A great number of questions concerning calls have been asked by younger workers over a period of years. Young men in a constant stream are coming from our colleges and entering the gospel ministry from year to year. These young men may rest assured that every conference president is looking for well-balanced men; fully consecrated men; men who are soul winners for Christ; men who are able to handle hard situations and iron them out smoothly; men who are able to grip the masses; men who are able to carry a lull, well-rounded program; men who are specialists in one or more fields of service, such as singers, musicians, teachers, et cetera; and men who can adapt themselves to difficult situations, yet continue to keep sweet under pressure.
When conference presidents hear of a man of such caliber, they make note of it. In addition to the above information, his age, background of experience, and ability to get along with people all figure in their rating of the man. Of course, his spirituality heads the list of qualifications. Without this every other qualification is valueless. When an opening comes in any field, the afore-mentioned qualifications go a long way to influence a committee in deciding who shall be called.
If a president believes, from the information he has, that another conference has just the man who could best fill the vacancy in his field, he usually asks the president in whose field the man is employed for permission to approach the worker, in order to learn whether he would be interested in the available opening. Should his president say, "No, I should prefer that you do not get in touch with our man," in all probability the worker concerned will hear about it later. Then the president is in a predicament, for he may find out to his sorrow that for many years the worker, because of some reason which even he himself cannot explain, has had a more or less suppressed desire and urge to labor in that particular field. Meanwhile, the place has been filled by another, and perhaps both the president and the worker feel that it would have been much better had the inquiring president at least been permitted to talk over the matter with the worker.
When a Call Comes
Therefore, as presidents of conferences, we usually permit other presidents to consult with men for other places. This is especially true if the available position is considered a heavier responsibility than the one being filled by the man at the present time. When such a contact is permitted, the worker and his wife should pray earnestly about it and seek counsel from their own president and possibly from the union president also, if they so desire. The counsel of the brethren is sometimes helpful in bringing the proper conviction. Men have been known to turn down a perfectly good call only to find out six months or a year later that, because of existing financial or other circumstances, their services are no longer needed in the field in which they are employed. Had they heeded the counsel of the brethren at the time of the call, they would have been given a new lease on life in the work and might have proved much more fruitful in the new field than in the old. A change to a new field frequently serves as a real new-life tonic.
Let me say, seriously, yet kindly, that the worker who does not receive a call every few years has reason to restudy his work pattern and analyze carefully the results of his labors. The man who is giving above- average service will find his services in demand. However, if a man's soul-winning and financial records have not been such as to attract the attention of someone from another conference, he will find the zealous, enthusiastic, industrious type of worker receiving the calls and making the advance moves while he plods on seemingly unnoticed. There are men among us who turn down a call on an average of once every two or three years. Their services are in constant demand. With only a few exceptions, there is generally a good reason for calls coming to certain men from time to time.
If a call comes your way, thank God for it. You will be strengthened by it, even though you may not accept it. If a call has never come your way, take inventory there may be a reason. Some presidents feel that the more often a worker moves from conference to conference (within reason) during the first twenty years of his service, the greater will be his growth and development. The experience of working in three or four different conferences during that length of time in their early ministry greatly aids most workers. This gives them an average of five to seven years of experience with at least three or four different presidents; at the same time they have the privilege of associating with, learning from, and observing two or three hundred different workers.
After about twenty years of such service, the average worker is a little more desirous of settling down to a somewhat longer period of service in each field. Brushing shoulders with men in diverse fields broadens one's experience and makes his services more valuable to the cause. None of us should stay until we feel our work in a place is finished. If we do, we may also be finished! If we are men of vision, faith, and courage, with a will to work, we shall always be busy and in the midst of some unfinished task, as were Moses, Gideon, and David when each of them received a call and learned that his services were desired elsewhere. But a man should not move too frequently, either.
What Is a Call?
Recently a man returning from a General Conference meeting said that while there he had received five calls. Wonderful in deed, if true! However, the facts in the case did not justify the statement, since he actually had not received even one call. He had been approached, probably; that is, someone had asked about his reactions to a call if one should be placed. Many times, however, these contacts are in no way official. Sometimes a worker attending such a meeting sees another worker whom he has known for a long time and thinks he would be very happy to be associated with him in the ministry. Under such circumstances the worker doing the contacting often is just as willing to go to the other worker's field as to have his friend come his way. You can see how each man with a little stretch of the imagination might report, upon his return to his home field, that he had received a call, the whole misunderstanding being due to the fact that both workers are young and inexperienced and do not know just how an actual call originates.
A call usually comes after contacts have been made and there is a feeling of mutual agreement among the president, his local committee, and the man concerned. The president, if not already authorized by his committee to place the call, brings before his local conference committee the name of the man to be called. After sufficient discussion, if the committee is clear in the matter, an action is taken to place a call for the man. The president then writes a letter to the union conference president, who was probably present when the matter was dis cussed in the local committee, and asks him to pass on the call.
If it is within the union, the union president passes the call to the president of the conference in which the man is employed. It can be stopped even then by the employing committee or the committee that placed the call, if they feel justified in so doing. Since our judgment is guided by our information, sometimes additional information causes us to change our minds. If the call is to go outside the union in which it originates, it is passed on to the General Conference by the union president, and then the General Conference passes it to the union president of the field in which the man is employed. The president of that union passes it on to the president of the local conference employing the man. It is possible, and it sometimes happens, that a call may be held up or rejected by a committee somewhere along the way. Therefore, a call is not really a call until a man has in his possession in written form from his own conference a letter containing the letter of call from the calling organization. Then he has a call.
Sometimes a man and his work are well enough known for a straight call to be placed for him without any previous con tact being made. This is unusual, however, since so much time is lost in getting a call through to an individual (one to four weeks) that it is better to know ahead of time if he will accept. That is why contacts are usually made in advance of calls. Consequently, it is well to remember that a call is not an official call—regardless of telephone messages, telegrams, or personal visits from other interested persons—until the letter of call has cleared all proper committees dealing with the call, and one has in his possession a letter from his own conference president containing the call. Any definite plans prior to this, in the way of canceling a lease, renting a house, moving, or being too zealous in making announcements, all involve an element of risk and embarrassment to those concerned in the matter. It could become extremely embarrassing to the worker involved should the prospective call be canceled for a good reason by the brethren somewhere along the line.
(To be continued)