What follows is my reaction paper to the work “Am I called?” by Dave Harvey. He has a book on this subject, but this is a shorter, fifty eight page article. Please be kind, its the first one I have written like this ever. 🙂
“Am I called? Discerning the Summons to Ministry” by Dave Harvey explores the way in which men are called to lead churches. The central question of the article is, “how do I know if I am called?” The article is written to a wide spectrum of men who desire to be leaders of the church. From those who feel a strong call, to those who have never felt inclined to lead the church. I agree with the main thrust of the article that the call that comes from God is first to the gospel; it is the gospel that equips men to lead the church and that the church must recognize this call.
Even though I agree with the general thrust of the article, there were several areas where Harvey’s article challenged and matured my thinking on this subject. The first area was his stress on the one who calls. He quotes Os Guinness who writes, “First and foremost we are called to Someone (God), not to something (such as motherhood, politics, or teaching) or to somewhere (such as the inner city or Outer Mongolia).” (7) Since I have been at SEBTS one of the tendencies I have seen amongst students is that they hold to their call sometimes more dearly than the one who called him. Many preachers from the pulpit in chapel have urged me to hold on to my call in those difficult and dark times in the ministry. The exhortation from Harvey is important because it calls us to focus on someone, (Christ) rather than on something only concerning ourselves. Christ is the one who delivers us from the realm of darkness, he is our comforter, and he is the one who is sovereign.
Similar to this, Harvey warns his readers that the most important part of the Christian walk is not their call. He writes, “I am one with Christ, and no matter what happens with any specific sense of calling I may have, the most important and meaningful thing about me is the essential reality of my union with Christ.” (7) Unity with Christ is the most important aspect of a calling to ministry not the call.
Recently I had a missionary friend who felt called to missions. There was some question as to whether she would be able to return to the field due to medical issues. She said to me, “I will be mad at God if I cannot go back.” This type of thinking about someone’s call deeply saddens me. It seems that the call has become an idol in the place of God, and since it is a good thing we do not notice what we have done. Of course, the only way that I know this is because at one time I saw this error in my own sinful heart. Harvey’s exhortation that our unity in Christ is more important than our call is a good reminder that we, or perhaps our call, are not the central part of our lives—God is.
Finally, Harvey’s section on the church being the context from which God calls men out, dealt with the individualism of the modern day church which sees the call as personal endeavor. He writes, “In the individualistic culture of Western Christianity, in particular; the institution of the church is being replaced by the institution of the self-contained believer.” (9–10) The individual Christian feels the call (perhaps), but who is it that confirms the call? Images of the Robert Duvall in The Apostle flashed before my mind at this point. In that movie Duvall’s character baptizes himself and apoints himself as an apostle. While is a fictitious event, the fiction is far to close to the way that the call is treated in many churches today. It has been my experience that some men (or women) will hold to their call despite how the church may be guiding them.
God placed ministry within the church, and it is the church that must lovingly recognize whom is called to lead. Harvey states, “The church selects its leaders based upon evident grace, a grace present prior to a formal call to the ministry. So often, leadership identification or training begins with education, charisma, or need.” (12) Though these are not bad characteristics for someone to possess, they are not listed anywhere in scripture. The church, in its encouragement and selection of leaders should be looking for the requirements of leadership laid out in scripture. Harvey spends a good amount of space devoted to this aspect final part of his article.
Harvey’s article was a good reminder to focus on who has called me out of the world of darkness; to find my identity in Christ and not in my gifting, call, or vocation; and to allow the church to recognize and encourage those gifts in me when the time is right. I would recommend this to anyone, whether they were called to leadership within the church, missions, or even keeping the children on Sunday morning.