The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


The priesthood of all believers


Emily, a high school senior, had what she called a "religious experience" at an ELCA National Youth Gathering. Christ came alive for her. At 37, Cole had what he termed a "mystical experience" on a starry night while camping. He felt at one with God, others and creation.

Both Emily and Cole later told their pastor that they interpreted their experiences as God's call to pursue a church vocation. Their pastor wisely helped them make the distinction between a call to serve God and a call to attend seminary. The pastor suggested they meet with a career counselor or a spiritual director to explore the implications of their experiences.

When we immediately interpret a transforming experience as God's call to ministry in the church, we view a church vocation on a higher and holier plane than other vocations.

Martin Luther turned that prevailing view upside down when he recovered the biblical teaching of the "priesthood of all believers." Whether we are called to be a farmer, homemaker, politician, plumber, teacher, dancer, Webmaster or pastor, we can experience God's presence and witness to Christ's love in our workplace.

Our specific call to a vocation comes most clearly by an awareness of the gifts and strengths the Creator planted in us. These become clearer as we notice what comes naturally and what brings us deep joy and satisfaction. Feedback from others also gives us clues to our life-work.

Congregations can be good places to discover God-given gifts for both life-work and avocations in the church and world. That includes being on the lookout for individuals who have gifts and strengths for ministry in the church, such as people skills, leadership, communication skills, a love of study, as well as a love for Christ.

God calls us to deepen our relationship with God and to find work that best matches who we are. We continually listen for invitations and clues.


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February issue


Embracing diversity