Monday, September 7, 2009

Divine Call Goes Both Ways

I’m a little fuzzy on the Lutheran Church’s doctrine of the Divine Call. It is, very roughly, that God uses congregations and individuals to call pastors to specific churches, but that He is the one doing the work and a pastor cannot be fired just because a church disagrees with him.

Having grown up in a church that did not define the pastoral office this way, and having been in two churches that don’t seem too attached to the concept, I have only a vague notion of it myself. But I resonate with the idea that God is in control, and we need to acknowledge that He sometimes works in ways we don’t prefer.

I expect our congregation to respect my husband as pastor, even the people who disagree with some of what he is doing. This is not a corporate position; he does not work at the whim of a manager or CEO.

It has sometimes troubled me that this seems to be a one-way expectation. We have very practical expectations of them to pay his salary, to support our family. How are we committed to them in return? They can expect my husband to fulfill his duties by God’s power and guidance, but that’s precisely what tends to be in conflict.

Then an opportunity arose to test our family’s “divine call” to this congregation. There is a project going on at our church that involves a major, special financial commitment. We have struggled with what our involvement should be in that. It is hard to feel excited about sacrificial giving to a congregation about which we feel so conflicted. As we talked about it, we realized that God has given our family to this church, to support it and fully participate in it as He enables us. I think the divine call entails a commitment on our part as much as it does on the part of the congregation.

So, we are supporting the special project. Honoring our commitment to the church reinforces my sometimes-wavering sense the I belong there. God is helping me to focus on the people in the congregation who appreciate me, and I believe He’ll give me the grace to skip or crawl through interactions with people about whom I feel deep anxiety. His grace is bigger than even this.

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Thanks for using this space to share your encouraging words.