God is Calling
While much has changed in the world and the church, much stays the same. There still is and will ever be a world that needs those willing to share their time, energy, skills, and God-given talents to shine the light of God’s love in the world. Jesus still is and will ever be calling humanity, asking them to follow him into a life’s calling of love and service.
The particulars of how each person’s call and ministry unfold will vary with time, place, talents, experience, personal situation, responsibilities, and, importantly, the world's needs. As Frederick Buechner, pastor and theologian, wrote in his book Wishful Thinking: A Theological ABC, “Your vocation in life is where your greatest joy meets the world's greatest need.”
On Sunday, I had the opportunity to worship at St. John UCC in Mascoutah. Their interim pastor, Rev. Bob Goddard, in preaching on the calling of Jesus’ disciples, said it this way,
“You and I were meant to become light to a dark world, whoever and wherever we were meant to be.
The carpenter’s invitation might read:
Follow me, and I will make you build up people.
The accountant’s invitation might read:
Follow me, and I will make you help people see that they count.
The waitress might hear Jesus say:
Follow me, and I will have you serve the spiritual hunger of people.
To the lawyers:
Follow me, and I will have you fight for justice for those who have no voice.
Those in the medical field might hear:
Follow me, and I will have you heal people’s bodies and souls.
And to the beleaguered parent:
Follow me, and I will have you raise my children.”
In the United Church of Christ, we believe the Church plays a significant role in equipping “the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:12). In the United Church of Christ, we believe there are some who will be set apart to be leaders who will be called to help the Church to be what God intends it to be. They will be called as pastors and teachers to serve and lead on behalf of the UCC and the Church Universal to continue the work and mission of Jesus Christ and build up the body of Christ so that people to whom they minister can, in turn, discover and affirm how they are called by God and sent out to use their gifts for love and service to transform the world.
When we see fewer people answer a call to be pastors to lead our churches and teach the people of God how to listen to the ways God is continuing to speak and act in the world, we may wonder where the next generations of pastors will come from. In response to the question, “Where do ordained and licensed pastors come from?” --a question that is on the hearts and minds of many in the Church; Rev. Goddard reminds us,
“They come from our colleges, but they also come from church committees and Councils; they come from Sunday school teachers; they were farmers and social workers. Some of them are trained lay folk who don’t go to seminary but are trained by the United Church of Christ to serve the local church. Usually, but not always, smaller membership churches.
They come from the pews of our churches. Why are there sometimes fewer pastors than we would like? Only you can answer that: When was the last time a member from this church went to seminary or entered the licensed ministry program? Maybe God is calling you.
Somewhere, someday, you will encounter that person that no one else in all of God’s creation could reach with the light of God. Maybe as a Sunday school teacher or a mission person, or a DuBois Center counselor.
It’s why you were created. It’s what you were meant to do. Or maybe, the pastor of a local church. Listen, for God is calling you to a ministry just for you.”
*from a sermon preached on January 22, 2023, used with permission from Rev. Bob Goddard
Dear friends, if you or someone in your congregation is discerning a call to ministry in the United Church of Christ, we encourage you to reach out to our Conference Minister or Committee on Ministry, so we can begin to share with them the process of becoming an authorized minister in the UCC and companion them on their journey of discernment and preparation.
Blessings, Rev. Shana Johnson, ISC Conference Minister