We have recently finished the spring placement season for graduates of the two seminaries of our Synod.  Commissioned minister placement is an ongoing process through the winter, spring and summer, as congregations continue to call workers into the harvest field.  Recently, the Board for International Mission of our Synod called 16 workers into the international mission fields of our Synod.  We are thankful that God provides workers for His Church – places for graduates to serve and pastors and commissioned ministers to bring God’s Word to calling congregations.  

With that fresh in our minds, the days after we have celebrated the pouring out of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost seems a good time to repeat a commonly asked question:  how do we know the call into ministry is from God? The process seems very human.  Congregations meet and vote.  Placement directors and congregations interview.  District presidents talk and work the lists over.  The Council of Presidents meets and votes to place the graduates.  Where is God in all this?

On the Second Sunday of Easter in our churches, we heard Jesus say to His disciples, “Peace be with you!  As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.”  And when He had said this, He breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit, if you forgive anyone their sins, their sins are forgiven them.  If you retain them, they are retained” (John 20:21-23).  Among other things, this passage promises that the Church has the Holy Spirit.  Jesus pours out His Spirit on His Church.  That’s the miracle of Pentecost continued today!

The apostles of Jesus were called directly by Him as He came to them personally, just as He came to Matthew in his tax office and said, “Follow Me!” (Mark 2:14).  That was an immediate call, a call directly through the voice of Jesus.

Today pastors and teachers (yes, the Council of Presidents is also part of commissioned minister placement) are called mediately.  That is, the Lord Himself still calls, but He calls through the instrument of His Church.  But still, how do we know the call is from God?  The Church has the Holy Spirit, as Jesus Himself promised.

So, when congregations pray for the guidance of the Spirit in the calling process, when pastors and commissioned ministers considering calls pray for the guidance of the same Spirit, when placement directors and district presidents invoke the Holy Spirit’s wisdom and direction in their deliberation, we can be sure that God hears and answers those prayers.  The call is divine because the Church has the Holy Spirit.

Jesus gives His bride, the Church, the command to set apart for service, men who are prepared to be pastors (Titus 1:3ff), as well as men and women to teach in our schools.  God’s people are called to receive them for what they are – gifts of Jesus to His Church (Ephesians 4:11ff).

This call is from God Himself, through the Church.  We know it is from God, because the Church has the Holy Spirit.  Thanks be to God!  May God grant every graduate a spirit of joyful service and every receiving congregation a spirit of thankful partnership with those whom Christ has called through His Church. 

+ Herbert Mueller
First Vice President – LCMS