Friday, October 28, 2011

Calling: A pastor's perspective

Ministers and churches alike talk a lot about being called to ministry.  A person senses that God is calling him or her to ministry.  He or she often finds it hard to explain to someone who hasn't felt that call on his or her life.  After all, how do you explain something that you just know you feel deep within yourself?  It really can't be explained, but those of us who have been called to the ministry know what that feeling is like.  Perhaps the best explaination I've ever heard was that a person who has been called by God to the ministry just can't refuse.  It is a burning that will not be quenched until the person accepts that call.

Of course, people do run from a call of God on their lives all the time.  Such persons are often no more successful than Jonah.  Seldom are such people swallowed by a great fish, but the ones I've talked to report a lot of miserable times as they try to refuse God's call on their lives.  Just last week an individual called me saying that he had run from that call for 25 years, and he couldn't run any longer.  He is hopeful that he will enjoy a good ministry throughout the remainder of his life.  I think he will.

Once we accept the call to ministry we then must find where we are called to serve.  That can become more difficult.  In our tribe churches looking for a new minister will often receive numerous resumes from potential pastors.  They have to sort through them and begin the process of interviewing the ones that look most promising.  Somewhere in that process it can be easy to lose the sense of a call.  One must assume that every person who applied felt that God was calling them to that position,  If a church receives twenty resumes to consider then it must mean that at least 19 of those persons were mistaken.  God had not called them to that position.  I've known churches that went through nearly 100 resumes before selecting a new pastor.  How could 99 people, supposedly mature Christian ministers, have missed God call on their lives so badly?  By the way, I've noticed that the larger the church the more pastors seem to have missed God's leading!

A few years ago a bivocational pastor sent his resume to a small church seeking a pastor.  The search committee told him that he would not be a candidate.  He called me a couple of times and asked to meet with me once to talk about this.  He was absolutely certain that God had called him to pastor that church, and he couldn't understand how that committee could have missed God so badly!

Then there is the situation where a church calls a new pastor who is excited about this call of God on his life.  Both the pastor and church are certain that God has brought them together.  Three years later the pastor is just as certain that God is calling him to a new place of service.  The people are stubborn, they won't listen to anything he tries to tell them, the church leaders are spiritually immature, and the list of complaints goes on and on.  Did God not know these things when He called this person to this church?  Could God really be so confused that He changes His mind where these people are to serve every 2-3 years?  The longer I'm in ministry the more I wonder about such things.

I am not trying to be overly critical, but I do want to call attention to the fact that sometimes we get our sense of God's call on our lives and our own wishes confused.  It's easy to do.  Like my pastor friend above, there was a time when I felt certain God was calling me to a particular ministry position, and it didn't happen.  I also wondered at the time which of us, the search committee or me, got it wrong,  I finally had to accept the fact that perhaps I should trust the wisdom of the larger group than my own sense of call.

Have you been called to the place where you now serve?  Then serve there.  Yes, most places we serve will be challenging at one time or another, but if we have truly been called by God to serve that place then He must have believed we could handle those difficult times.  In fact, it might be that the reason some places are so challenging is that no one has remained there long enough to help them address some of their problems.  We must always prayerfully seek the place of service where God has called us and once there give it the best that we have.  If there is a time when God does call you to another place of ministry, you'll know that as well.  Like your first call, you might not be able to explain it, but you'll know.

1 comment:

Brian said...

Twenty-nine years ago, God was tapping me on the shoulder, through a high school friend who was attending what is now Cincinnati Christian University - and I went right on walking on the path I thought was right - walking right into a path of true mediocrity and failure, save for my choice of who I would spend the rest of my life with (I'm sure she wonders at times:-)). I ran for over fifteen years. Today, I still live with the ramifications of my rebellion - but He is gracious and merciful to let me do what I should have been doing all this time.