“I do not believe God would have me leave my family and friends, spend 3 years in seminary and then call me to a church running less than 500!”
Those words, which were personally overheard at one of my conservative denomination’s seminaries, still haunt me almost twenty-two years later. That the six or seven others gathered around that table whole-heartedly agreed only made/makes it worse. That some, if not most, of those same people are leading or on staff at some church today is a thought I do not wish to contemplate.
That shocking statement is evidence that even twenty-plus years ago, the concept of ‘The Call’ was beginning to disappear. Even then, one could sense that becoming a minister was less about being clearly and undeniably beckoned and more about a natural progression from youth group, to Christian college to seminary where “I will eventually discern what career path God is leading me into”.
Today we hear young men say, “WE have been lead to pastor God’s Church”. These are generally the same young men who proudly announce that WE are pregnant. Really?
I will be the first to say that my wife is the main reason the congregation has tolerated me for so long. I will also be the first to say that she is a gift from God who knew, before the foundation of the world, I would need the perfect pastor’s wife. That being said, my perfect pastor’s wife will be the first to say she was not called to pastor the church. Her spiritual gift, like every Christian’s spiritual gift, is something special and powerful and essential to building the Church but the gift is not the Call.
As I understand it, (Remember, my thoughts are not inerrant nor infallible!) the Call is not conditional. One is called as an individual to an individual, often, sacrificial ministry.
For instance, the Call was for Amos to leave his orchards and preach to a people who did not want to hear. It was a Call for Isaiah to leave the comforts of the king’s court and live the life of a prophet (tradition says even to martyrdom!) Peter was to leave his nets and trust God for his sustenance. To sometimes have his family accompany him and at other times not. It was a Call for John to leave the life of the ‘well-connected’, preach the Word wherever God chose to send him, and endure any hardship the Lord chose to send his way for the sake of the Gospel. The Call was for Saul to change his name, leave the lime-light and family affluence, and engage in bi-vocational ministry for the foreseeable future.
Today, the Call is apparently issued to a group of people whose ministry is to educate those whose ministries have become irrelevant, teach the saved (and the lost!) how to worship, break the trap of the old traditions, and point out the out of touch. It is the call to make every church a suburban church, and reveal the anointing that only comes when one preaches from a stool, with an iPad, while wearing shorts and backwards facing ball caps… especially if the audience is middle-aged, blue-collar, rural leaning… you know, like Jesus’ earthly family was…
There, As Patrick Wayne said in the movie, McClintock, “I said what I said, and I’ll stand by it to the death”.