In our last Transition Team meeting I shared some information about the weight of what it means to, as we say, “Call” a pastor as opposed to “hiring” someone. This felt like a fitting thing to share this week on the blog, as a few were quite surprised to hear how we view the process in the Reformed tradition. The biggest surprise was to realize how much weight there is on it.

When a person applies to the seminary to undertake the study needed to prepare to become a pastor, the Seminary will readily accept that the person feels called, and begin to train and equip that person. But also, early on in the process, there will be a conversation about how, in our way of doing things a call has a two-fold fulfillment process. The seminary will not likely argue with you about whether you are truly called or not, but they will tell a student that a sense of personal call to preach the word of God must be confirmed by the church by way of a call to come and be their preacher/pastor. Otherwise it is generally not considered a valid calling of God.

This is why, if you have been available for a call for 2 years, you need to do a lot of good explaining to remain eligible. Your personal sense of calling needs to be validated by the church or a church in that time frame. Not everyone who graduates with an MDiv. is called by God or necessarily fully gifted and equipped for the pastorate.

So, in the CRC, when a church extends a call to a pastor, they are validating that this person is called to preach the word of God. There are other commitments by the congregation which are understood to come with that extending of a call. This is much more weighty than “hiring” someone. It is an endorsement of a person’s sense of calling and of their gifting. Of course, if churches do not know this is involved, and see extending a call as similar to a hire, they will not know how important it is to call and what commitments are implied by it. If a church knows the weight of it, then they will do some deep research as they prayerfully consider extending a call. They will not only be asking themselves “Is this someone we feel God has prepared to serve in our congregation? “But also “Is this a person who has a demonstrated call and gifting from God on their life?”

Because it is not then a ‘hire’ it is not as easily rescinded or revoked as is ending a hire. The church has, in extending the call, taken responsibility for saying this person is called by God and we will support them in that calling. A church can’t easily later say, “Oh, he’s not called after all.”

So there is a lot tied in to extending a call. In some ways, it is like a proposal of marriage, and both congregation and pastor are usually encouraged to take a view that this is ‘for life’ though we understand that God calls ministers to new ministries sometimes.