The Pastor’s Calling

The Pastor’s Calling January 14, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-01-10 at 4.58.46 PMWhile it has been said often that Martin Luther urged Christians to sanctify all of life so that everyone was called and had a vocation from God, pastors, priests and ministers continue to talk about being called. Thus, Luther put it this way:

All our work in the field, in the garden, in the city, in the home, in struggle, in government-to what does it all amount before God except child’s play, by means of which God is pleased to give his gifts in the field, at home, and everywhere? These are the masks of our Lord God, behind which he wants to be hidden and to do all things.

But what about a minister’s calling? Is it right to speak of that calling being special? Or, are all callings the same — it just depends on which one God has given to you? Gustaf Wingren, a scholar of Luther’s view of vocation, puts it this way (from link above):

In his vocation man does works which effect the well-being of others; for so God has made all offices. Through this work in man’s offices, God’s creative work goes forward, and that creative work is love, a profusion of good gifts. With persons as his “hands” or “coworkers,” God gives his gifts through the earthly vocations, toward man’s life on earth (food through farmers, fishermen and hunters; external peace through princes, judges, and orderly powers; knowledge and education through teachers and parents, etc., etc.). Through the preacher’s vocation, God gives the forgiveness of sins. Thus love comes from God, flowing down to human beings on earth through all vocations, through both spiritual and earthly governments. 

How do you talk about “calling”? Do you think the pastor’s calling is a special calling? 

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In Gary Black, Jr.’s, new book, Exploring the Life and Calling (Foundations for Learning), opens the book with this breathtaking set of convictions:

In my first lecture, in my first class, on my first day as a professor or theology in a Christian seminary, I took my stand behind the lectern, took a deep breath, and looked out at the eager, somewhat anxious, very devoted, and curious faces of my students, and made this simple statement: “I am of the firm opinion that as professional ministers of the gospel of Jesus Christ, those of you sitting in this room represent the most important profession in the world today. And therefore, that makes you, by association, some of the most important people in the world today” (3).

He then looked at the students, and has come to this conviction:

What I 
soon learned from that first class lecture and have witnessed every year since then was that none of my students had ever heard of, or even considered, such proposition (3).

I was with a pastor not long ago who said to me, “I think the pastoral calling is a high and special calling. It also means [he was referring to James 3:1] I have a greater responsibility.” Gary Black’s book suggests that not as many believe that today. Mediation of the gospel, of course, is at the heart of why some think the pastor’s calling is special and high. There is, one ought at least observe, a rather religious view of reality in such a worldview. A creation-shaped vocation in which the new heavens and the new earth — the final kingdom — might suggest that all callings are special since all callings will be carried out for eternity.

Regardless, and I’m happy to hear what you think makes the pastoral calling special, Black’s book explores the elements of the pastoral praxis that needs to form the core of the pastoral life. He sees five and I reformat to make them more outline in form:

The first area relates to the essence of what it means to have a spiritual nature and live a spiritual life: The Spiritual Life.

The second area is connected to the life and function of the thoughts and ideas that fill our minds: A life of meditation and contemplation.

The third area concerns how the spiritual life, combined with the mental life, comes to inhabit our bodies and direct our behaviors: An embodied faith.

Fourth is the nature of community, our relationships with others, and fitting together the distinct members of the body of Christ into his church: Life together in the flock of the Good Shepherd.

Finally, and perhaps most overlooked, is the minister’s leadership of others in guiding the local church: Leaders as apprentices to Jesus.

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