Seeking to become a pastor or minister is confusing. Every group has a different way of vetting those who believe they’ve been called to serve others. Different denominations have different requirements and each church offers a variety of methods. Depending on the type of church you belong the process can be easy or difficult. But, what does the Bible say about a ministerial call? Author Dave Harvey offers some principles he bases on scripture in his book Am I Called? to help men of all ages decide if they are called to pastor.
Written from a reformed perspective, Harvey discusses various elements to determine if one is called to pastor. He believes ministry is a calling and not just another career someone pursues. This is important because with the calling comes certain gifts needed to effectively carry out the duties of a pastor. Some of these gifts are an ability to preach, being able to shepherd and love people, loving the lost, having godly character both personally and with one’s family, and more. Each of these are skills are needed for the Gospel ministry, and they serve as a personal affirmation along with the external confirmations others give for one’s call. The uses of these validations are important because one should know God has called for His purposes and not for their own benefit.
Sadly, within some Christian circles and laity, the ministry can become more about the people involved than proclaiming the glory of God. When this happens a minister turns into a career professional, which is opposite from the idea of a sacred servant. As a result, Harvey is wise to use the Bible as the standard to interpret one’s ministerial qualifications. This is because God called ministers should point others to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and not themselves.
Harvey is right to biblically define pastoral ministry by using the qualifications in 1 Timothy 2 and Titus 1. In fact, he writes, “Too often, when a man’s character hasn’t stood the test, he remains in ministry by simply rewriting the test.” In other words, there must be an objective standard. If one is called to Christian ministry then it would reason their qualifications would agree with scripture. Therefore, a man’s personal life, his family, how he speaks, and more should be examined because the higher his character is the better one will listen to him about the Gospel.
The next strength of Am I Called? is where Harvey takes time to define the Gospel. He defines it as,
“The gospel—the good news of Jesus Christ—is the instrument by which God issues his effective call to us and brings us into new life and union with Christ by grace (Eph. 2:5). It’s a call out of something: the bondage and blindness of sin. And it’s a call into something: renewed fellowship with the God who created us.”
Simply the Gospel is, God graciously calling people from sinful death to life through faith in Jesus Christ. Notice who is doing the work; it’s God who calls and not anyone else. This is true of salvation and it’s true for one called into Gospel ministry. Then by understanding the Gospel correctly one can better discern if God is calling them to pastor, and when they understand the Gospel they will pastor well. As a result, Harvey offers his best advice here by connecting the Gospel to pastoral ministry.
There are many more exceptional benefits one can learn from Am I Called? However, it’s important to list two objections to Harvey’s viewpoint.
First, Harvey limits his view of a call to roles directly connected with being a pastor. This is because he strongly believes in the connection between a love for the local church and a pastoral position. The problem with his approach is; how does this relate to other vocational ministry positions? Positions such as a Chaplain, Youth Minister, a Christian Counselor, and others are left without a means to discern their calls. His oversight is unnecessary because these positions also support the local church, which he greatly values.
Second, how do women discern their call into ministry? Sure, some will support the role of a pastor for only men and that’s a debate for another place. But, Harvey centers this entire book on men and pastoral ministry, but there are other places of ministry besides pastoring. These are places where even the most conservative Christians would allow women to serve. So again, Harvey could have included a chapter for one to discern other ministerial positions.
Despite this drawback there is a simple solution. All one must do is use Harvey’s principles for the call to pastor and apply them to other areas of Christian vocation. There will be components that do not completely match with other areas of ministry, but the concepts of the Gospel, character, affirmation, and others can be applied to other areas of ministry.
Having read this book twice and considered the areas of disagreement, Am I Called? by Dave Harvey is highly recommended to anyone considering entering the ministry. It’s a book that is written with intentional grace to aid anyone who is trying to decide if God has called them to ministry, especially pastoral ministry. Also, for anyone already in ministry the last chapter is a great tool to use should one ever need to reconsider or reaffirm their call to ministry. Even the parts one disagrees with are of value because those chapters will challenge the reader to test their life and call in response to those areas. Therefore, read and study Am I Called? because unlike God’s call to ministry, a book’s value is what you make of it.
(I received this book through the Crossway Review program “Beyond the Page” in exchange for an honest review of the book.)