I’ve been a pastor for three and a half years. Dave Harvey has been a pastor and church planter for 30 years and has served on the leadership team of Sovereign Grace Ministries for 17 years. His book “Am I called” is a heartening read as he outlines the biblical model for pastoral ministry and roots it in his very human experience. Harvey does not pull any punches about the reality of following Christ in a world which continues to reject its Saviour and King.
The book is divided into three sections. First, Harvey addresses the matter of call. Are you called to Christ? Are you called in the context of your local church? Will you make ministry about Christ and the gospel or have some lower aim? If the latter, then give up the hope of ministry before you do damage to self and others. Harvey is matter of fact, straight talking and clearly concerned with the glory of the gospel above all else. He is realistic about the demands of being a pastor and so his first section acts to help filter out anyone with a lack of deep conviction and corporate call.
In his second section, Harvey turns the spotlight on godliness of character, home life, preaching ability, shepherding the flock under your care, evangelism and then he goes back to the corporate call. In chapter after chapter the bar is set high, expectations are for the pastor to be the best he can be. And yet, there’s lots of realism and grace, and Harvey speaks openly about his own struggles in every sphere of call. As I read the book there were many times where I felt inadequate and then I’d read Harvey’s admission of failure or weakness and I’d be affirmed. The message Harvey gets across well is that being a pastor is not about omnicompetence, but aspiration, effort, prayer and humility.
The most helpful section of the book for me, one which shed light on my recent tiredness, is where Harvey writes on the plurality of eldership in the local church. He writes:
Now, I understand there may be seasons where a man is labouring alone in local church ministry. Some church planters certainly experience this. If that’s you, my heart goes out to you and my respect for you sails off the charts… [Eldership is] not about structures. It’s about humbly recognising that men need community to lead well, and the church needs a community of leaders.
Fantastic. But where to begin?
The last section applies to anyone who believes he is called. It’s a chapter on patience and developing the right attitude to service and sacrifice. Harvey also wrote the book for those, like me, who are already pastors, so he might equally add something in this third section on knowing where you need to be as a pastor and being patient as God works in you toward that goal. As Harvey says elsewhere in the book, something along the lines, “Pastors don’t begin the job fully formed.”