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Called by God—Not Recruited

Are you a young person pondering a career? Have you considered becoming a pastor
or a Christian day school teacher? This twelve-part series is meant to coincide with the work of the
President’s Committee on Partners in the Public Ministry (CPPM). Its aim is to help you think more deeply
about the great importance—and many blessings—of the public teaching and preaching ministry.

Every school year I try to impress upon the students enrolled in my courses that I have the best job in the world.
I didn’t always feel this way. In fact, my career choice was not the fulfillment of a childhood dream. I always preferred summer vacations to being at school. If the choice had been mine, as a freshman in high school I would not have attended Immanuel Lutheran High School. I began preparing for my degree in elementary education at Immanuel Lutheran College somewhat reluctantly, not at all convinced that this was the path for me. So what changed? Three decades later, I still can’t recall an “AHA!” moment. What I did discover along the way is that I enjoyed working with young people, that through hard work I had the academic gifts necessary, and that as far as importance goes, the sharing of the Gospel can’t be surpassed. When students ask me today when I knew that I wanted to be a teacher I usually reply, “About four or five years after I began.”
Something that sustained me in my work until I realized that this was what I was meant to do was the doctrine of the “divine call.” As Christ’s followers, all of us have a call to spread the Gospel message to a sin-darkened world. To His disciples after His resurrection Jesus said, “As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” (John 20:21) Before He ascended, the Savior gave the great commission: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19-20) It was to believers that Peter later wrote, “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” (I Peter 2:9) In this way God has called all believers to be His spokesmen.
In addition to this more general calling, God has blessed His church on earth with called public servants of the Word, pastors and teachers who are working on behalf of the congregations who have called them. The Lord Himself established the public ministry in the church. “Then I will give you shepherds after My own heart, who will lead you with knowledge and understanding.” (Jeremiah 3:15 NIV84) Not everyone has been given the same gifts by God. Paul emphasizes this in Ephesians 4:11-12: “And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of the ministry.” The work of the public minister is the same as that of the universal priesthood. The difference is that public ministers perform their work on behalf of fellow believers who called them, in part, so that “all things be done decently and in order.” (I Corinthians 14:40)
What a blessing to know that God has placed His workers in the callings they are in through the divine call issued to them by their fellow believers! How different that is than the typical application, interview, and contract process by which secular jobs are obtained! Over the years I have been asked by those unfamiliar with the call, why I have taught where I have. This has allowed me to explain the meaning of the call and one of the reasons why I consider my job to be the BEST JOB EVER.
Joe Lau is a professor at Immanuel Lutheran College in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.