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“Many churches just ‘hire’ a new pastor, but CLC churches ‘call’ a pastor. What is the difference?”

Written by | November, 2017
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Post Categories I'm Glad You Asked,Series

“I’M GLAD YOU ASKED!” (THIRTY-SECOND IN A SERIES)

Pastors Answer Frequently-Asked Questions

I’m not sure why some churches hire their pastors, but I can show why we call ours.

Our forefathers used the phrase von Gemeinschafts wegen to describe what a call is and does. It means “in behalf of the community or group.” Every Christian has the right to forgive and retain sins, to share God’s Word, to comfort the sorrowing, to perform Baptisms, and so forth. When one functions on behalf of the whole group, then a call is required.

The first call meeting is recorded in Acts 1. Following the tragic death of Judas, the apostles sought his replacement. The call list contained two names: Joseph (Barsabas) Justus and Matthias. The apostles turned to the Lord in prayer. “And they cast their lots, and the lot fell on Matthias.” (Acts 1:26) Though lots were used to determine the Lord’s will in the Old Testament, this is the last time the practice is mentioned in the New. Once cast, the apostles, the members of the early church, and Matthias, himself, could move forward knowing that this was God’s will. “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord.” (Proverbs 16:33)

Another call meeting took place in Antioch, the new headquarters of the early church. The list included Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. In answer to their prayers, “the Holy Spirit said, ‘Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’” (Acts 13:2)

Notice how this process is described. There is a list of qualified men. The group turns to the Lord in prayer and the Lord calls the one whom He has chosen. This is more than a congregational hire. The call comes through the congregation, but also comes from the Lord. This is knowledge every called worker needs to have. Not only is he accountable to both, he is assured of God’s blessing.

Look at 2 Corinthians 11:22-29. As you ponder the trials that Paul endured, ask yourself, Why was it important for him to know that his call was not just from a group of people, but from the Lord Himself?

Today’s called servants aren’t likely to experience shipwreck or stoning as Paul did. But the prospect for discouragement is always lurking in the shadows. Sooner or later every called worker comes face to face with issues that leave him wondering, “And who is sufficient for these things?”
(2 Corinthians 2:16) The answer? “I’m not. But God is. He knew this was coming before He ever called me. He will sustain me.”

Congregations need that certainty, too. When there is a vacancy to fill, we may think we know what skill sets and gifts are most needed, but the Lord may have other plans. The Head of the Church certainly knows what His body requires. He Who sees the future as plainly as the past is better able to determine this than we are.

In the corporate world, hiring someone to a position of trust without a lengthy interview process would seem absurd; an act of blind faith. In the church? It’s an act of faith, alright. But it’s not blind. It’s scriptural. The Lord graciously matches the Church’s needs with gifts, just as He promised
(See Ephesians 4:11-16).

If you’d like more information, check out the CLC pamphlet Concerning Church and Ministry. It is available online or from your pastor. He will be happy to discuss it with you.

James Albrecht is pastor of St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in Okabena, Minnesota.