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WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE “IMMEDIATE” (GOD’S CALL) AND THE “MEDIATE” (CHURCH’S CALL) CALL TO THE MINISTRY?
I will begin with a quote from the Augsburg Confession: Our churches teach that no one should publicly teach in the Church, or administer the Sacraments, without a rightly ordered call (AC XIV; Concordia, p.39). The Confessions of the Lutheran church describe the differences between the universal priesthood of believers and the office of the ministry. I believe the immediate call of God is distinct from the mediate call to the ministry in this way. First, let us examine the mediate (church’s call) to the ministry. Every Christian is a member of Christ’s holy priesthood by virtue of baptism (The Lutheran Difference, Topic 15, pg 451). The Office of the Ministry is a gift given to the Body of Christ by God (1 Peter 2:25, Titus 1:7, 1 Timothy 3:2 – 1 Timothy 3:1 – Philippians 1:1 –Acts 20:28). The previous verses all describe overseers in Christ’s church. A great text that helps to describe the immediate call to universal priesthood would be the first Epistle of Peter. The Apostle Peter calls the Christians he is writing to a royal priesthood and a chosen generation (1 Peter 2:9). We are to offer spiritual sacrifices unto God (1 Peter 2:5). Now, I believe that I am someone who is called to Word and Sacrament ministry. I will try to explain this, albeit in language applicable to Lutheran culture.
DESCRIBE THE EXPERIENCE OF MY IMMEDIATE CALL TO THE MINISTRY
My immediate call to the ministry something that I will try to explain as best as possible coming from a Pentecostal background. First and foremost, I do NOT believe that I simply came to God of my own free will. Titus 3:5 -7 (ESV) is the summary of my conversion: Titus 3:5 -7 (ESV) 5 he saved us, enot because of works done by us in righteousness, but faccording to his own mercy, by gthe washing of regeneration and hrenewal of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he ipoured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior,7 so that jbeing justified by his grace we might become kheirs laccording to the hope of eternal life. My current denomination is the Assemblies of God. While the Assemblies of God traces their lineage back to the Wesleyan/Methodist church, who are disciples of Jacob Arminius, not every Assemblies of God pastor teaches an Orthodox Arminian position (total depravity, or bondage of the will) on human free will. However, I thank God for his grace that I believe in the bondage of the will. In terms of my call to the ministry, I will start with my baptism. I was baptized actually more than once! I was baptized at least once in an independent baptist church as a young child, and I was baptized again in a Oneness Pentecostal church. I believe I was regenerated at baptism. However, I continued to resist the Holy Spirit (Acts 7:51). However, at the age of 17, I believe that the Lord responded to the prayers of my father, who is a minister and former Baptist pastor. In addition, I believe that the Lord’s election came into play. Although I was in a backslidden condition (Proverbs 14:14, Isaiah 57:17, Jeremiah 8:5, Jeremiah 14:7, Ezekiel 37:23), the Lord brought me back by his grace. Although I didn’t know much theology, I began to serve and was heavily active at Grace Emmanuel Temple in Durham, NC, a Pentecostal Assemblies of the World (PAW) Oneness Church. At 18, I joined the United States Air Force, and became an active member of the youth and young adult’s ministries at the churches I attended throughout my assignments. Yet all of the churches I attended from the time I graduated (2001) until I became Lutheran were heterodox at best. I married Chi Swanson in 2005, who is a Chief Master Sergeant (CMSgt, E-9) in the Air Force. The pivotal moment in my spiritual journey began in August of 2017, when we received orders to Ramstein Air Base in Germany. Now Ramstein is 3 hours southwest of Eisenach; and 6 hours from Wittenberg. In 2017 I was able to visit Worms to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. I organized an English tour with the Assemblies of God church I was a member of. We visited Worms and got a tour of the Reformation sites there. Yet in January of this year, I visited Wittenberg and Eisenach, and had a marvelous time. My visit to Wittenberg and Eisenach was the culmination of a three-year transition for me, starting in August 2017 when we first arrived in Germany. I was becoming more and more discontent in my relationship with Christ, and more and more content with the culture and doctrine of the Assemblies of God. In fact, I never quite fit the Pentecostal mold, and my friends have told me that I was never really “Pentecostal!” I was always a person who favored the Word of God over ecstatic experiences. Let it be known that there are many people in Pentecostal and Charismatic churches who take the Word of God seriously. However, by and large, the culture of Pentecostal/Charismatic churches tends to be experiential. In saying all of this, I believe that I was saved through my confession of faith and through baptism. My immediate call from God to ministry came when I was quite young, I believe. I was baptized I believe by age 10, but the regeneration of my soul took place then, so that 7 years later I could no longer resist the voice of the Spirit of God speaking to me about my life. As I joined the Air Force and just began to pray and study the Word of God, I continued to change. I began to fall deeply in love with God’s Word, and it’s power to save souls. I began to hunger deeply in my soul to be able to share with others what I had discovered in God’s Word. I wanted to teach and proclaim the message of Christ to my friends, family, loved ones and co-workers. That’s when I discovered that the Lord was calling me to ministry. I have tried other kinds of “secular” work. Of course, Luther would classify all of those as vocation. But could never be successful past a certain point, because all I kept thinking about was theology, the scriptures, and teaching what I was reading and studying with others! For me, I know that I have been given an immediate call because I can identify with not having pastors based on Jeremiah 3:15. Most of my entire life I have not been fed by shepherds after God’s own heart, with true knowledge and true understanding. Now that I am discovering Lutheranism, I feel like I am discovering Christianity for the first time. I had many ups and downs throughout the years; Calvinists desperately trying to quote Romans 9 to me all the time, all the while forgetting Romans 10-11! I had Pentecostals telling me “not to always try and know everything,” when so many Proverbs tell us that it is foolish to not gain knowledge and understanding. So if God’s grace allows me, I will shepherd a Lutheran church one day, and feed God’s people with knowledge and understanding. And as I continue to grow as a Lutheran, I am confident that more experienced AALC pastors, laymen, and the Chief Shepherd will feed me with knowledge and understanding. This is so crucial. In becoming Lutheran, I just had a deep sense in my soul that in light of moralistic, pluralistic, and relativistic teachings happening even in evangelical circles, I had to step back and protect my family by rediscovering a 500 year old Protestant church, whose Divine Service and theological works quote the Apostolic Fathers and the three ancient Eucemenical Creeds. I wanted to protect my family by showing them a worship culture where even the physical church looks like heaven on the inside. Everything physical in a Lutheran church is extremely intentional and profoundly symbolic (except for the Sacraments of course!). I am being drawn & called to the Lutheran church because I love the Word of God and Lutheran hymns are saturated with scripture. There are readings every Sunday which will take a congregation through the entire Bible. There is a one-year Lectionary and a Three-Year Lectionary. I love it. But to sum things up, my call to the ministry came from God. I will sum things up with a quote from Galatians 1:1: Galatians 1:1 (ESV) – Paul, an apostle—not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead— The Apostle Paul received his ministry directly from the Lord. In his commentary on Galatians, Luther states that men can be called to Word & Sacrament ministry in one or two ways: through means or without means. The Old Testament prophets and the New Testament apostles were called directly by the Lord; however, they were mediators in the callings of their successors (the bishops are the successors to the apostles, I reject any ideas of the office of the apostles being reinstated in today’s time. i.e. the New Apostolic Reformation). Anyway, from 2014-2017, I pastored a small Assemblies of God church in Northern Japan. We arrived in Misawa, Japan in March 2014. The missionaries who pastored the church were leaving in May that same year. They approached myself and my wife (the AOG ordains women pastors; my wife and I reject women being ordained to Word & Sacrament ministry as being unbiblical). Then here in 2020, as I had grown dissatisfied with Pentecostal polity and doctrine, I prayed that if the Lord wanted me back in pastoral ministry, the AALC would ask me, and they did! So my call has been confirmed in the fact that the Body of Christ has recognized that I am called to preach and I am also capable of doing so. In every opportunity to preach or teach since I was 17, I was always approached by others in my local church. I never had a dream or any mystical encounters telling me to preach. It was just something that I was drawn to the most and was most passionate about. Alright, thanks for coming on this journey with me! Please support us on social media: https://www.facebook.com/cameronswanson.camswanson.7, https://twitter.com/CamSwanson, Donate here! https://www.patreon.com/kingswayint, Subscribe to the podcast here: https://kingswayinternational.podbean.com/, and Youtube here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCDO2ybw_wIpe3aiHWuzKIDg. God Bless!