This review appeared in the Jan-Mar 2014 vol. 171 no. 1 issue of Biblotheca Sacra, DTS’s quarterly academic journal.Subscribe Today
Am I Called?Crossway, Wheaton, IL March 31, 2012
Dave Harvey, director of church planting with Sovereign Grace Ministries, gives practical advice to young men considering a calling to pastoral ministry. Harvey writes this book in a very conversational manner, as if sitting at a kitchen table with a young man (a high school student, college student, or young adult). This casual style at times is overused, but Harvey’s desire is to make this book accessible to his target audience of young men. Harvey has little to offer women wrestling with their callings to various ministry areas, but his target audience is not women.
The first part of the book deals with the theology of calling. Harvey focuses on the calling of all Christians to godly character and activity (mercy and love) before ever entertaining a calling to a church position. One’s call to salvation and to ministry “ultimately says little about us and a great deal about the Caller. . . . And before he calls us to ministry, he calls us to himself” (pp. 35–36). One’s identity should be grounded on the gospel and not on one’s employment. Based on this identity, ministry is then able to flow out of one’s weakness (and even fears) rather than abilities and performance. This is a good reminder for all who are in ministry.
The remainder of the book is a series of six questions based on 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1, with a chapter devoted to each issue: (1) Are you godly? (character qualities of godliness, maturity, and servanthood). (2) How’s your home? (leadership at home with one’s wife and kids). (3) Can you preach? (giftedness in communicating the gospel). (4) Can you shepherd? (a heart for pastoral care). (5) Do you love the lost? (passion for evangelism). And (6) Who agrees? (external confirmation of one’s call by the local church).
The best part of the book is the last chapter titled “While You Wait.” If a person is truly sensing a move toward vocational ministry but is not able to act fully on that calling, what is he to do as he waits? How does a person prepare his soul, his life, and his mind for “the joys and rigors of ministry” to come? Harvey offers practical suggestions on things that a young man can do now in his local church (and in educational training) while in preparation. This chapter has excellent advice.
As an introduction to each chapter in the book, Harvey has a short historical profile of a figure in church history who illustrates the diversity of “summons stories” in the lives of pastors. These include Thomas Scott, Charles Simeon, Lemuel Haynes, Martin Luther, David Martin Lloyd-Jones, James Montgomery Boice, Charles Spurgeon, John Bunyan, and John Newton. These brief two-to-three-page profiles add a nice touch to the book’s theme.
However, even though Harvey has a strong focus on church-based pastoral ministries for young men, some may become disheartened in their searching process. Harvey even recognizes this himself, stating, “I’ve been sobered to realize that this book will undoubtedly, to some extent, be an instrument of sorrow in some men’s lives” (p. 195). Harvey’s love and passion for the local church and for the sacredness of pastoral ministry is evident throughout. Some may feel he has unintentionally devalued all ministries other than the pastorate. What about young men whose calling is not to the pulpit ministry but to other forms of ministry in a local church (e.g., associate pastor, music minister, student minister)? What about young men whose calling is to a parachurch ministry (e.g., teaching in Christian schools, evangelism outreach, homeless ministry)? And what about the new generation of “missionally focused” young adults who see their calling as being outside the four walls of a traditional church? One could wish Harvey had explicitly expressed the value of all ministries done in the name of Christ.
—George M. Hillman Jr.