To blaze a trail is to spot or mark made a tree by painting or notching or by chipping away a piece of the bark to indicate a trail or boundary. A trail blazer, thus, is a person who marks a trail through a wilderness area for the benefit of others. This method of navigation is no Global Positioning System. Think more along the lines of Hansel and Gretel. In the writing of Am I Called? The Summons to Pastoral Ministry, author Dave Harvey has blazed a trail for those on the journey of determining if they have been called to pastoral ministry. Harvey begins by discussing the journey. He follows this by marking a trail to the desired destination. And as discussed, this is not a pinpoint precision process. Harvey uses ‘blazes’ to help travelers to find their way through the wilderness which is embodied in the question, Am I called? The signposts the author leaves for pilgrims to find a path are presented as questions: Are you Godly?; How’s your home?; Can you preach?; Can you shepherd?; Do you love the lost?; and Who agrees? Finally, Harvey finishes with some help for those who determine that indeed they are called but will be waiting a while before they see this summons come to fruition.
Harvey begins by describing the journey by connecting the call to ministry with one’s identity is Christ. The author states that the call to ministry always follows the call to Christ writing “the call for our salvation precedes and grounds all other callings” (36). Therefore, we must occupy ourselves with the Caller and with the gospel. He follows this with a discussion of the context of this call; the local church. “Let’s face it. If you’re called to pastoral ministry, you’re being called to the local church.” (57)
Harvey has marked out the journey with markings in the form of questions. These questions are to aid with self-evaluation as well as prepare one for the evaluation of others. These questions are developed by the author from 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1.
- Are you Godly? “Among all the biblical requirements for the called man, gospel-empowered character seems to be most prominent.” (81)
- How’s your home? “One of the most striking things about the biblical qualifications for pastors is Scripture’s assumptions that the home reveals and validates the leader.” (92)
- Can you preach? “The man divinely called is graced by God to lead through the amazing ministry of preaching.” (115)
- Can you shepherd? “The shepherd is a guardian with boots on the ground, ready to be used by the Chief Shepherd to guide and protect his flock.” (135)
- Do you love the lost? “The gospel is for everyone, which means the summons to be a pastor doesn’t stop with the saved.” (150)
- Who agrees? “Find some way to get people close enough to you to be part of the adventure of external confirmation.” (178)
Harvey gives the prospective pastor-in-waiting several preparatory actions while waiting under the summons. He encourages those who confirm their calling to evaluate their desires, start serving, pursue a vocation, pursue counsel, study, mature, get one’s house in order, and patiently persevere.
This book, like Harvey’s other titles, is full of self-effacing humour and enlightening anecdotes. It is interspersed with biographical insights into well-known pastors from the church’s history. It is easy to read and, as is hopefully clear from the above, it is very practical. I think this would be an excellent book for those considering the pastoral ministry or those who think some insight into this process would be beneficial. I was educated and edified in the reading of this book.