By Rev. Mark Squire
Zion Emmanual Lutheran Church 

Pastor's Corner

The Call

 

December 14, 2017



Recently, I’ve had any number of people ask me, “Are you leaving?” Unfortunately, I can’t answer with a simple “yes” or “no,” because the answer has much less to do with me than with the denomination to which I belong. This month, I want to shed some light on what is, in fact, going on, and why it’s happening.

Those of you active in congregations understand that there are times when, for one reason or another, a new pastor needs to be found. But, it can come as a surprise that different denominations, though they are all part of the Christian Church, handle these situations very differently. For example, the Roman Catholic Church has a hierarchy that includes priests called bishops. Normally, the job of filling parishes rests with them. When a congregation is vacant, the bishop decides who fills the vacancy. Priests can be moved from one parish to another with no say in where they are going. They simply receive a communication from the bishop, and off they go. In other denominations and groups, like some Baptists and “non-denominational” churches, filling a vacant congregation might look more like a job interview. A congregation puts out an ad, potential pastors send in resumes, interviews are held, and someone is hired. A pastor usually moves to a different congregation only because he wants to be at a different congregation


The way the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod handles the office of pastor is different. Congregations can issue a “call” to a candidate (a graduating student from a seminary) to indicate that they have chosen him to be their pastor. These students then become pastors of these congregations. My situation was unique, in a way, but I came to Odessa from the seminary. We didn’t expect to be here, but God worked through the whole process, and we love where we are – both in the congregations and Odessa itself. But, congregations can also issue a “call” to a pastor who is already serving another congregation, again indicating that they have chosen him to be their pastor. In that case, he essentially has two calls – one to his current congregation and one to his “calling” congregation. He doesn’t have to put his name on a list; he doesn’t even have to be seeking to be a pastor somewhere else. The “call” just comes.

I have received a call from an Iowa congregation who wants me to serve as their pastor. I didn’t seek this call. I have never put my name on a list. And I have had no intention of leaving Odessa. But, because of our understanding of the call – that it is quite important and nothing to take lightly – I still have the responsibility to consider it in time with much prayer.

As I wrote earlier, this has much less to do with me, and more to do with the Church. God works in and through his people to make his will known. I ask you, then, to join me in prayer, not particularly for me (though I certainly appreciate any and all prayers!), but for the Christian Church. There are simply not enough pastors. Yet, Christ himself, the head of the Church, the one who gave his life for it, commands us to pray that God would send workers into his “harvest fields.” Most of all, we ask, “Thy will be done.”

 

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