3 Things I Learned on Call Day
Eleven years ago I was sitting in a chapel packed with 1,000 people. My name was called and I walked forward. I was about to discover where I would be a pastor.
I thought I was going to Denver. Or possibly back to my native Minnesota or nearby Wisconsin. Instead, I was headed just a few miles south of the seminary campus. I forced a smile in front of a thousand people as I returned to my seat in disappointment.
Today is Call Day at Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, MO. There will be many sweaty palms as candidates find out where they will relocate their life and ministry. Many will probably say what I said. "That's not where I wanted to go."
Here are three things I learned from Call Day. True for pastors, or anyone called to a place they'd rather not go.
This is not about you.
I had friends going to cool cities, or returning back "home." Some classmates rejoiced that their call was exactly what they wanted. I wasn't nearly as excited about staying in the same city I went to seminary.
Disappointment reveals our motives. My call was a gut check for why I wanted to become a pastor in the first place. It reminded me, "This isn't about you." It forced me to shed all my selfish desires and grand ambitions.
"If you didn't choose it, it's probably a divine call."
In our country, a sacred value is freedom of choice. “Follow your dreams.” “Do what you want as long as you’re happy.” “Let your heart be your guide.”
Someone told me, "If you didn't choose it, it's probably a divine call." How often have we chosen a golden path that ran into a dead end. And then God leads us down a thorny path that takes us to a garden. His ways humble our feeble imagination.
After 11 years, I'm one of the few in my class who's in the same place. I found that I am uniquely positioned to make a difference right where I am . Only God could have made that call.
Love your people.
I've spent over a decade devoted to a particular people and place. I used to admire the guys whose resume' had multiple career moves all over the country. But it's hard to effectively serve a people when you move every three years.
We had confirmation last Sunday. I was able to look at 20 teenagers and remember when they were in preschool. I've walked with kids who've lost their dad and kids who've experienced immense trauma. I get to be with them at the most critical times. I get to speak profound words into their lives.
Any vocation, or calling, is about people. God’s intention for your callings is not to make all your dreams come true. That’s Disney’s goal. His intention for your vocations is to bless others (Gal. 5:13). We submit our gifts and abilities to his purpose.
Our callings will naturally lead us into pain, disappointment, and suffering. Bad days on the job make us wonder if we shouldn't find another career.
I have found that challenges validate my calling. They are exactly the reason I'm called there! I'm called to love people in their challenges. My unique role is intensely needed by a particular people in a particular time.
No matter what your calling, believe that God is at work through you. He whispers in your ear, “You are vital. You are necessary.” Our unique skills and experiences make us a valuable commodity for our family, neighbors, community, and congregation.
I still get nervous around Call Day. I feel the terror, disappointment, and uncertainty. Yet here I am a decade later. I love my city, my congregation, and my role as a pastor. Only God could have orchestrated such an assignment.
4/26/2016 05:11:36 am
Thanks Pastor Jeff for putting into perspective my particular job situation. The pharmacy I have been working in for 2 years is being closed. I have found myself extremely disappointed. I thought I was carrying out my ministry. But, it's not about me. So, I need to pray for God to help me let it go and surrender to His will. Thanks for the reality check.
4/26/2016 07:40:37 am
Everyone wants their own way, but God will prevail! Only God can weave all strands of our lives into the tapestry of His will. Great piece. The only thing I would change is the word "commodity" to "resource" simply because "commodity" has negative connotations and "resource" has positive connotations.
Rev. Allen Bergstrazer
4/26/2016 09:39:12 am
Oh so true. I really didn't have any specific city or location in mind, but I was expecting the West coast (which is where I came from) and a large congregation. When I received a call to a dual parish in Nebraska, I was shall we say, confused. But a dear friend set me straight with a simple question 'so, do you think God made a mistake?' I spent 15 years in Nebraska and was greatly blessed by my time there.
4/26/2016 09:42:19 am
This msg is divine. My father (deceased) said these very words when his children would question why we must move. I was old enough to remember call day for him in Springfield and all of us kids were disappointed to move 1000 miles away from family to a small church....he believed in divine call and never questioned God where he was sent. God bless you for this msg to new pastors as they are called to His field.
4/27/2016 03:01:12 pm
And, your congregation and Staff praise the Lord that He put you into our midst with your particular talents and gifts; and we're especially thankful for the family you've grown in those 11 years.
Leave a Reply.
JOIN My Tribe