns for Iowa or Illinois, but that the Lord would raise up and send these laborers wherever they are needed- across the nation, around the world, or around the corner.
Percentage-wise, the shortage of pastors is far worse in Illinois than it is in Iowa. I’m convinced that one of the reasons there is a shortage is that, over the past several decades, there has been a lack of us as saved people praying for those laborers to be sent forth, and now they’re not there. (And for decades I didn’t pray that way, either.) If we are not praying for laborers to be sent forth, do we have the right to expect them to be in place 10, 15, or 20 years down the road? Without giving an answer, that is a question worthy of consideration.
As Southern Baptists, we should be wanting to reach the lost with the Gospel, and see churches planted where there is no Gospel outreach, while some established churches cannot find a pastor. The only way to have enough workers for both of these needs (as well as other needs) is for us to be serious about praying for these laborers to be sent forth.
How much difference would it make if just one person in each BCI church gave themselves to fervent, frequent prayer for laborers for the harvest? Or one whole church in each Association? There’s only one way to find out.
Praying for laborers for the harvest is about the only thing Jesus said specifically to pray for. We can’t be wrong by doing so, and we can’t be right if we don’t.
A church that has a pastor should pray for those without as fervently as they would want others praying for them if they were without.
And as we pray, we should be willing to be whatever laborer the Lord would call us to be.
Member, Trinity Baptist Church