Other vocations — Doctors, Educators, Social Workers, Bee Keepers, Etc. – often say they are called by something deep and holy to do what they do too. I would love for everyone to have a sense of calling in their life’s work – although it’s not true. Many people have jobs that don’t feed their souls – and I’m not just talking about menial labor. I know housekeepers who feel called to clean and organize other people’s homes and I know pastors who consider their work to be the job they’re enduring until they can retire.
In my denomination, we neither guarantee that all pastors will be placed in a church nor do we assign pastors to churches and churches to pastors. Pastors are not considered truly called unless three entities agree: the Pastor, the Congregation, and the Presbytery.
The truth is that the Pastor, the Congregation, and the Presbytery can sometimes be cynical about this process. In my professional ministry I’ve observed:
- The ordination of a difficult person to be a temporary pastor in her home church so that her home pastor could then quickly “get rid of her.” She was causing trouble and the only way she would move on was to get ordained and then go find a new position somewhere else.
- The hiring of a pastor “so he would have a salary” (even though he had a history of being a dysfunctional leader) in a troubled congregation that was having a hard time finding a preacher.
- Positive (but untrue) references from one Presbytery leader to another so that the first Presbytery leader could get an ineffective leader out of his own territory.
None of this has anything to do with God, and yet this is not to say that God won’t use even cynical arrangements. But healthy congregations and Mid-Councils look for that spark revealing a true calling from the Holy.
Jesus calls us every day no matter what our vocation might be. We are called to love our neighbors every day. We are called to pray for our enemies every day. We are called to offer hospitality to strangers every day.
This means all of us are ministers in a very real way. Here’s to hearing a clear Voice.