"Pray the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth laborers unto his harvest." – John 9:38
Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary President Paige Patterson takes the words of Jesus seriously and is concerned that young people today are not being encouraged to think and pray about the possibility that God might call them into the ministry.
"My conclusion based on the [John 9:38] passage would be that it is appropriate to pray that God will, in fact, impress upon people everywhere the necessity of giving their lives to bring in the harvest," Patterson expressed. "I cannot help but conclude that it is also proper, therefore, verbally to extend that call to people throughout our Southern Baptist Zion."
Patterson said for the next few years, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary's message to the churches is going to be an invitation to begin following the Scriptural admonition of the Lord and to pray that the Lord will send forth workers unto His harvest.
"We are going to be pointing to the examples of hundreds and even thousands of godly pastors and missionaries and saying to our young people, 'Can you not see God using you in some way such as this?'"
And as our Southern Baptist seminaries are sounding the call, many men and women are answering and obeying that call.
Ed Kendrick, Ft. Meade, Fla., left a lucrative financial marketing job to become a full-time seminary student in response to God's call in his life to become a pastor.
Kendrick sold the house of his dream and moved into a double-wide mobile home near the seminary and said, "It doesn't matter that we won't be able to live in as nice a home or as big a home. None of that stuff matters. God is bigger than all of that, and what we have found is that we have not given anything up."
United States Navy Flight Officer Rich Lee felt the same calling in his life and the burden for his fellow servicemen led him to Southeastern to receive a Master of Divinity in order to become a Navy Chaplain.
"I'll serve [Christ] first of all, but also continue to serve my country, and hopefully spread the gospel throughout the military. It's a hard mission field, but it's one that needs workers," said Lee, who was encouraged by his pastor to obey the calling.
A major emphasis of calling out the called will be to urge local pastors to include in the invitation the opportunity to respond to the call of God to some aspect of the ministry.
"We are going to urge college students all across the country to visit one of the six seminary campuses and see what God is doing through our theological seminaries," Patterson added.
Patterson's theme of calling out the called is not a unique concept for Southern Baptists. Forerunner L.R. Scarborough, an early 20th century evangelist, coined the phrase during an unprecedented growth in the number of Baptist ministers.
Almost a century ago, Scarborough launched an evangelistic initiative urging Southern Baptist to call out the called with the intent of sending God-called men and women to the new territories in the western frontier to plant churches.
During Scarborough's campaign, Baptist churches experienced a spiritual awakening that resulted in over 10,000 young people committing their lives to the service of Christ.
Scarborough's passion for evangelism was elucidated during his tenure as the second president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary where he also served as a professor of evangelism and instituted the Department of Evangelism.
The same spirit of urgency that stirred Scarborough to call out the called in the early 20th century still resounds among committed Southern Baptists today who are willing to take the gospel to the unreached.
The new spiritual frontier of the 21st century encompasses unchurched regions of North America, as well as the restricted access countries of the 10/40 window.
"We need to double the number of people on the field," Patterson concluded. "That's the reason for the whole emphasis of calling out the called."