Book Reviews

Am I Called?

Dave Harvey Wheaton, IL 2012-03-31

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. 

Book reviews are published online and in print every quarter in Bibliotheca Sacra. Subcribe Today

George M. Hillman
Dr. Hillman has a passion for education, spiritual formation, and leadership development. He came to Dallas Theological Seminary with years of ministry experience in churches and parachurch organizations in Texas and Georgia. Nationally known in theological field education, he has been active in leadership of both the Association of Theological Field Education (former member of the Steering Committee) and the Evangelical Association of Theological Field Educators (former two-time co-chair). He and his wife have one daughter. Dr. Hillman received his BS from Texas A&M University, followed by an MDiv and PhD from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Sep 20, 2017
Rodney H. OrrRodney H. Orr
A Wind in the House of Islam: How God Is Drawing Muslims around the World to Faith in Jesus Christ In this day, every pastor and Christian worker should have knowledge of the religion of Islam. This will help them minister to people from this background, including...
Sep 20, 2017
Glenn R. KreiderGlenn R. Kreider
American Exceptionalism and Civil Religion: Reassessing the History of an Idea Wilsey is assistant professor of history and Christian apologetics at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. In addition to teaching graduate students at the J. Dalton Havard...