With Dr. Bruce Hartung
This month’s column addresses three readers’ concerns that relate to church workers and congregations or schools. Readers’ comments are in italic, and my responses are not.
One of my close friends also is an ordained pastor in the LCMS and he is joyfully serving where he is called. He has also recently found himself on several call lists. After participating in the call process with these calling congregations, he eventually learned that some other pastor was called to serve in those locations. In each case, my friend (as well as his family and friends) were praying fervently that God would express His will in calling a pastor for these congregations. And indeed, God spoke His will as pastors were called.
The problem is that my friend was never notified — by the calling congregation or by his district — that a call had been placed. … I want to believe this is an isolated occurrence, but as I have asked around, I have learned that it is more common.
What can be done to remind the districts and congregations that, as God has spoken in answer to prayer, they have a responsibility to directly share this answer with those who participated in the call process?
May this column be one of those reminders. Our church workers wish to remain open to the work of the Holy Spirit in their vocations and locations, so I believe they willingly participate in a call process. As they give of their time and energy to a congregation’s (or school’s) process, it is fitting that when the process finishes, they are both thanked and told about the close of the process. Not only is this good manners, but it also is respectful of persons who are valued by Christ.
Thank you for pointing out the needs of the family as well as [of] the professional church worker. It has not been easy over the years, since we have not been called to places with immediate family, nor have we had supportive congregations.
It seems that individual congregations at least try to help their called church workers, but workers called to association schools don’t really connect in the same way to a congregation, and therefore are not [usually] given much support or encouragement. I’m guessing that almost every Lutheran high school is an association school, as well as many elementary schools. …
Honestly, I deliberately discouraged my children from considering church work for their careers. Obviously, the career choices for women are much more limited than for men, but the main reason has been that it has been a very painful life filled with too many moves and difficult adjustments.
You raise up for caring focus a group of church workers that is not very much on my radar and perhaps, as you suggest, not very much on the radar of congregations. I hope this column can put these colleagues on the radar.
Shouldn’t every congregation where there is a worker in an association school take that worker into their support system? As a church worker myself who has never lived closer than a four-and-a half-hour drive from any extended family member (except my wife’s cousin, when we were in the Chicago area), I have experienced this struggle.
Conflict happens, but how we deal with it is another thing. … [It is] important to ask, “Who am I, and to whom do I belong?” … Although we preach the cross of Christ, I haven’t heard enough of how we are to live under the cross. There [on the cross], Jesus died to bring us together as one in Him.
How can I engage in angry or destructive words against one for whom Christ died? How can I behave like a totalitarian pastor when I claim to follow the One who washes feet? How can I avoid accountability when even the Son of God was accountable to His Father?
Thanks, my brother pastor. There is great wisdom here. Knowing who we are and whose we are and that the persons with whom we are in conflict also are redeemed by Christ, we engage in conflict humbly, reverently and mindful of Christ.
The Rev. Bruce M. Hartung, Ph.D., is professor of Practical Theology at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis. He can be reached at email@example.com.
I remember in a former vocation the first story told in your column. I was being considered for a position within the CUS system 27 years ago. I remember being put through many interviews, which I thought I had answered to the best of my ability, and never being informed that I was not considered at all. I learned by asking much later that a person within that organization was hired, who was without the qualifications to fulfill that position. This practice is done outside of the church, which I also witnessed, but if we are still saint AND sinner, we will find these sinful actions true even as we live out our vocations under the cross. It happens, and God still guides us despite us and for the furthering of the Gospel. SDG