Luther on the Call


“Those who operate without a proper call seek no good purpose. God does not bless their labors. They may be good preachers, but they do [not] edify. Many of the fanatics of our day pronounce words of faith, but they bear no good fruit, because their purpose is to turn men to their perverse opinions.” – Martin Luther

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6 thoughts on “Luther on the Call”

  1. It wasn’t until seminary that I was taught the distinction between the internal call and the external call. Many sense a call to preach and think that means they should get out and start preaching. Rather, the internal call is the call to prepare. That is then confirmed by the external call from a congregation to serve as their pastor.

    In what other field of endeavor do we treat the internal call as a commission to engage in that activity? If I walk up to the local hospital and say I feel called to be a surgeon, would you expect them to hand me a scalpel or a brochure from a med school? If I go up to a construction site and tell them I’m called to be an electrician, would you feel better about them if they point me at the wiring box or to the vo-tech apprenticeship program? So why does the church feel everyone called to preach should immediately be given a pulpit?

  2. I don’t think they do that in the PCA, but I know what you’re talking about, and unfortunately there is a well-attended school of thought that encourages such people to plant an independent church. Denominations are full of men imposing their wills on the Bible, but this man, who is called to preach the Word, will be taught by the Holy Spirit Himself. It’s not good, but perhaps it’s an American thing to do.

  3. The AFLC has a long tradition of emphasizing lay ministry. However, that does not mean that we reject the idea of the call, which Luther is dealing with here. Rather it is a recognition of the value of non-formal education. Mature men who demonstrate an understanding of Scripture are called to serve as pastors and other offices of ministry in spite of the fact that they haven’t attended seminary.

  4. Greybeard,

    Your statement about AFLC churches calling to the pastorate men who haven’t been to seminary is very interesting; all the AFLC pastors with whom I’m familiar either went to the AFLC seminary, or are former ELCA pastors with an M.Div. from a mainline seminary.

    Are there many pastors in the AFLC without an advanced degree?

  5. MS, About ten percent of our rostered clergy are licensed rather than ordained. A complete list is available in the Annual Conference Journal on the AFLC website.

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