When a pastor receives a call to a congregation, the deliberation process begins. It is an exciting, yet stressful time for the pastor, his family, his current congregation, and the calling group. I have been asked many times as the person who serves as a go-between with the pastor and the calling congregation. “What is taking so long?” or, “What will be the determining factors in him accepting a call or not?” or, “Since he agreed to be on the call list and do an interview he is ready to leave his current ministry and come here, right?” I have to remind the congregation that just because a pastor has let his name remain for consideration for a call and even agreed to do an interview does not mean that once the call comes. The pastor will pray while his wife is packing up the house for a move. There is numerous factor that goes into the decision-making process for a pastor and his family.
Every congregation believes they are the greatest place on earth to serve, so why would any pastor not want to leave his current group to be their new shepherd? So when the answer is no, I am usually there trying to encourage the deflated congregation reminding them that there is nothing wrong with them. Rejection is hard to stomach; it dings the psyche of the calling congregation. The returned call documents send call committee members into a period of hand wringing, internal questioning, and self-reflection on questions like, “What is wrong with us?” “What did we do wrong?” “Did we not offer enough money?” Or “Why would the pastor lead us on?” Thus, when the pastoral care part of my work takes effect, I assure call committees that they did nothing wrong.
So this post is designed to give some insight into what goes into a pastor’s decision to accept God’s call to a new congregation, or to say “I believe my current congregation still needs the gifts I possess, and God is not done with my ministry to these saints here yet.” What the churches are calling need to hear in this post is that it is hard for the pastor to say no as well. A lot of prayer goes into that decision. There are a lot of factors a pastor struggles with during this time of prayer and discernment. I pray this will serve to answer some the questions pastors wrestle through. Some of the issues pastors have to discern through prayer are:
- Is this call a place where the gifts and abilities God as entrusted to me going to use in a way that gives glory to God, His Church and this new community?
- Is this environment that my family will grow and flourish in?
- Can we economically afford this call? (This one is tough I will deal with this in a separate post. Because I believe God provides, but some situations are just not healthy.)
- Is my ministry complete where God has placed me?
- What are the opportunities and what challenges that lay ahead?
Often, a call is a time for pastors to see clearly things they may have taken for granted or just were not observing before that call was received. During this process, you are forced to evaluate the ministry you currently are serving. And during that observation period, God often has us view things through a different lens. God works through men of God to carry out His ministry to His people, but the question pastors ultimately ask is, “Am I the right person to for this church at this stage in their ministry life?” If the Holy Spirit clearly gives us a “yes,” usually we accept that challenge, if not or the answer is uncertain, pastors take the call of God seriously to not move if they feel God is calling them to stay. One note to pastors, if you decline a call, and there are clear reasons for concern, please share that information in a “speaking the truth in love” way to the congregation. It will serve them well moving forward.
A pastor once told me, “It would take an act of God for me to accept a call!” Every decision to agree on a call is “an act of God.” He moves as he wills, and he drives pastors to say yes or no.
May God bless you and may God bless his church and its shepherds.