How often have you heard someone say, “I felt God calling me to be a pastor. I felt God calling me to start a church.”? My first reaction would be the same as Hans Luther’s, Martin’s father, when Martin told him God was calling him to the monastery, “How do you know it was God calling you and not the devil?” Now that I have your attention . . .
The Lutheran difference in faith and the calling into the Office of Holy Ministry are not dependent on our feelings. Indeed, if faith were simply a “feeling,” then there are many times we may not “feel” very saved, and we would certainly not think that one is not saved because they do not feel saved. The same is true for any of the ways in which we “feel” God. Just because I had a dream, heard a voice, or felt something even if it were something I felt was from God, how do I know it was from God or not? Perhaps I felt God calling me to do one thing, and you come along and tell me you felt God calling you to do the opposite. Does this mean God is schizophrenic? Certainly not!
The Lutheran difference is our understanding that God speaks most clearly through the means He has given to speak to us, His Holy Word, and we would add His Sacraments as well. We are most sure of God’s speaking in His Word. So, even though I would not deny God speaking to anyone, my first question is to check out what was said versus what God actually says in His Holy Word.
When it comes to the Office of Holy Ministry, I am most sure of my calling as it is confirmed by God through His congregation. In other words, even though as a child and a youth I felt the inclining to become a Pastor, and even though I went to the Seminary and was educated, graduated and received a certificate of placement in the Lutheran Church, that call was not validated until God, through a congregation, called me to be their pastor. At that point, when I was ordained and installed, then I knew for certain that God’s call was validated to be His Pastor. In like manner, the congregation calling me as their pastor knows that I did not call or appoint myself as their pastor, but that God through them called me to be their pastor.
Just as one does not call oneself to faith, just as one does not baptize oneself, so one does not call oneself to be a pastor, nor does one ordain himself. The call, as always, comes from outside oneself, and the call comes through the means that God has put into place to call.