Pastor: Call and Job

What follows are some reflections on chapter 4 of “That Their Work Will Be a Joy”, by Cameron Lee and Kurt Fredrickson.  (Amazon link:  It’s part of my first Doctorate of Ministry class at Fuller Seminary.  All quotes are from the book.  I wholeheartedly recommend it to everybody in ministry and seminary!

Pastors, like all who have been baptized, are called to follow Jesus, be about His mission in this world, and live a holy life.  Yet, the call of the pastor is special.  They are called to shepherd the sheep:  to feed, lead, protect and serve.  Their life is to be “exemplary” in holy conduct.

The call for pastors is usually an inner “prompting” (p.66) that grows over time through experience and the affirmation of others.  There is a sense of being chosen and called.  Pastors don’t “choose” the call or say they having a calling.  They are mindful to say that God has been doing the choosing and calling, “being chosen for it”.  (p.66).  When ministry gets challenging, we must remember that we were called.  It keeps us going through the ups and downs.  The are “driven by a vision of congregations and worlds transformed” (p.68).

Classic Views of Pastoral Work

The role of the pastor can be viewed through three vantage points:  call, profession, office (p.69).  The correlate to aspects such as gifting, competence, and authority.  The authors quote Niebhur’s framework for a call to ministry.

  1. a secret call:  “[a] persuasion or experience where a person feels directly summoned and invited by God to take up the work of the ministry.” (p.70). I can remember feeling this invitation early in life, especially in my teen years.  The call felt confirmed through other ministers and a series of events.  Personal and communal experiences have kept the call alive.  I’m more excited about the call to pastoral work now than when it first started.
  2. providential call:  “those who are called into ministry are equipped with appropriate abilities and competencies that are useful for ministry to and through the church…they are honed and refined over a lifetime…[they] frequently sense that they are somehow gifted for the work” (p.71).  Some of the abilities I see working in me are the art of listening, connecting with strangers, building trust and safety, believing in God’s active work in the world and lives of people, a heart to bless others, a desire to encourage and uplift, a willingness to be in the pain and suffering of others (carry burdens), organize and manage service projects (mission), get others involved, mentor/train others, and a deep desire to be a lifelong student.
  3. ecclesiastical call:  a communal confirmation and ordination by a body of people.  This might happen through the laying on of hands and then preceded by seminary, internship, or some other formal training (p.71).  We are not islands or people separated from the body.  We need the Body of Christ to confirm pastors.

The authors rightly challenge pastors to ask ourselves “what is it about shepherding that is most fulfilling to you?” (p.81)  For me, it’s when I see someone that is hurting feel comforted, a lightbulb moment when someone feels like the insight is helping the name what’s happening in their life, or someone experiencing the tenderness of God that leads towards transformation.  I love to see strangers become friends, the unwanted feel like they have a home, and that broken feel a sense of healing and wholeness in their lives.  I love to see people find connect with God’s purpose for them and see their vocation deepened as a result.

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