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Monday, September 04, 2006

God Called Me (I Think)

In the previous blog post, a reader commented that the seminary should not call the qualified but qualify the called. Initially, I think his point was that we should remember that pastors (and pastors-to-be) are sinners too. I'm a pastor, and I am all too dreadfully aware of my own inadequacies and wickedness.

But if I may, I would like to address what I believe to be a common misunderstanding. It has to do with the notion of being called by God. I would disagree with my reader. The seminary recruitment office does not go looking for men who are called whom we will then train. Instead, we look for men who have certain qualities and aptitudes who will then receive a call. My reader is putting the cart before the horse. The tail is wagging the dog.

Who is called by God? If you tell me that you are called by God to be a pastor, my first question is: "How do you know?" How do you know you are called by God and it's not a figment of your own mind or a deception of the devil?

There are only two ways a man could be called by God. Either directly or through means. Either the church has selected, layed hands upon and sent you or you have been selected and sent directly by God without mediation. Those are the only two possibilities. Usually, God calls men through the church. He certainly can and has called men directly. But if you have a direct call from God, you ought to be able to demonstrate this with signs and wonders.

There is no such thing as an inner call to the ministry. The scriptures never speak of such a thing. You might have an inclination to be a pastor. You might be uniquely talented for the ministry. You might have a desire to serve. And this inclination, talent and desire might come from God. But that is not a call.

So no, we do not qualify the called. We call the qualified.

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Steve B said...

Pastor, thank you for this post. Unfortunately the reformed view of the "call" has become so entrenched in many lutheran minds that perhaps it is time for us to teach this to our congregations again.

Arfies said...

Of course we call the qualified, but there are many who are qualified whom we do not call. Some of the brightest and most leader-like members of my class at the seminary did not enter the ministry. I don't think they received any calls, nor do I believe they wanted to be called.

In addition to the qualifications, there has to be some sense of desiring to serve in the office of the ministry, or one would likely be overcome by the low salary, the constant pressure, the expectations that cannot be met, and/or the intentional or unintentional disrespect that the pastor receives. When I talk to thsoe who aim to enter the ministry I usually tell them that if there is some other vocation they can pursue, they should do so. As Dr. Piepkorn warned in a sermon at an ordination I attended, "We do you no favor today." Whatever else we say about the ministry--and there are many good aspects to mention--we have to admit that the call to the ministry is very much a call to take up one's cross and to follow the Savior. The reward does not come in this life, but there are aspects of it that we glimpse from time to time.

Pastor Scott Stiegemeyer said...


You are right on. Thank you so much for the comment. Good insight.

The Blog Surfer said...

Hello, Pastor Scott!

I must be honest. It is this sinner's opinion that if a man finds himself weighing the financial benefits, etal. of the Office of the Ministry versus another "career", I can only hope that he does himself and the members of any congregation a favor and opt out of the Seminary.

Pastor Scott Stiegemeyer said...

Blog Surfer,
You are certainly entitled to your opinion.

My own view is that being properly educated is essential. The scriptures warn that not many Christians should aspire to become teachers of God's Word for we will be judged more strictly. A trend today is to see pastoral ministry as something that any well-meaning christian can pull off. The reality is a bit different however. The Scriptures require a man to be "apt to teach." And that means he must himself be highly educated.

Of course, that doesn't make seminary 100% necessary. There are other ways to become highly educated. Some men go through the sem and don't actually learn much. And there can certainly be a man who is quite learned but who never attended seminary.

The same thing could be said about law school or med school. I generally wouldn't want a lawyer who hadn't gone to law school, but then I'd have missed out on having Abraham Lincoln as my attorney. A doctor who opts out of med school is not generally going to be qualified. I can imagine exceptions, of course.

The Blog Surfer said...

Hello, Pastor Scott!

Thank you for your patience with my questions, etc.

I think there is a misunderstanding as to what I meant in my last comment.

I truly believe that Seminary education is essential. It is just that the other comments seemed to make the decision to apply to the Seminary a "career" move.

What I meant was, if a man saw it as a "career", I pray that he does not continue down the pastoral path and gets on with his life's work.

Thanks again! Great Blog!

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