Submitted to the Clay County Union
September 12, 2017
Watering the Church
When you plant a garden, the last thing you do is leave right away without making sure it will be watered. In fact, if you’ve worked hard at planting it, it’s very difficult to leave. In many ways, that describes my situation as pastor of Calvary & Grace. September 10 was my last Sunday serving both churches, upon accepting a call to a church in Oregon, Wisconsin.
I’ve been called to both Ulen & Crookston since the spring of 2016 and served as pastor since last summer. I’ll be the first to admit that it was a relatively short ministry. The call to Wisconsin was unexpected. In our church body, the Evangelical Lutheran Synod (ELS), pastors don’t seek calls. They don’t even interview. Calls come from the congregation which usually gets a list of names from the synod president of men with certain skills that the congregation may be looking for. It is unusual for pastors to receive a call soon after starting at a new parish, although it isn’t unheard of.
And yet, when it happens, although the call came from a congregation, it is really God who directed it. That means serious thought must be given. The book of 1 Corinthians, (which was written to them by their former pastor, the Apostle Paul, who had served them for only a year and six months) guides pastors even today in the call process.
In speaking about the spiritual gifts belonging to each member of the body of Christ, Paul explains that there are differences of gifts and ministries. “But,” he says, “the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all” (1 Cor. 12:7). This is the main criteria for deliberating a call: not how big or small the town is, not how big or small the congregation is, or even how large or small the salary is, but where a man’s specific God-given skills can be best used to serve for the profit of all.
There’s the comfort for pastors as well as for congregations. God finds men with specific gifts to serve at the right point in time. That also means that God has another man in mind for Ulen & Crookston. In fact, Calvary & Grace have already extended a call to another man to be their new pastor. He will now have to go through the same process as he deliberates where God would have him serve.
Earlier on in 1 Corinthians Paul actually compared the ministry to planting a garden: “I [Paul] planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase” (1 Cor. 3:6-7). Pastors (including myself) are dispensable. Christians aren’t. We serve for the good of all and God blesses the work.
Although it has been a short term, I was able to do a little planting (or maybe I watered what the previous pastor planted). It’s hard for me to leave what I feel I worked hard at, but then I have to remember that’s irrelevant. If any work was accomplished at all, it wasn’t I who did it. God gave the increase and God will continue to do so. God’s churches will continue to be watered after I leave, after the next guy leaves, and so on, until God finally brings His harvest home. Soli Deo Gloria.