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Called to the Ministry [Paperback]

Edmund P. Clowney
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 96 pages
  • Publisher: Presbyterian and Reformed; First edition (1 Oct 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0875521444
  • ISBN-13: 978-0875521442
  • Product Dimensions: 18.7 x 13.1 x 0.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,052,501 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Description: "We are told that the Lord calls us by name; every Christian has his or her own calling, a calling as a child of God and a servant of God. Our calling by name gives us our identity and our task". Pp 89, discreet owners inkstamp to verso front cover. Pbk, sunning to spine. G+.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Second section superb 29 Jun 2011
I found that the first half of the book was heavy going. The second half, where he actually starts addressing the call to the ministry is solid gold.
By the way, it is published by P&R not EP.

A great companion book to this is 'Leaving a career to follow a call' by Michael Milton (published by Wipf and Stock). Up to date and an easy read.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
This is without question the best book other than the Bible that I have read on the subject of the call to the ministry. It is biblically based and well written. This book is required reading for all ministers in the Enlightened Word Ministries,Inc. of which I am founder and president. However, I have three concerns that I feel need to be considered prior to and during the reading of this outstanding book.
First, it is unfortunate that the author believes that "...men called to preach the Word with authority" "...do not share with the apostles in the inspiration that first delivered Christ's Gospel...." (p. 45). Without question, the anointing provides the same inspiration operating through the Holy Spirit (burden lifting, yoke removing, yoke destroying power of God) today that it did two thousand years ago (cf. Isaiah 10:27; Romans 1:16).
Second, it is disappointing to see that the author misinterpreted Paul's statement in Acts 20:22 and views ministers as "slaves to Jesus Christ" (p. 62). Paul used the Greek word "dedemai" meaning to be impelled in mind or compelled to do something. Paul was compelled by his spirit and moved by compassion to minister to the saints in Jerusalem. In fact, he was prepared to give his life for this opportunity (cf. Acts 20:24). Although not referenced by the author, caution must be exercised in attempting to apply scriptures such as Ephesians 6:5-6 to the saints of God. For example, in these verses, Paul was attempting to encourage the servants of members within the church at Ephesus to obey and serve their masters as if they were actually "...servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart..." (Ephesians 6:5,6).
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Amazon.com: 4.3 out of 5 stars  9 reviews
21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A vital book 1 July 2000
By Brian Douglas - Published on Amazon.com
This book is essential for anyone who is even considering entering the ministry. Clowney asserts that the call of God is both distinctive and clear, dispelling the idea so common today that a calling is some emotional feeling: that a person might be called into some unknown service of the Lord, but one cannot be sure. Clowney devalues such an argument. He also describes the calling to the ministry as personal - we bear God's name and He calls us by our own in love - and as an occupation of service. Clowney approaches the whole subject by an entirely different route than most writers in today's church do. He does not write from sentiment or idealism, but rather portrays things as they are, as they are described in the scriptures. This is a book that everyone who is currently in the ministry or is considering entering it should read. The person who does will be given an enlightenment and direction that few other books today offer.
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Valuable 13 Mar 2009
By Nathan P Shorb - Published on Amazon.com
Too many Christians are asserting that God's calling is an emotional experience or a really strong hunch, a subjective claim that can't be refuted by a fellow Christian. Furthermore, many young people feel the need to figure out exactly what God wants them to do before they act, and they drive themselves into a paralyzed depression in the process. A calling is neither of these.

Clowney takes the mystery out of the idea. What you're gifted in, you're called for, and what you're called for, you're gifted in. Start serving and fellowshipping where you are, and seize the opportunities that come. I greatly appreciated his straight-forward and Biblical approach to the idea of a calling.

I am a 25 year-old who has been considering a call to full-time ministry in recent years. I've been fed a lot of crap about what a "calling" is and how one senses it, none of which has been helpful, but has rather served to confuse and complicate matters. This book is the most helpful, valuable, and sensible piece of guidance I've been given.

It is not an easy read to say the least. Clowney's style is convoluted at times and tough to get through. I ended up reading each chapter twice in a row in order to comprehend and retain everything he was saying.

But the truths he conveys are worth the work, and it's a worthwhile and necessary endeavor before devoting your life to something as crazy as full time ministry.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Useful Primer 10 Nov 2005
By Jacob - Published on Amazon.com
In attempting to find divine revelation to bolster support for the greatest vocation in the world, clear guidance from other sources is greatly appreciated. Dr. Clowney has done the church another great service in Called to Ministry. A true, Christian calling must come from God himself. On one hand the Lord calls every Christian and on a more narrow level he calls ministers to the gospel. A Christian should never seek the ministry--he should not presume God's call to ministry--if he has not been called by God as a Christian. Clowney notes, "Don't seek the ministry to save your soul...A man cannot earn his salvation by preaching that salvation cannot be earned" (5; a parenthetical citations are from the book). Furthermore, all Christians are to be servants of God in the broadest sense. As a Christian exercises his gifts in the context of the Church, he will--if he is called to ministry--have those gifts confirmed by the corporate body of Christ.

We are called by name by God. Speaking of old testament priests and drawing upon Numbers 6:27 ("So shall they put my name upon them; and I will bless them.") Clowney asks the reader if he indeed has God name upon him (4). At its most basic level Clowney applies this to the ministry of the New Covenant where God writes his name on our hearts. Aside from a few quasi-sentimental Our names, so argues Clowney, have meaning on the heavenly level. We are known by our God-given names. We live in terms of those names. We are known to others by those names.

Not only are we called by name, we are called by name to God's service. God does not give his people a detailed outline of his future dealings with them, but he does give them guidelines, which is all they need to know. Deuteronomy 29:29 states "The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law." Rather than giving us the future explained, God has arranged his ministers to perform like those in an orchestra. Having been given their instructions, they are to implement his work.

The goal of this implementation--this obedience--is the salvation of souls within the Kingdom of God. While we are called from darkness and set as lights in the darkness (20), our light should progressively shine as to drive away the darkness, just as Christ's light shone (John 1:5). A kingdom-oriented approach provides the necessary balance to work towards the redemption of all creation while at the same time avoiding entanglements in "culture wars."

Overall this book served its primary purpose--priming future pastors for ministry. It is not a stand alone book. It must be supplemented with other, more substantial works. It is short and can be read in one sitting. I found mine for about $2. I don't recommend paying above five dollars for it.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Balanced and Biblical - Most Helpful Book I've Found On This 27 Dec 2003
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
I've read a number of books on this subject in an attempt to discern my own calling. This is the most balanced and biblical I've found yet. It must be read slowly and contemplatively to glean the fruit from it, but it's a short read (~90 pages) so this is no problem time-wise. I highly recommend this book as the single best book I've found in helping anyone concerned about the possibility of a calling on their life.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A provocative and Christ-exalting examination of the call to ministry 12 July 2012
By Aaron Armstrong - Published on Amazon.com
I've heard there's an unwritten rule that at one time or another, nearly every Christian man asks the question, "Am I called to the ministry?" Some guys see what their pastors do on Sundays and think it looks easy (pastors reading this, you can laugh now), but others just feel this compulsion to preach the Word of God and see people grow in their faith.

But whether we're asking legitimately or not, we should seek out the answer--what does it mean to be called to the ministry, and how do I know if I am? One of the best resources I've found for this question is Edmund Clowney's Called to the Ministry. In 90 pages, Clowney examines the call--but not simply the call to ministry, but the call from which it precedes.

Clowney argues that before we start asking questions about a call to ministry, we must first understand our fundamental calling as Christians. Whether or not there's a desire for a particular expression of Christian ministry, we have to recognize that it's not separate from our identity in Christ.

"There is no call to the ministry that is not first a call to Christ," he writes. "You dare not lift your hands to place God's name in blessing on his people until you have first clasped them in penitent petition for his saving grace. Until you have done that the issue you face is not really your call to the ministry. It is your call to Christ" (p. 5).

While it might seem obvious that someone desiring to be a pastor ought to be a Christian, it's certainly not always the case. One only has to look at the example of Simon the Magician in Acts 8:9-25, who is said to have believed and been baptized, but when he sees the Holy Spirit given by the laying on of hands, he offered money for the ability to do the same.

Additionally, Clowney reminds us our personal calling as Christians is one of service in the likeness of Christ. This does not mean, obviously, that we suffer to bear the sins of others--something that is impossible for anyone but Christ--but "we must suffer for the sake of others, for all those who will form the church of Christ, his body" (p. 17). It means using the gifts and opportunities that God has given you in his service, even when it costs you.

Perhaps most pointedly, Clowney writes, "The man who hesitates between a money-making career and the ministry is not merely in doubt about his calling to the pastorate, he is questioning his commitment to Christ" (p. 20). This is not an attempt to set up pastoral ministry as being of more value than any other calling, but a recognition that it is a serious calling. It is deeply challenging and taxing. A man who can see himself doing anything else should go and do that thing.

But if you do have an inkling of a calling, if you have evidence of the gifts required, then you have an obligation to steward and use those gifts well. "You dare not ignore your gifts, neglect them, or wrap them in a napkin to be presented unused to Christ on his return (Luke 19:20)" (p. 30). Take advantage of the opportunities for service that are in front of you, whether lofty or seemingly inconsequential.

The first half of the book was extraordinarily helpful for me as a man who has wrested with the question of calling for years now. While I've got a good sense internally of where I'm at, one of the things I've struggled on occasion is finding the "right" opportunities. But when I really pay attention, I can see plenty that just "happen," whether planned or spontaneous. It's been important for me to persevere in these, whether doing the teaching for a day in the children's ministry, digging into a particular topic with our members of our small group (either in the large group or one-on-one), or having a discussion with my wife or colleagues at work. How I use these opportunities is what matters, not so much where they're coming from. I simply need to be faithful and use my gifts well. God's got the rest sorted.

The second half of the book delves more deeply into the distinctive and clear calling of God into the ministry. Here, Clowney again keeps the vital connection between our primary calling and this particular aspect clear. Pastors are not men placed in the church to be served--they are called to serve. "The minister is not a prince, note even a master (Matt. 23:8-12). He is a servant. . . . The stairway to the ministry is not a grand staircase but a back stairwell that leads down to the servants quarters" (pp. 41, 43). Thus, any authority a pastor has is borrowed from Christ and is tied entirely to the Word he preaches. He is a steward of Christ's authority, not supplanting Christ, but sharing what Christ has clearly made known with wisdom and love for Christ's people.

So how do you know if you're called? First, you need to have a clear sense personally--you need to know that you know that you know that something's there. This takes discernment, wisdom and patience. It requires "sober thought, prayerful gauging of the gifts we have received, [which] enables us to perceive the scope and kind of ministry that is set before us" (pp. 83-84). It also requires a zeal to redeem the "daily opportunities" the Lord presents us with to prove our gifts to his glory.

Secondly, you need the affirmation of the Church--the external call. We need the confirmation of the larger body, not to receive our calling from them, but to be called through them. Men wrestling with the call need to be upfront with their elders and ask them to watch, test and affirm whether or not the gifts and qualifications are truly present. Simply, because pastoral ministry involves the body of Christ, the body must, to varying degrees, be a part of affirming the call.

Reading Clowney's provocative and Christ-exalting examination of the call to ministry, it's clear that he understands (or rather understood) the gravity of the pastorate. There is no levity about the duties of a pastor. He doesn't paint it as glamorous. But he's immoveable on the necessity and importance of pastoral ministry. The result is one of the helpful books I've read on the subject.

If you're a man wrestling with the call, you're going to want to read Called to the Ministry (and if you're married, have your wife read it, too). If you're a pastor, you're going to want to give this book to any men in your church who might be wrestling with the call. I was both blessed by the affirmations I felt and challenged as I worked through a number of my own assumptions that had seeped their way into my thinking about the call to ministry. I trust you will be as well.
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