Brian Croft, Senior Pastor of Auburndale Baptist church in Louisville, Kentucky, has produced a much needed resource in the area of the call to the ministry (as a pastor or missionary). This concise work comes equipped with a forward by Albert Mohler, Jr. himself, who, when speaks, deserves our attention. In his introduction, Brian Croft draws our attention to two aspects of the call to the ministry; one of them we are quite familiar with, while the other is often neglected in our day. The internal call is that call an individual senses within himself, as a God-given desire to work in the ministry, and believes he has been gifted for such a purpose. The external call, the one neglected or misunderstood, is that call which involves the local church examining the ministry-aspirant. It is this call that Croft seeks to give clarity and biblical instruction in, and I believe he has done us all a huge favor in this Bible-centered book, full of practical insight from his own ministry. The chapters follow:
1 Prologue: To What is the Pastor Called?
2 Who is Responsible for the External Call?
3 Who Should Receive the External Call?
4 Who Gives the External Call?
5 How Should We Proceed with the External Call?
6 What is at Stake with the External Call?
Appendix 1 Pastoral Internship Template
Appendix 2 Service Review Evaluation
Appendix 3 The External Call (Acts 13:1-3)
I'm tempted to spend a brief amount of time in each chapter giving a summary of Croft's main points, but at the same time I don't want to give too much away. Allow me, therefore, to briefly summarize the whole book. Croft is obviously speaking from experience, as evidenced from the rich examples within his own ministry and the edifying insights of the parties, processes, and implications of the external call. Croft does a great job showing how the entire church body is involved in this testing, training, affirming and sending external call. While the pastors/elders of the church are the main authorities in the matter, the entire body has a responsibility-indeed a duty-to examine, encourage, and judge whether or not this aspirant minister is indeed called of God to enter this honorable and serious office. God has not given this responsibility to the colleges, seminaries, and para-church organizations-as helpful as they may be-but He has ordained this ministerial exercise to take place in the context of the local church.
The pastoral office (and the missionary alike) consists of numerous duties and privileges, of which his primary duties are to preach the word (2 Tim. 4:2) and shepherd the flock of Christ, all the while being a humble example to the flock (1 Pet. 5:1-4). Certain gifts and characteristics (1 Tim. 3:1-7; Tit. 1:5-9) will accompany the man that God has called to this office. The local church (pastors/elders and congregation) have a God-given responsibility to confirm that this individual (or individuals) indeed possesses these gifts and characteristics (at least to some degree, as the aspirant is expected to mature spiritually as he is tested and trained). Besides the Scripture references, and quotations by past, godly and faithful ministers, Croft provides practical examples from his own ministry how this process of testing, training, affirming, and then sending into the ministry may be fulfilled.
In Chapter 4 Croft provides four marks or areas of a faithful church that are essential in this external call process: 1) a local church whose central focus and practice are determined by Scripture, 2) a local church with pastors that shepherd and care for God's people, 3) a local church with a "regenerate" church membership, and 4) a local church that practices church discipline. For more information on these areas you need to get the book and read it
In Chapter 6 Croft presents some serious warnings to churches and individuals who fail in this task. He discusses four areas of risk if this external call is neglected: 1) the lives of individual Christians, 2) the well-being of local churches, 3) the effectiveness of theological education, and 4) the glory and name of Christ.
This book discusses the fundamental areas of this external call to the ministry, and will therefore serve as a great resource for pastors/elders, aspirant ministers, and lay-members alike. I don't simply highly recommend this book; I plead with you to pick up and read, and apply these biblical principles and practical insights in your own local church. I firmly believe that a stronger, healthier, and more doctrinally aware church will be the fruit of your faithful efforts. Thank you Brian Croft for supplying the church with this richly edifying and needed resource. I will reference it time and time again in my own ministry.