On Wednesday, April 25, 2007, I sat in the Chapel of St. Timothy and St. Titus on the campus of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis and patiently waited to hear the words: Michael Schmidt – Kansas District – Peace Lutheran Church – Natoma, Kansas.
Prior to that moment, I had never been to Kansas, never thought I would live in Kansas, and never even heard of Natoma. Prior to that moment, I was a typical east coast person who thought Kansas consisted of Kansas City, Wichita, and Topeka, and that was it; but now, I was the newest resident of the state, and I would reside at least 3 hours west of Wichita and Topeka, and 6 hours west of Kansas City.
However, despite what so many say, my experience that night was not typical. Both the St. Louis and the Fort Wayne seminary will quote ad nausea Isaiah 6:8 which says: Whom shall I send and who will go for us? To which Isaiah responds ‘Here I am, send me.’ But the reality is that many seminarians will answer ‘Here I am, but send me to these places and not those’.
Prior to that April night, almost half of those who would receive calls interviewed with at least one calling congregation. Some of those in the chapel that night knew where they were going prior to the opening hymn; and others had it narrowed down to at least a couple of places that they were sure they were going.
And all of those who would receive calls filled out extensive paperwork detailing the area of the country they would most like to live in; including population of the community and geographic region, which included a ranking of states. But there was more: even the type of congregation they would most like to serve was detailed from size of congregation to style of worship to even age demographics. Candidates for calls were even asked if there were any extenuating circumstances that they would like the committee to consider before they were placed such as their wife’s job or the needs of the children, particularly any medical needs.
Bu when Isaiah said ‘Here am I, send me’ it was not after he submitted a mountain of paperwork to God detailing the type of people he would like to lead, or the area of Israel he would like to focus on, or the age group he felt he was best suited for.
Now to be fair, much of this is done, because the Seminaries and the Districts want to match pastor and people up so that they will not be miserable with each other and end up separating in 3 years or less.
But what is the point, if at least a dozen or more of the people who were in that call service with me five years ago, at least half of which interviewed with the very same congregation, have taken calls elsewhere because they and/or the congregation were miserable with each other?
It seems to me that we would have the same results if everyone went into the service having been a part of no interviews and filling out no paperwork at all and just went literally where the Lord wanted them to go via the placement of the seminary.
Isn’t that what Isaiah 6:8 is saying anyway? ‘Here I am Lord, send me’. It does not matter where, it does not matter for how long, and it does not matter if I serve the elderly or the young, the rich or the poor. I am your servant Lord, and I will serve wherever you see best fit for me; even if it may not be where I see as best for me.
As both Seminaries have their Call Services this week, and as both Seminaries over the next two months send out magazines and letters reporting on the joys of Call Day and seeking donations in joyful response to the Lord raising up servants of the Word, and they quote Isaiah 6:8, remember this: it is not necessarily a lie, these young men are leaving behind various things and taking upon themselves various burdens to serve the Lord; but it is not necessarily the truth that everyone approaches the Call Service with a willingness to go anywhere either.