Author | Steve
Being on the campus of Concordia Seminary – St. Louis this week has made me aware of something I hadn’t noticed about our story as other pastors and church-workers hear it: it freaks people out! O.K., actually I knew it freaked people out already. But when you are at the seminary the week before “Call Day,” and you have just recently resigned your call to pastoral ministry, it freaks people out in a new way. Wheels start turning and all kinds of things pop up in people’s minds…mostly bad things:
“Did you do something heinous?”
“Did you preach or teach heresy?”
“Did you steal money from the church?”
“Did you forget to make coffee and provide donuts on a Sunday morning?”
Nobody has actually asked me any of these things, but the looks say as much.
“Maybe he was just beat up by ministry and couldn’t take it any more.”
Sacrificing for What?
Honestly, there is a little truth in that last statement. Ministry has been hard. But I expected it to be. In fact, Jamie and I are more than ready to do hard for the sake of the gospel of Jesus. Shoot, we just sold our house and gave away most of our stuff for exactly that! We were just tired of sacrificing ourselves for so much that wasn’t about sharing the audacious love of Jesus with people and living out the implications of His love with them.
We were just tired of sacrificing ourselves for so much that wasn’t about sharing the audacious love of Jesus with people.
Called by God
But back to the unspoken questions above. No, I didn’t resign my call because of some grievous sin or heretical teaching. I actually resigned my call because Jamie and I felt God calling us to something else – something He had yet to show us. I guess you could say that our current call is to wait on the Lord. Now this certainly was born out of a frustration with our experience of church systems and priorities, but that only prepped our hearts to hear this crazy call from God.
I share this, because the call of God is serious friend! For two days I have been around the buzz of fourth-year seminarians nervous and excited about their first calls that are coming – as they should be. It’s an exciting time! My mind was flooded with memories of my own Call Day, and the weight and the seriousness of God’s call on my life and my family’s life to go. Here’s my point: how many of us church-workers are not being and doing what God has called us to be and do? How many of us are sacrificing ourselves and our families for something other than the gospel of Jesus and the life it brings to hurting people? How many of us are sacrificing our own spiritual lives for something less than the gospel? God is not calling you to that, friend! He’s not.
How many of us are sacrificing ourselves and our families for something other than the gospel of Jesus?
So I’m currently not a pastor of a congregation. And while there are complex reasons for that, at the heart of it is something mysteriously simple: God cares about me. He’s after my heart. He never stops pursuing me. And when I live in the freedom of His grace for me then I’m free to follow Him wherever He calls me to go – no matter how hard and no matter how unconventional. Then, I’m living my calling out of a deep well of grace that will allow me to sacrifice as He did.
Right now my call is not very defined. It’s almost like a second seminary experience as God sends teachers into our lives, not the least of which has been His Holy Spirit. Plus He keeps giving us opportunities to practice and to share the new things we are learning. In fact, one of the obvious things He has been calling us to is praying for and with church-workers to encourage them and remind them that the gospel is for them too!
My church-worker friends: you are on my heart. Most of you whom I know personally did not start off doing this for money or for glory (and in fact…most of you still aren’t). You answered the call because of what Jesus had done for you and He enlivened your heart to not only share this good news with others, but to live your life with them, following Jesus together. This is a calling – a calling that is noble and needed. So…is that what you are still doing? And if not, are you ok with that?
Read the next post in this 3-part series | Hard Call (part 2): An Appeal to All Christians