The language of being “called to ministry” often brings with it the need for clarifying questions. What does it mean to be called? Who calls you? How do you know you are called? Does anyone have veto power over this call?
As I pastor I’m grateful for this new resource from Jason Allen, Discerning Your Call to Ministry. The goal of this book is to provide a biblical diagnostic for those discerning a call to ministry. The book will doubtless be a valuable tool not only for prospective and current pastors, but also for whole congregations who desire to affirm those who appear to be gifted and called to pastoral ministry.
The diagnostic comes in the form of ten questions. These questions are the book’s chapters. By prayerfully considering the questions and the chapters they represent, readers will be greatly aided to discern the call to ministry. The chapters / questions are:
Do you desire the ministry?
Does your character meet God’s expectations?
Is your household in order?
Has God gifted you to teach and preach his Word?
Does your church affirm your calling?
Do you love the people of God?
Are you passionate about the gospel and the Great Commission?
Are you engaged in fruitful ministry?
Are you ready to defend the faith?
Are you willing to surrender?
I appreciated Allen’s emphasis on the local church’s involvement in the affirmation of the minister’s calling. After all, the church loves the gospel, the church, and the aspiring pastor.
“. . . more people than your mother ought to benefit from your preaching and perceive your calling.” (71)
“Without the church’s affirmation, you are a rogue preacher, an unaccredited minister. The relationship between the would-be minister ad the church is essential.” (82)
Another aspect of this book that encouraged me was the reference to so many faithful pastors throughout church history. One of the marks of young men seeking ministry is a lack of experience. By reading this book would-be pastors will become acquainted with many experienced and godly men. If they have not already met, Allen will introduce them to Richard Baxter, Charles Spurgeon, Charles Bridges, D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, John MacArthur, and others. To begin reading what these men have accomplished in ministries that were, in most cases, longer than the reader has been alive, will provide some necessary ballast.
One other note. Early on Allen distinguishes between being called to minister, called to ministry, and being called to the ministry. Every Christian is called to serve in the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12-14; Rom. 12; Eph. 4). The church is strengthened as believers serve one another. In this sense we are all called to minister. Some are also called to ministry. Here Allen talks about those who may serve as in a Christian ministry but not specifically as a minister of the Word. Finally, he talks about those who are called to the ministry. In this sense he is referring to those who labor in the Word and doctrine—pastors, elders, shepherds (1 Tim. 3:1-7; Titus 1:6-9; etc).
I liked this book. It encouraged me as a pastor. I can definitely relate to the subjectivity that so often dominates this discussion. I was paralyzed by attempts to discern my calling. I would’ve welcomed and gobbled up a resource like this 15 years ago. I will certainly pass this on to church members and residents at Emmaus. I’m grateful for Allen’s work not only in this book but also in his leadership of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City to help train men for faithful gospel ministry.