Am I Called? Summons to Pastoral Ministry
When I first saw the title of this book many months ago in AmazonÃ¢ÂÂs pre-order suggestions, I thought to myself, Ã¢ÂÂDave, why didnÃ¢ÂÂt you write this book 10 years ago?Ã¢ÂÂ Yet, there was no way that I was going to write this book off as one that no longer applied to me. It is not that I live in uncertainty about my calling, but that I know that there are otherÃ¢ÂÂs out there that need assurance or counsel on their calling. Furthermore, as I read this book, I found myself more assured and encouraged about the concepts I intuitively understood as a younger man. Still, even if a fellow has an intuitive understanding of their calling, it does not mean that this book will be of no help. Rather, Dave HarveyÃ¢ÂÂs resource, Am I Called, provides a clear path for any young man to pursue as they evaluate their own inklings of a call to ministry.
An important point to add, as Harvey clearly spells out, is that this book is for men and the wifeÃ¢ÂÂs of men who are called to ministry. The pastoral calling is meant for men. This is an important point to make. This view will not be defended here nor is it really defended in HarveyÃ¢ÂÂs book, but this view is assumed by the writer and this blogger.
In this review, I would like to share three important takeaways that I received from HarveyÃ¢ÂÂs study and work on ministry calling.
I immediately loved how Dave addressed how everyone is called to God first. Ã¢ÂÂIf weÃ¢ÂÂre truly to understand the importance of calling in ministry, we need to grasp that the impetus for it originates with a wise, loving, and sovereign God. And before he calls us to ministry, he calls us to himself.Ã¢ÂÂ Harvey deftly shares that the focus of a calling is not on the called but on the caller. Ã¢ÂÂThe callerÃ¢ÂÂs initiative is everythingÃ¢ÂÂ¦The call to ministry is about GodÃ¢ÂÂs character and activity, about his mercy and love, and ultimately about his provision to those for whom he died. If the CallerÃ¢ÂÂs initiative is everything, then we must preoccupy ourselves with the Ultimate Caller. ItÃ¢ÂÂs that simpleÃ¢ÂÂand that profound.Ã¢ÂÂ
Ultimately, when we are considering a calling, Harvey challenges us to consider who is really the focus. Ã¢ÂÂSeems like weÃ¢ÂÂve got two options. We can imagine it makes much of us: God called me! Or we can see it as making much of God: God called me!Ã¢ÂÂ This is the first treasure that I took from HarveyÃ¢ÂÂs expose on a biblical calling to ministry.
This friendly reminder is so important for those of us who are in ministry or are considering ministry, because it puts our focus on being GodÃ¢ÂÂs instrument. God becomes the primary actor in our ministry. He steals the show. The called person finds his right place as the instrument towards GodÃ¢ÂÂs glory. We need this reminder, because men in ministry can be prone to steal GodÃ¢ÂÂs credit, build our own kingdoms, and center our desires and work on self.
Another valuable message throughout Am I Called is the focus and the centrality of the gospel. Harvey goes out of his way to emphasize how much the called person needs to have a fixation on the gospel. Harvey points out, Ã¢ÂÂÃ¢ÂÂ¦those called to preach the gospel can be the most susceptible to drift from the gospel.Ã¢ÂÂ He goes on to talk about how all the other parts of ministry can distract us from the heart of ministry, yet our identity is built on the truths within the gospel. Harvey argues that it is critical to stand fast to gospel truth, since our identity is built on its truth. Concerning our identity in the gospel he concludes, Ã¢ÂÂThatÃ¢ÂÂs why I need to keep my grip on the gospel. It supplies my main identity.Ã¢ÂÂ
Fixation on the gospel as one who is called is essential because it is the anchor for all of ministry. The called manÃ¢ÂÂs primary responsibility is to bear the same message that Paul bore to the nations. Harvey writes, Ã¢ÂÂPastoral ministry exists for the proclamation and protection of the gospel for people inside and outside the church. We need to value the gospel and know what we have so we can share it with others.Ã¢ÂÂ
These reminders are welcoming for both those have been in ministry for years, those who are getting started, and those who are testing the waters to see if they are a fit for ministry. Each of us need this reminder that the gospel is everything, not building projects, not program structures, not building a large congregation, not keeping people happy, or making sure everyone feels loved, though all these components are valuable, the gospel possesses immeasurable importance and value to the person called to ministry.
The third precious truth that I would like to share is that the called man needs to consider the importance of his character. Harvey explains that God did not give us the qualification of an elder in 1 Timothy and Titus as a check list to eliminate people from a ministry calling. Harvey clearly communicates how all of us are in process and none of us perfectly measure to the standards of these qualification. He says, Ã¢ÂÂKeep in mind, weÃ¢ÂÂll never see these qualities perfected in anyone. But while not perfected, they should be evident, and will be in any man whoÃ¢ÂÂs called to ministry.Ã¢ÂÂ
However, we must have aspirations not only to the position but to the character of those who fill the position. Not only this but just because we are gifted and skilled at managing and leading does not make us qualified either. Nor are we qualified because we fulfill a moralistic adherence to these character qualities. Every one who tries to do this, will assuredly fail. Rather evidence of GodÃ¢ÂÂs grace is critical as we think about the qualifications of an elder. Harvey says, Ã¢ÂÂMen donÃ¢ÂÂt become pastors because of potential. They become pastors because GodÃ¢ÂÂs grace is already at work in themÃ¢ÂÂ¦GodÃ¢ÂÂs grace produces a godly lifeÃ¢ÂÂand that godly life helps confirm GodÃ¢ÂÂs call.Ã¢ÂÂ
Harvey ties my second observation that I appreciate in this book with this third observation. He ties the character qualification of a calling to the gospel saying, Ã¢ÂÂHere again we see that the gospel must be the orienting reality of our lives. If a man doesnÃ¢ÂÂt have the gospel right and square when he enters ministry, his trials and temptations can overturn everything.Ã¢ÂÂ
How Harvey tackles the matter of character qualification is so insightful. Though he does not bring up this scripture, I could not help but note that 1 Timothy 3 ends with a valuable hymn that shows how Christ is our source of godliness. Without finding our identity in Christ, being rooted in his grace and fixated on His gospel, we will fail in both adhering to the character qualities of an elder and ultimately our calling to ministry.
Harvey has brought attention to an important matter that we need to keep on our radar. We who are called need to keep our eyes open for other who might also be called. We need to be looking for people who love the gospel, have clear gifting for ministry, and have apprehended the grace of God which informs their own spiritual living.
This book is now my go-to resource when I talk to men who are considering a call to ministry. I think if you are a pastor, you ought to read this book and reflect on how you can serve God by seeking out and equipping called men to ministry. In addition, every guy considering ministry ought to read this book and so should elder boards, pastoral staff or committees who are involved in the hiring process for pastors.
Check out am I called today!
View more book reviews by Joey Cochran at jtcochran.com.
September 29, 2012
One of the finest books on pastoral ministry
Much has recently changed in my life with accepting in the last month or so a pastoral internship at my local church Sovereign Grace Fellowship in Nampa, Idaho. On May 11th, I will graduate with my Masters of Divinity after five years of Bible College and seminary. In addition to this, in the past month, I started re-reading books on pastoral ministry that I read over a decade ago. In the past few weeks I have read Test, Train, Affirm and send into ministry Recovering The Local churchÃ¢ÂÂs responsibility in the external call by Pastor Brian Croft, and Am I Called? The Summons To Pastoral Ministry by Dave Harvey. While both books are excellent and should be read by those aspiring to, or in pastoral ministry, the focus of this review is on Am I Called: The Summons to Pastoral Ministry by Dr. Dave Harvey.
This may be an ominous way to start my review of this book but at first I didnÃ¢ÂÂt want to read this book, because it seemed like it would be like so many other books IÃ¢ÂÂve read on pastoral theology. After being told by a friend how much the book benefited her and her husband, I started reading it and was pleasantly surprised to find out how Gospel-centered it was. For my friends or those who follow me on facebook or twitter, and saw me recommend the book, and some reviews by friends of this book it will come as no surprise that I greatly enjoyed and benefited from this book by Dr. Dave Harvey.
While Pastor CroftÃ¢ÂÂs book is concerned with the practical outworking of a manÃ¢ÂÂs calling, and has solid teaching on the Gospel, I could not but help to note how grace-filled and Spirit-empowered Am I Called is. In fact, it was so grace-filled that I felt like I wasnÃ¢ÂÂt reading a book, but having a conversation with the author over coffee. While IÃ¢ÂÂve read many books over the years on the topic of pastoral ministry and specifically on the call to ministry, I have never read a book on pastoral theology that was as drenched in the Gospel as Am I Called is. As I read this book it became obvious that Dave HarveyÃ¢ÂÂs experience leading church planting, church care and international expansion for Sovereign Grace Ministries has provided him with ample of opportunities to reflect on what qualifies a man for ministry, how to encourage and affirm the man of God in his call to pastoral ministry and send him out to accomplish the call that God has placed on his life.
Am I Called has three parts: First, approaching the call, second diagnosing the call and finally waiting on the call. Dr. Harvey rightly notes that the call to being a Pastor is Ã¢ÂÂreserved only for menÃ¢ÂÂ (18). Dr. Harvey teaches that Ã¢ÂÂyour question of calling isnÃ¢ÂÂt merely subsequent to the call to ChristÃ¢ÂÂ itsÃ¢ÂÂ essential tied to it. In fact, itÃ¢ÂÂs only because our primary call is secured through the gospel by the cross that we can rejoice in exploring a ministry callÃ¢ÂÂ (39). Rather than focusing on just the individualÃ¢ÂÂs salvation experience the author emphasizes the context of the manÃ¢ÂÂs call and the importance of it being affirmed by godly Pastors and elders in the context of the local church. He notes that Ã¢ÂÂidentifying called men is the responsibility of the local churchÃ¢ÂÂ (54).
As the author examines 1st Timothy 3 and Titus 1 he calls men not just to be exemplary future leaders of the Church but to be model Christians. ItÃ¢ÂÂs often thought that the lists in 1st Timothy 3 and Titus 1 are reserved only for those in the office, but in fact the list mentioned by Paul in 1st Timothy 3 and Titus 1 are mentioned throughout PaulÃ¢ÂÂs epistles. He explains that the lists in 1st Timothy 3 and Titus 1 are Ã¢ÂÂactual commands of all believers in some fashionÃ¢ÂÂ (73). Dr. Harvey notes Ã¢ÂÂThe man called to ministry is not some kind of super-Christian who lives by a higher code. No, heÃ¢ÂÂs just a called man with gifts that enable him to lead GodÃ¢ÂÂs people and with a grace that empowers him to be an exampleÃ¢ÂÂ (73). As one who often reads 1st Timothy 3 and Titus 1 I found the following quote very helpful, Ã¢ÂÂGodÃ¢ÂÂs call upon a man delivers the grace necessary for the godliness neededÃ¢ÂÂ (74). This statement will free men from the approach that these passages are like an unbending standard that demands conformity and punishes disobedience. Rather than being unbending the point 1st Timothy 3 and Titus 1 is to reveal the fact that extraordinary evidences of GodÃ¢ÂÂs activity actually Ã¢ÂÂprecedes any clear sense of callingÃ¢ÂÂ (74). The author also notes that, Ã¢ÂÂGodÃ¢ÂÂs work in a man demonstrates GodÃ¢ÂÂs call of a manÃ¢ÂÂ (74).
Reading Test, train, Affirm and send into ministry by Pastor Brian Croft and Am I Called? A Summons to Pastoral Ministry by Dr. Harvey has helped me to not only assess my life at present biblically for pastoral ministry but reminded me afresh of the weight of the task before me as I continue to prepare for my future ministry as a Pastor. Even as I contemplate my future ministry as a Pastor, my attention isnÃ¢ÂÂt on the task before me (which is weighty and deadly serious) but on continuing to grow in my walk with God as I continue to minister online and locally in Nampa from the overflow of my walk with God.
Am I Called? The Summons To Pastoral Ministry by Dr. Dave Harvey is a book that will help the man of God to clarify whether they are someday called to be Pastors. Whether your interested in planting a church or being a Pastor of one this book will help you. If your in college or seminary right now and sensing a call to ministry, read this book! If youÃ¢ÂÂve been a Pastor for a long time, read this book as it will encourage you and set before you your task to train the called men of God in your local church. Whether your wondering if you are called to preach or lead, or youÃ¢ÂÂre in a job you hate, or have no job at all, pull up a chair and learn from a grace-filled and Spirit-empowered man in Dave Harvey whom God has blessed with a great deal of experience, wisdom and insight into what it means to be a man of God. Regardless of the stage youÃ¢ÂÂre at in your Christian life or ministry, I recommend you read Am I Called? The Summons to Pastoral Ministry to learn what GodÃ¢ÂÂs Word has to say about your calling to ministry. As you read this book I encourage you to pray and ask your wife and those closest to you hard questions about your character and how you represent the Lord Jesus Christ to your wife, family, friends, and in your local church.
In my opinion, every Pastor should have every called man in their congregations read Am I Called and then discuss with them what they learned from it in order to help them assess areas of strength weakness in their lives. Am I Called is a very helpful and practical book that will help potential ministers, their wives, and those already in the ministry to understand their summons to pastoral ministry.
Title: Am I Called?: The Summons to Pastoral Ministry
Author: Dave Harvey
Publisher: Crossway (2012)
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the Crossway review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade CommissionÃ¢ÂÂs 16 CFR, Part 255 : Ã¢ÂÂGuides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.Ã¢ÂÂ
May 9, 2012
A helpful book for those who feel called
To blaze a trail is to spot or mark made a tree by painting or notching or by chipping away a piece of the bark to indicate a trail or boundary. A trail blazer, thus, is a person who marks a trail through a wilderness area for the benefit of others. This method of navigation is no Global Positioning System. Think more along the lines of Hansel and Gretel. In the writing of Am I Called? The Summons to Pastoral Ministry, author Dave Harvey has blazed a trail for those on the journey of determining if they have been called to pastoral ministry. Harvey begins by discussing the journey. He follows this by marking a trail to the desired destination. And as discussed, this is not a pinpoint precision process. Harvey uses Ã¢ÂÂblazesÃ¢ÂÂ to help travelers to find their way through the wilderness which is embodied in the question, Am I called? The signposts the author leaves for pilgrims to find a path are presented as questions: Are you Godly?; HowÃ¢ÂÂs your home?; Can you preach?; Can you shepherd?; Do you love the lost?; and Who agrees? Finally, Harvey finishes with some help for those who determine that indeed they are called but will be waiting a while before they see this summons come to fruition.
Harvey begins by describing the journey by connecting the call to ministry with oneÃ¢ÂÂs identity is Christ. The author states that the call to ministry always follows the call to Christ writing Ã¢ÂÂthe call for our salvation precedes and grounds all other callingsÃ¢ÂÂ (36). Therefore, we must occupy ourselves with the Caller and with the gospel. He follows this with a discussion of the context of this call; the local church. Ã¢ÂÂLetÃ¢ÂÂs face it. If youÃ¢ÂÂre called to pastoral ministry, youÃ¢ÂÂre being called to the local church.Ã¢ÂÂ (57)
Harvey has marked out the journey with markings in the form of questions. These questions are to aid with self-evaluation as well as prepare one for the evaluation of others. These questions are developed by the author from 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1.
1. Are you Godly? Ã¢ÂÂAmong all the biblical requirements for the called man, gospel-empowered character seems to be most prominent.Ã¢ÂÂ (81)
2. HowÃ¢ÂÂs your home? Ã¢ÂÂOne of the most striking things about the biblical qualifications for pastors is ScriptureÃ¢ÂÂs assumptions that the home reveals and validates the leader.Ã¢ÂÂ (92)
3. Can you preach? Ã¢ÂÂThe man divinely called is graced by God to lead through the amazing ministry of preaching.Ã¢ÂÂ (115)
4. Can you shepherd? Ã¢ÂÂThe shepherd is a guardian with boots on the ground, ready to be used by the Chief Shepherd to guide and protect his flock.Ã¢ÂÂ (135)
5. Do you love the lost? Ã¢ÂÂThe gospel is for everyone, which means the summons to be a pastor doesnÃ¢ÂÂt stop with the saved.Ã¢ÂÂ (150)
6. Who agrees? Ã¢ÂÂFind some way to get people close enough to you to be part of the adventure of external confirmation.Ã¢ÂÂ (178)
Harvey gives the prospective pastor-in-waiting several preparatory actions while waiting under the summons. He encourages those who confirm their calling to evaluate their desires, start serving, pursue a vocation, pursue counsel, study, mature, get oneÃ¢ÂÂs house in order, and patiently persevere.
This book, like HarveyÃ¢ÂÂs other titles, is full of self-effacing humour and enlightening anecdotes. It is interspersed with biographical insights into well-known pastors from the churchÃ¢ÂÂs history. It is easy to read and, as is hopefully clear from the above, it is very practical. I think this would be an excellent book for those considering the pastoral ministry or those who think some insight into this process would be beneficial. I was educated and edified in the reading of this book.
April 21, 2012