Discerning Your Call To Ministry: How To Know For Sure And What To Do About It, by Jason Allen
[Note: This book was provided free of charge by Moody Publishing. All thoughts and opinions are my own.]
As someone who is active in serving and speaking in my local congregation, I am often interested in what other people have to say about the ministry in other religious traditions . In this particular book, I found an example of a discussion about the ministry that was similar to the views of my own religious background and also significantly colored by the perspective of the author as a president of a notable religious seminary. Although the author’s boosterism about his seminary and the value of a seminary education in general made me smile indulgently, this book had a great deal of value to say about the distinction between ministry in various forms and the soul-searching process that goes on when someone feels as if they have something to give with regards to the ministry within their own religious tradition that honors both individual inclination as well as the importance of congregational and institutional encouragement of those inclinations. As such, this is a book that provides valuable assistance in the reflection process that people go through when looking at their place within the body of Christ.
This short book of about 150 quarto-sized pages is organized in a series of ten questions. The author begins by introducing his own journey as a minister and then asks a foundational question of what it means to be called to ministry, discussing the common responsibility of Christians to serve each other, the fact that some people (the author includes women among this) have gifts and opportunities to preach and teach, and that others (and here the author limits it to men) serve in the ministry for their livelihood. After this discussion to set the groundwork of the author’s perspective, there is a discussion of ten questions: Do you desire the ministry? Does your character meet God’s expectations? Is your household in order? Has God gifted you to preach and teach 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? After these questions the author asks: So are you called? If the answer to the previous ten questions is yes, the answer is presumably a yes here. At this point the author encourages the reader to spend several years at a seminary developing a knowledge in the Bible as well as biblical languages and then closes with the customary notes and acknowledgements.
Most of the questions the author asks are strongly biblical–the author references the pastoral epistles at length and depth and takes a generally sound look at the biblical demands on those who are called into the ministry, although some of the discussions are clearly cultural in terms of the particular tradition the author comes from. The author shows awareness of variation between different religious backgrounds when it comes to the ministry and argues that an educated laity demands a learned ministry, an argument which I have no particular disagreement with. This book, or others like it, are likely to be important elements in the soul searching of someone who desires to be an aid to the Kingdom of God in serving God’s people in love and who is willing to ask themselves and answer some painful and personal questions about their own readiness for the task as well as the need for affirmation from the larger body and institutions which they serve. This is certainly a worthwhile book to look at and despite the author’s biased view in favor of seminaries, even those who are less sanguine about such institutions will find a great deal of worth here in terms of personal reflection about the question of spiritual vocation.
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