By Scott Giger
When I was a kid, my pastor got a call. I was probably nine years old and Pastor Fritsch was functionally the only pastor I had ever known. I thought he was awesome. I couldn’t believe that a church in Michigan (no joke) was trying to steal my pastor from our little church in Massachusetts. One of my sisters and I set out to do the only thing we could do, convince him to stay. We made him a mix tape.
When a few weeks later he announced that he was returning (or not taking) the call, we assumed that we were the reason. The mix tape was a success!
We made him a mix tape.
A few years later, he did take a call (to a different town in Michigan!). We couldn’t catch lightening in a bottle a second time; no mix tape could stop him.
As I have grown up and been called into the ministry myself, I have learned that it was not a mix tape that kept Pastor Fritsch at our church; it was the prompting of the Holy Spirit.
Now being the one considering a call to serve another church, it is my turn to look past mix tapes and listen to God. I figured that a word on this process wouldn’t hurt.
“Having called on the Lord, our God, for guidance and in the exercise of the authority with which he has vested his church on earth, we, the members of _________ Lutheran Church, have elected you to the office of pastor.”
These are the opening words of the official documents declaring that a congregation has called a pastor to serve in their midst. They are solemn words that proclaim the work of God in the midst of his Church.
“Having called on the Lord, our God, for guidance …”
The congregation is given the right by God to call workers to serve in their community and in their midst. A call can be extended by a congregation to various workers in our Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, including Pastor, Director of Family Life (like Paul Easterday), Director of Christian Education (like Byron Porisch), teacher in a Lutheran School, and a few other positions.
In our church, every person serving in one of these offices is eligible to receive a call from another congregation. If such a call is extended, that worker then has two calls in hand: one from their present congregation and one from a new congregation. The worker–with much prayer and input from both congregations–must then determine which of the two calls align best with God’s direction. The other church isn’t stealing your worker; they also are merely trying to follow God’s direction.
The first time we see something like the call process carried out in the Bible is with the calling of Matthias in Acts 1:15-26. Peter stands up among the group of about 120 believers and declared it necessary to choose a replacement for Judas (1:21). In their process, Matthias is chosen and accepts, becoming part of the Apostles.
That’s what the call process is all about: trying to determine how best to carry out God’s mission and ministry in a given community. This is a process that goes far beyond evaluating which congregation of people the worker likes best. In prayer, we are called to discern where God wants to use us most effectively.
The Call Documents conclude:
“We pray God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has moved us to extend our call to you, to convince you by his Holy Spirit that it comes from Him; to induce you to accept it; to conduct you safely in your field of labor; and to bless your ministrations to the glory of His holy name, the building of His church, the temporal and eternal welfare of many people, and your own great joy and blessing.”
The prayers of God’s people unite us together and empower to accept His answer, believing that the Lord of the Church will guide and direct us according to His purposes. Praise God for His ongoing work through His people – the Church!
Editor’s Note: Since the writing of this article, Pastor Scott Giger through prayerful discernment has determined that the Holy Spirit is calling him to continue his ministry as site pastor of University Lutheran Chapel and in so doing, has returned the call to Our Savior Lutheran Church in Nashville, TN.