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Test, Train, Affirm, & Send Into Ministry: Recovering the Local Church’s Responsibility in the External Call

By Brian Croft
August 2010 | Review by John Palmer

Synopsis

The once strong commitment by the local church throughout church history to affirm a person who possesses the gifts and godly character suitable for Christian ministry, known as the external call, has practically vanished in the twenty-first century. This book is designed to equip and call back local churches to this biblical responsibility. This is accomplished by answering the typical questions that accompany this topic: Who is responsible? Who receives this call? Who gives this call and how does a local church proceed to give it? These are just a few of the important questions that are biblically, theologically, and practically answered. The aim of this book is to contribute to an awakening in the local church to relieve unnecessary pressures upon theological institutions, alleviate confusion to those seeking a call into gospel ministry, and restore a vision to this divine call which God has placed solely upon his redeemed people.

  • Publisher: Day One Publications
  • ISBN: 978-1846251979
  • Pages: 128
  • Price: £5.00
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Book Review

This book is written against the author’s concern that students are enrolling at theological seminaries and entering the ministry without anyone adequately testing their calling or being responsible for sending them out.

He assumes here that ‘the ministry’ is the pastoral ministry, including preaching. He asserts that the model of the pastor is King David. He was called ‘a man after God’s own heart’ because he had the heart of a shepherd towards God’s flock. Jesus himself was fundamentally the Good Shepherd — sacrificing himself to gather, keep and feed his sheep. The apostles (1 Peter 5) conformed to this model — and church leaders are to be ‘pastors’ in the same way.

The book argues that ‘leadership’ in God’s church must be ‘pastoring’, that is, shepherding the flock. The author asks the question ‘…how, then, are these appointed shepherds from God to be recognized, affirmed and placed in a position to shepherd God’s people?’ (p. 29).

The answer has recently become, we are told through the action of ‘seminaries and Bible colleges’ (p. 31), whereas the correct answer is the local church. This problem seems to be much greater among evangelical churches in the USA than the UK.

The author is emphatic that churches should not just affirm anyone who subjectively ‘feels called’ to the ministry. Rather they must test the applicant according to the biblical qualifications of an elder, train and affirm him publicly, and then send him out. The model for such an approach is worked out in somewhat over-prescriptive detail (e.g. a ‘pastoral internship template’ and ‘service review evaluation’).

The body of this book is in fact only 68 pages, after deducting lengthy introductory material and three appendices. The main thesis is correct and needs stating, and there is useful material here. If your church is woolly on these matters, your elders need to read this.

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