The Lack of Pastors and What to do About it
President's Pen - July 2023, Dr. Barton Priebe
Across Canada, we are witnessing a shortage of pastors available to serve in churches. Anecdotally, factors contributing to this issue include the retirement of the boomer generation, exhaustion and emotional strain resulting from leading through the Covid pandemic, the complexities of leadership in this generation, low pay, and various other challenges. Regardless of the reasons, the scarcity of pastors is a significant concern, especially considering Canada's population has just surpassed 40 million people and the vast majority do not know Christ.
In response, our initial inclination may be to focus on recruiting, inspiring, and training individuals for pastoral ministry. However, I have recently been struck by Jesus' words regarding what should be done in the face of overwhelming demand for men and women to serve in His work: "When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, 'The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore, pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest,'" (Matthew 9:36-38).
Several key points emerge from Jesus' words:
- The need is substantial. Jesus emphasizes the magnitude of the harvest while acknowledging the scarcity of workers in God's field.
- The workers already exist. "Workers" encompasses anyone involved in making disciples of Jesus, including pastors, leaders, and anyone else involved in the task.
- Jesus calls us to earnest prayer. It is noteworthy that Jesus does not say, "The harvest is abundant, but the workers are few; therefore, go and recruit, inspire, create programs, shoot videos, and devise strategic plans." Instead, as John Calvin observed, "Wherever we see a lack of good pastors, we must lift our eyes to Him, to bring us the remedy."
- The Lord of the harvest sends out workers into His harvest. The term "send out" used here is the same as the one describing Jesus’ power in sending/casting out demons in the very next verse. One commentator explains, “The idea is this: there are Christian workers already there in every Christian church. All they need is to have a fire lit under them, to have the living God ‘cast them out’ of their creature comforts and into the world of adventure and need, into the breathtaking work of harvesting the field of God!”
As the Lord of the harvest sends men and women into his harvest, Northwest is here to help train them for effective work. Yet only the Lord of the harvest can send out his workers. We, therefore, depend on the prayers of all our partners and friends to seek the Lord of the harvest to bring us the workers he wants trained.
We invite you to join us in a practice we have initiated at Northwest. During the first week of each month, we set our alarms to 9:38 am (in reference to Matthew 9:38). When the alarms sound, we pause whatever we are doing and devote a few moments to pray for God to send out workers into his harvest.
With Canada's population now reaching 40 million and the world's population approaching 8 billion, what should we do in the face of such overwhelming need? While there are many actions to consider, our primary focus must be earnestly praying to the Lord of the harvest that he might send out workers.
Will you join us in earnest prayer?
 Cited in Frederick Dale Bruner, Matthew: A Commentary. Volume 1: The Christbook Matthew 1-12 (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2004), 451.