Monday, January 07, 2019

Called? Pastoral Guidance for the Divine Call to Gospel Ministry by Michael A. Milton

Christian Focus, 2018, 231 pp 

It is a momentous thing for a man to feel that the Lord is calling him to gospel ministry. Michael A. Milton sets out to guide his readers though the various stages of responding to the Lord’s call. His work is full of practical hints and tips, often drawn from Milton’s own experience. A theology of calling is sketched out. Several chapters are devoted to choosing a seminary (may I recommend London Seminary) and the privileges and pitfalls of seminary life. Attention is given to the early phase of gospel service after training has been completed. Then there is the matter of persevering in the work over the long haul. 

While there's good stuff here for budding pastors, the work has some flaws that mar its usefulness. The present title is a reworking of previously published material with the aim of making it more relevant to the global church. For all that, it is still very much a product of American Presbyterianism. Talk of the role of denominations in recognising and training ministers and of ‘parish ministry’ will be alien to large swathes of Evangelicalism in the United Kingdom and beyond. The author’s attempts at humour don’t always translate well. In explaining a theology of calling to the ministry Milton refers to Old Testament prophets and New Testament apostles, but 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 on the appointment of elders/overseers barely get a look in. The book is a little ‘bitty’. Some chapters are based on sermons preached by the author. A letter and hymn penned by him are thrown in for good measure. This makes the work seem more like a selection of occasional writings than a book-length discussion of what it means to be called to gospel ministry. 

Of course, the blurbs at the front commend the book in glowing terms, "compelling", "marvellous", "a treasure". This is overly generous. Sorry to sound so critical, but the job of a reviewer is to give potential readers the benefit of his honest opinion. That said, anyone seeking to discern whether the Lord may be calling them to gospel ministry will derive some benefit from Milton’s down-to-earth pastoral guidance. Men aspiring to pastoral ministry should also take a look at Lectures to My Students by C. H. Spurgeon, Preaching and Preachers by D. M. Lloyd-Jones, and Preaching Pure and Simple by Stuart Olyott. 

* A version of this review will be published in Evangelical Times

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