Explaining the PMW: Calls for “Wider” Offices

The last point (whoo hoo!) summarizing my explanation of the PMW is about what it means by a “call” in regard to offices that the Church creates in her freedom. Sometimes the term one hears is “divine call,” which only serves to confuse the issues in this case. A proper understanding of the concept of a call must begin with a proper understanding of Christian vocation in general. In a certain sense, every Christian is called by God. For one thing, we are all called to faith in the Gospel. For another, we are called to stations in life. Have a look at the Table of Duties in your Small Catechism, and you’ll see a few of them. Who calls us to these stations, or to faith? It’s God, of course! I recommend the Gustaf Wingren book Luther on Vocation as a pretty thorough textbook on the topic. Gene Edward Veith has also written a more popular treatment called God at Work.

When the statement uses the word “call” in connection with the wider sense of public ministry, it does not mean the outward arrangement of a formal call, which we are accustomed to use for the pastoral office. While that arrangement may be used for teachers, the statement means only that an orderly, outward authorization must be given by the Church before the minister can carry out any ministerial duties in its name. This authorization recognizes that Christ has empowered the Church to create and fill such offices. A call from God is a pretty common thing. So why do we make a special point about it in relation to the pastoral office? Simply this. When God sends someone to tell you something, you can be sure that the message is true. It’s not true because you think it is, nor because somebody else believes it. The messenger may not even believe it. You can be sure it’s true because the person was called by God to deliver it to you. So in that case, you’d also better pay attention, because you can also be sure that the message is meant for you.

You may say, “What if the messenger changes the message?”
That’s a serious thing, and God holds His messenger accountable. When it happens, of course the altered message is not really from God. So you also need to check up on your messenger by comparing what he says to God’s Word.

Other offices may be quite a bit different. Take a gym teacher/coach at an area Lutheran high school. Is he or she in a called position? Maybe, but either way the job will be performed in light of God’s Word. Law will be applied, and sometimes even Gospel, in the official capacity of “Christian teacher/coach.” But God never told the Church to train teens in sports, or even in good exercise habits. You may find references to these things in the Bible, but this is not the Office of the Keys. When the coach says to you, “Give me three laps!” is that a command from God? Nope. At least, no more than when your father says the same thing. On the other hand, it is a command from the school. The Christian school. The church-run school. The coach’s word is not necessarily God’s Word, but it is the word of the organization he works for. For that, he needs authorization. You may consider his authorization a call, if you wish, and you may call the coach a minister too. It tends to dull the sharp edges of our vocabulary, but that’s your prerogative. This call is also one of his vocations — a call from God.

One thought on “Explaining the PMW: Calls for “Wider” Offices

  1. Thanks for the post, and for all these posts about how you understand the PMW. Again, your willingness to patiently and seriously engage the document is praise-worthy.
    I, for one, would appreciate it if all these posts were gathered into one place. I suppose I could sift through the PMW category you’ve got on my own, but maybe a new sub-category would be in order.
    …or, another idea, just make one long post out of all the italicized portions, with each segment being a hyperlink to the original post, which would contain the longer discussions that you’ve provided every step of the way for context, caveats, etc.
    …just a suggestion. I don’t know how difficult this would be.


    ### Response from J.J.:

    Thanks for understanding, and for the suggestion. The new commentary that went into the posts on *The Plucked Chicken,* you’ll have to find here. The PMW category should help, as you mentioned. But the paragraphs in italics are all taken from [my “Internet ministry lair”][lair]. As you’d find there, those paragraphs really just summarize [a much longer explanation][explanation] of the PMW. Much of my extra commentary in these posts was drawn from that.

    [lair]: http://www.christfor.us/pmwiki.php?n=PMW.Main

    [explanation]: http://www.christfor.us/uploads/PMW/publicministry.html

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