Is it Nature or Nurture?
When does the call to care for others happen in us? Is it merely "nature" or does it need to be nurtured?
Train up a child in the way he should go,
And when he is old he will not depart from it;
(Prov. 22:6 (KJV).
When I received … discovered … accepted my “call” to ministry, neither my friends nor family were surprised by it. They were, however, surprised that I was so slow to discover it, but not surprised that I had been called to be a pastor.
My mother once told me that she knew I was called to be a pastor ever since my second grade year … apparently my actions towards another student suggested that I had a “pastoral” nature.
But is being called to pastoral ministry a matter of nature or nurture?
My mother’s testimony suggests that there is at least some element of nature in it … that people are born with certain attitudes, gifts and abilities that lead them toward pastoral ministry if not a career.
But if we stop and think about it … many of the stories of the Bible suggest that there is more than just nature in one’s call to serve God.
Perhaps the greatest prophet of the Old Testament, Samuel, was obviously nurtured into the role that he was called to fill. When his mother took him to live with Eli, the priest, he was not old enough to have displayed a priestly nature.
One can argue the same thing for David, the great king of Israel who after being identified by Samuel was nurtured by the prophet, and then Saul, to prepare him for his role as king.
In the New Testament, Peter’s call may have been more about his nature (although his spending time with Jesus seems to suggest that there also was some nurture involved). Paul was nurtured to be a rabbi and a “Pharisee among Pharisees” – until Jesus changed his “nature” on the road to Damascus and he became an apostle of the Living God.
Actually, I don’t think one's call to ministry is either simply nature or nurture.
I think it is a little bit of both.
And while God always has been faithful to send Pastoral Leaders for the church through “nature," the church has not always been good about preparing those leaders to recognize, accept, and to fulfill that call in their lives.
That’s why ABCRM is devoting both its time and other resources to nurturing future leaders of the church.
Not only have we called a full-time person to focus on developing our ministry of nurturing future leaders, Rev. Lauren Parliament, but we also have tasked her to intentionally nurture potential leaders through the “Salt and Light” program for juniors and seniors in High School.
This program will kick off in October, and it will feature retreats, mentoring, and the opportunity to join in on a mission trip to Rainbow Acres next summer.
Today I am inviting you to join me in praying for Lauren and the youth who will be a part of this Salt and Light program as well as all of the other future leaders of the church, that we might recognize their nature and nurture them to “press on towards the mark of the High Calling of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:14).
For those young people to whom you have given the gifts of leadership and ministry, we give you thanks, O' God, and ask that you would help us to see that we, the church, provide them with the nurture that they need to serve You and Your People in the days to come. Amen.
Pastors and Youth Leaders: It’s not too late for your youth to participate in “Salt and Light." To learn more, visit https://www.abcrm.org/salt-light-leadership or contact Lauren Parliament at: firstname.lastname@example.org. The applicant cost also has been reduced by the ABCRM Board through its gracious appreciation for - and dedication to - this exciting new program!
Rev. Dr. Steve Van Ostran
American Baptist Churches of the Rocky Mountains