The call to pastoral ministry is a unique calling, and one that is difficult to discern on your own. If you’re sensing such a call, you should first talk to your pastor. He can help you make sense of what God is doing in your life and to explain what a call to ministry entails.
In addition to your pastor, many resources exist to assist in this process as well. If you or someone you know is sensing God’s call to pastoral ministry, here are 5 books that you should add to your reading list.
Is God Calling Me? By Jeff Iorg
Dr. Iorg is the President of Gateway Seminary, located in Los Angeles, California. In this small but powerful book, Dr. Iorg explains the concept of calling in extremely helpful ways. He begins by defining the term, followed by a discussion of the different types of call experiences – a discussion that is well worth the price of the book! Dr. Iorg describes the differences between (1) a universal call to Christian service for all believers, (2) a general call of some believers to ministry leadership, and (3) a specific call to a unique ministry assignment or particular ministry position.
Another helpful distinction is made in Chapter 3 in which Dr. Iorg describes three different ways God calls. For some, God calls them through sudden experiences. For others, He calls through extended contemplation and reasoned decisions. Still for others, He calls them through the prompting and encouragement of others.
Dr. Iorg goes on to describe the type of person God calls and provides practical advice for how to discern God’s call. If you are someone who is considering a call to ministry, Dr. Iorg’s book definitely needs to be on your short list.
The Call to Ministry By SBTS Press
Written by several faculty members of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary located in Louisville, Kentucky, this book is unique among the recommendations in this post as it functions as a practical workbook. As you walk through the different aspects of a ministry calling, you’ll find dozens of reflection questions and abundant space to record your thoughts. In many ways, The Call to Ministry is a guided journal experience to clarify your calling. Upon completion of the workbook, you should have much more clarity about God’s calling on your life.
The workbook describes the difference between the internal and external call, and the necessity of both. You’ll learn what ministry is, and what ministry isn’t, and you’ll take time to evaluate your expectations and motivations for ministry. You’ll also spend time examining your biblical qualifications and spiritual gifts to discover if they align with those of a pastor, church planter, or missionary.
I have used this resource in my association’s Call to Ministry workshop, and I have also given a copy to several men who are contemplating their calling. I would highly recommend it to you as well. You can purchase a print copy or download a free digital copy here.
Discerning Your Call to Ministry By Jason Allen
Dr. Jason Allen serves as the President of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Missouri. (Are you noticing the seminary trend here?) In Discerning Your Call to Ministry, Dr. Allen walks through ten questions to discern if God is in fact calling you to ministry leadership. Like The Call to Ministry workbook, he covers topics such as motivations for ministry, biblical qualifications, and the external affirmation of the church.
However, he also addresses topics not covered in as much detail in some of the other recommended resources. For example, he asks questions such as: Is your household in order? Are you passionate about the gospel and the Great Commission? Do you love the people of God? Are you ready to defend the faith?
Dr. Allen concludes the book with a recommended plan of action for those who are called to ministry and a word of encouragement for those who are not confident in their call. It’s a useful resource, and I would recommend it to anyone who seeks clarity in their calling.
Am I Called? By Dave Harvey
Dave Harvey’s book is similar to the other books in this list in that he provides practical advice for discerning a call to ministry. Like Dr. Allen’s book, Harvey also provides a set of diagnostic questions to provide clarity in the call. (His list is shorter, with only 6 questions to consider, but the book is roughly the same length.)
The book is unique in that Harvey spends a considerable amount of time describing the call as a “summons to the Savior”. He provides a needed reminder that the Gospel supplies the identify of the pastor, not his role in the church. Before God calls us to ministry, He calls us to Himself. Harvey’s book is also worth reading as he describes the need for affirmation from the church, and why it is important.
One of the most notable sections of Harvey’s book is the final section on waiting. Too often, aspiring future pastors want to rush the process and jump headfirst into a pastoral role before they are ready. Harvey does a great job describing the necessity of preparation and patience. Like Allen, he also provides a helpful word to those who discover they are not called to pastoral ministry.
Dangerous Calling By Paul David Tripp
This final recommendation stands in stark contrast to the other books on this list. This book is not designed as a guide to help men discern their calling to ministry. Tripp does not describe the differences between the internal and external calling. He does not provide a set of diagnostic questions. He does not walk through the biblical qualifications of a pastor.
Then, why is it on this list? Because this book describes some alarming problems within pastoral culture with clarity and precision. For anyone contemplating a call to ministry, Tripp describes the temptations that you will undoubtedly face if you proceed in pastoral ministry, and he offers biblical solutions for overcoming those temptations. If you are seriously sensing a call to pastoral ministry, you need to read this book.
However, the most ironic characteristic of this book has nothing to do with the book itself, but with the endorsements on the back cover of the first edition. There you will find more than one pastor who has since resigned from their ministries due to questionable behavior. In fact, one has even denied the Christian faith altogether. A sober reminder that pastoral ministry is indeed a dangerous calling.
If you’re sensing a call to ministry, I hope you will check out one or more of these books. Just as your pastor will be a tremendous help, these resources will also help you clarify your calling. If you know someone who is contemplating this call, feel free to pass along these recommendations to them as well.
If you’re a pastor, what books and resources helped you clarify your calling? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts!