Called to Faith; Called to Act; Called to Public Ministry

Called. It’s a term that has varying meanings in the Church…and all are true in their context.

As processes are in full speed for many of our churches and schools in the TLSP region calling pastors and teachers, here is a version of “Cliff Notes” of  “called.”

*Called to faith– The call to faith comes from God by His grace. Jesus said, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and
bear fruit and that your fruit should abide …” (John 15:16). St. Peter says that you are a chosen race, and that you have been called by Christ “out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9).  It is all God’s doing as St. Paul affirms, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). Martin Luther also reflects on this call in his explanation of the Third article of the Apostles’ Creed reminding that faith is all God’s work: “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith.”

*Called to act– Those called to faith are called to act. St. Peter says more in the verse quoted above. He says, “you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9). Christians are called to a holy priesthood, living lives of sacrifice, offering up our “bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God” (Romans 12:1) and our lips in “a sacrifice of praise to God” (Hebrews 13:15). The writer to the Hebrews goes on to say, “Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God” (Hebrews 13:16). Christian service reflects the diverse gifts of the members of the body of Christ and the diverse situations we find ourselves in. St. Paul teaches: “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good” (1 Corinthians 12:4-7).

*Called to The Office of the Public Ministry– The office of the public ministry  is unique within the church and was established by God that the Holy Spirit might “call, gather, enlighten, and sanctify the whole Christian church on earth and keep it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith” (Luther, Explanation to the Third Article of the Apostles’ Creed). Incumbents of the  office of the public ministry been given the additional calling as servants who publicly preach and teach the Gospel and administer the Sacraments through which the Holy Spirit “works faith, when and where it pleases God [John 3:8], in those who hear the good news” (Augsburg Confession, Article V:2).

There is one such divinely-instituted office within the church: “the ministry of the Word.” “Every other public office in the church is part of the ministry of the Word or an auxiliary office that supports the ministry …. Therefore, the offices of Christian day school teachers …” are “to be regarded as ecclesiastical and sacred, for they take over a part of the one ministry of the Word and support the pastoral office” (Walther, Church and Ministry: Concerning the Holy Ministry, Thesis VIII, section 1).

This ministerial office, as distinguished from the priestly office, is entered into by the call of God through the church (Acts 20:28). A congregation or a calling body (E.g., a Recognized Service Organization, RSO) issues a call to ministry to a qualified person and asks that person to perform functions of ministry that God has commanded the Church to do. St. Paul says,  “And [Jesus] gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:11-13).

In Lutheran circles, calls are issued to pastors for the office of the public ministry. Teachers, directors of Christian education, music ministers, deaconesses and other synodically-trained people are called in support of the office of the public ministry (auxiliary offices; see above). Lutheran teachers and administrators historically have been “called” positions. The primary reason our churches have established schools has been to teach Christ and Him crucified, so having called men and women for these positions has been essential.

Unfortunately in recent years, for some Lutheran schools, calls to these auxiliary positions of the office of the public ministry have morphed into no more than a tenured contract filled with teachers unqualified to teach pure Christian doctrine. It’s a damning statement that our schools are following the course of many institutions of higher education that have abandoned their Christian foundations in pursuit of being the best academic institution rather than remaining outposts of the ministry of the church.

The call has divine qualifications (see 1 Timothy 3:8-12); it’s quite a responsibility. Our schools’ administrators and teachers are well aware of the tasks at hand. Pray for our calling bodies and those who are issued calls that they find peace in decisions that God leads.