BUIES CREEK -- Those who’ve answered “the call” to join the ministry will agree -- along the way, they were given many reasons why it was a bad idea or why it wasn’t the best fit for their professional career.
The Rev. George Mason thinks the world needs more people who encourage, rather than discourage, that path … more people who can guide those interested in a career in the divinity field rather than lead them away.
There’s no “culture of call” in today’s society, said Mason, senior pastor of Wilshire Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas, and guest speaker of Monday’s Creating a Culture of Call Conference hosted by Campbell University Divinity School. The daylong event began with Mason’s keynote address in Butler Chapel and continued with a panel discussion of North Carolina ministers and breakout sessions on topics like “youth ministry” and “women and calling.”
“Only six percent of today’s Baptist clergy are under the age of 35,” Mason told a group of about 75 ministers and state religious leaders Monday morning. “What does that tell us? … Many churches are actually doing a good job of looking like the last place a young person would want to land; we’re looking like the last people they want to emulate.”
Mason said creating a “culture of call” starts with making the profession more appealing to young people who are interested in pursing a religion-based profession. He said it starts with ministers like those in attendance Monday, but that encouragement should spread to families and peers in order to buck the trend.
“We have to point them to the ‘bigness’ of this thing,” said Mason, who took questions from the audience following his speech.
He was followed by a panel discussion led by Jack Glasgow of Zebulon Baptist Church and including Mount Olive Missionary Baptist Church Pastor Carl Brinkley, First Baptist Church of Blowing Rock Minister of Education and Families Rhonda Gailes, Oakmont Baptist Church of Greenville Minister Greg Rogers and Chowan University Minister and Instructor of Religion Mari Wiles. The group shared their experiences of creating a community where “answering the call” to serve was not only encouraged, but celebrated.
“Part of our purpose is recognizing those who are struggling with the call,” said Rev. Brinkley, a pastor of 26 years who’s seen 55 from his congregation become licensed to preach over the years and 27 become ordained. “This calling is part of our spiritual DNA, and we are excited about it.”
Gailes said the key with young people is caring about them and their decisions and being “very honest” with them about their decision.
The day ended with a 2 pm. worship service in the chapel, which included testimonies and a sermon delivered by Mason.
Monday’s event was made possible by a Cooperative Baptist Fellowship Grant and the Lilly Endowment, which supports pastors nationwide. According to the Rev. Andrea Dellinger Jones of Milbrook Baptist Church in Raleigh, co-organizer of the conference, a second Culture of Call will be held April 10.
“Our hope is that everyone here becomes inspired and in turn, leads others to become inspired as well,” said Jones, who then quotes Luke 10:2 -- “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”
Story and photo: By Billy Liggett, Assistant Director for Publications, Campbell University
Pictured: The Rev. George Mason, left, was Monday’s keynote speaker at Campbell’s Culture of Call Conference.