One of my courses this semester is CRC Polity, which discusses the articles and intricacies of Christian Reformed Church Order. Today we talked about Offices and Ordination and I was reminded again about how the call process begins.
Church Order talks of both the internal and the external call to ministry for a future minister. As an individual, I have a sense that God has called me to serve the church in full-time pastoral ministry. It is something that I feel strongly about, am passionate about, am willing to learn about, and am gifted to do. This is an internal call that I have that the Spirit of God has given me. But that alone isn’t enough.
The Reformers have always talked about the external call as well. That is, a confirmation of that internal call from others – namely, the church. John Calvin talks about the importance of this external call saying that is the confirmation of the internal call.
Thus it is the case in the CRC today. When I first started sensing God’s call on me that did not come without confirmation of others. Indeed, it was often the comments of others in the church, “Have you ever thought about the ministry?”; “Do you still have plans to go to seminary?” and the like were all part of that internal call for me.
But even that isn’t enough, nor should it be. In order to even be accepted into the Master of Divinity program at Calvin Theological Seminary they must receive a letter of recommendation from my church council. It is not enough for me to want to go to seminary my church had to give its confirmation of that call as well. Only then can I pursue a path to ordination.
This, I think, is reassuring. I do not pursue this call as an individual, by myself. I’m not some sort of spiritual entrepreneur that is driven to achieve some sort of goal, going his own way, doing his own thing and hoping other people catch my vision. Instead, I am being called by the church to work with them to follow Christ’s vision and His call to become mature in Him. It’s not my goal, it’s God’s. It’s not my church, it's God’s. My vision is not mine, it’s God’s. So too, my call – it is mine, but it is not mine alone. It’s the churches call as well. But, even more than that, it’s God call coming to me from Him and from his church…partners in the bringing of the Gospel. I am humbled by and grateful for that opportunity.