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5 Stars Out Of 5
One of the finest books on pastoral ministry
May 9, 2012
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 church's 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 didn't want to read this book, because it seemed like it would be like so many other books I've 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 Croft's book is concerned with the practical outworking of a man's 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 wasn't reading a book, but having a conversation with the author over coffee. While I've 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 Harvey's 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 "reserved only for men" (18). Dr. Harvey teaches that "your question of calling isn't merely subsequent to the call to Christ' its' essential tied to it. In fact, it's only because our primary call is secured through the gospel by the cross that we can rejoice in exploring a ministry call" (39). Rather than focusing on just the individual's salvation experience the author emphasizes the context of the man's call and the importance of it being affirmed by godly Pastors and elders in the context of the local church. He notes that "identifying called men is the responsibility of the local church" (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. It's 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 Paul's epistles. He explains that the lists in 1st Timothy 3 and Titus 1 are "actual commands of all believers in some fashion" (73). Dr. Harvey notes "The man called to ministry is not some kind of super-Christian who lives by a higher code. No, he's just a called man with gifts that enable him to lead God's people and with a grace that empowers him to be an example" (73). As one who often reads 1st Timothy 3 and Titus 1 I found the following quote very helpful, "God's call upon a man delivers the grace necessary for the godliness needed" (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 God's activity actually "precedes any clear sense of calling" (74). The author also notes that, "God's work in a man demonstrates God's call of a man" (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 isn't 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 you've 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 you're 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 you're at in your Christian life or ministry, I recommend you read Am I Called? The Summons to Pastoral Ministry to learn what God's 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 Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255 : "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."
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 â€˜blazes' 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?; How's 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 one's identity is Christ. The author states that the call to ministry always follows the call to Christ writing "the call for our salvation precedes and grounds all other callings" (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. "Let's face it. If you're called to pastoral ministry, you're being called to the local church." (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? "Among all the biblical requirements for the called man, gospel-empowered character seems to be most prominent." (81)
2. How's your home? "One of the most striking things about the biblical qualifications for pastors is Scripture's assumptions that the home reveals and validates the leader." (92)
3. Can you preach? "The man divinely called is graced by God to lead through the amazing ministry of preaching." (115)
4. Can you shepherd? "The shepherd is a guardian with boots on the ground, ready to be used by the Chief Shepherd to guide and protect his flock." (135)
5. Do you love the lost? "The gospel is for everyone, which means the summons to be a pastor doesn't stop with the saved." (150)
6. Who agrees? "Find some way to get people close enough to you to be part of the adventure of external confirmation." (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 one's house in order, and patiently persevere.
This book, like Harvey's other titles, is full of self-effacing humour and enlightening anecdotes. It is interspersed with biographical insights into well-known pastors from the church's 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.