“And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. 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 9:35-38, ESV)
Week after week, this is the precise thing that Christian congregations throughout the world pray for. We ask God to continue providing worthy men to serve His Church throughout the world as pastors. This will be the ongoing refrain of the Lord’s Church until Jesus comes again on the Last Day. Because, until then, the Lord continues to speak His Word to the world from the lips of pastors (and all Christians), convicting sinners and bringing them to repentance, comforting them and giving them the forgiveness of sin which brings eternal life.
That same Lord of the harvest heard the cries of another congregation in the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod. Through the members of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Sherman, IL, the Lord has extended to me a solemn Divine Call to serve in that midwestern harvest field, in place of this one in the great state of Texas.
Thus, it seems a good opportunity to teach a bit about the Divine Call.
Where does it come from? It’s easy to only see the surface – a group of members of a congregation gathering together, considering the names of a few men, and then voting to select one.
But the fact of the matter is that, while the instrument that is used is a congregation of Christians, the one who is doing the calling – the one using the instrument – is the Lord. Our Lord acts in this world chiefly through means (things), and calling men to serve as pastors is no exception. We can see this calling by way of means – that is, by a congregation of Christians – right away in the history of the Church, in Acts 1:20-23 (Matthias is selected to replace Judas) and Acts 6:1-6 (the Twelve, along with “assembly of disciples” select – call – seven new men to assist in serving the Church).
Is one Call “right” and the other “wrong”? In short, no. A choice is required, of course, but that doesn’t necessitate a right or wrong decision. It is true that one congregation could be disappointed – one of them will not receive or keep the pastor they had called. But “what God ordains is always good”! Each Call is truly a Call from God Himself, and therefore must be a good thing. The decision is often very difficult for the man called and his family, and both congregations involved will be affected. But “we know that for those who love God all things work together for good…” (Romans 8:28, ESV) This is living by faith, trusting that God is at work in the world for the good of all believers in those congregations, as well as those who will be part of those congregations in the future!
If a pastor leaves a congregation, is it because he was unhappy? This is perhaps the question that is most personal. It is true that sometimes a situation dictates that the best thing for a pastor, his family, and even the congregation, is for the pastor to accept a Call. Yet the majority of the time it has nothing to do with this. To answer God’s Call to serve as a pastor in the first place is to acknowledge that the rest of one’s life will be one of service – helping to distribute Christ’s gifts of forgiveness and life to God’s people, often requiring the setting aside of personal desires and ambitions. When a pastor has more than one Call to consider it’s because God is at work – never because the pastor is searching for greener pastures. This is true even if he or the congregation thinks otherwise!
Please remember me in your prayers. I covet them as I make what is probably one of the most difficult decisions I’ll ever have to make in my life. Pray that the Lord of the harvest would send workers into His harvest field. Pray that He would lead me to an assured decision, and that he will then appropriately comfort me, Our Redeemer, and Good Shepherd in the weeks ahead.