Am I Called? is a ministry of Dave Harvey and friends, based in Four Oaks Church, in Tallahassee, Florida. We want to help men find their call to gospel ministry and to help churches find called men.

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If You’re Going To Lead, You Gotta Read (Part 2)

By on September 15, 2014

We’re talking about reading and leading. Specifically, we’re talking about how investing in one helps you improve in the other. Of course, the Bible should remain our primary source of spiritual nourishment and instruction. However it shouldn’t be our only source. We can and should benefit from the minds and words of those who have walked before us, and walked better than us!

Let me offer you a couple of additional reasons why reading is so essential for every church planter, pastor, or man who feels called to ministry.

STUDY SHAPES

In Romans 12:2, Paul issues the following command: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

This passage is a strong call to meditate on Scripture, and beneath the call to meditate lays some critical assumptions: To meditate we must first memorize. To memorize we must first study. Therefore renewing the mind begins with study. Study shapes our minds. It sparks the transformation.

In the last article I called books “companions”. It’s an apt metaphor because who we become as leaders is powerfully shaped by who we spend time with. If entertainment is our primary source of education, information, and soul-formation, our minds will be shaped in very particular ways. In the same vein, if we regularly read godly, Scripture-saturated books, our minds will be particularly shaped in God-oriented ways.

Listen to how John Owen puts it:

The mind is the leading faculty of the soul. When the mind fixes upon an object or course of action, the will and the affections [heart] follow suit. They are incapable of any other consideration…The mind’s office is to guide, to direct, to choose and to lead.

In other words, our minds lead us into the discovery of God’s truth, our wills choose to obey God’s truth, and our hearts then rejoice in that obedient choice. Studying helps shape the mind so that it can, to use Owen’s words, “guide, direct, choose and lead”.

Study also shapes and inspires our innovation. Most of us aren’t creative geniuses. We’re not Steve Jobs or Beethoven or Andrew Lloyd-Webber. We’re just normal guys with normal brains who must pillage the minds of others for great ideas. If we are wise, we’ll recognize that we don’t have to be brilliant to be effective pastors or leaders – we just need to be well studied. The creativity of others can help shape our minds too.

STUDY PROTECTS

In 1 Timothy 4:16, Paul wrote, “Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.”

Paul calls Timothy to keep a close watch on both his life and his doctrine. Why? Because the protection and salvation of those under Timothy’s pastoral care was at stake! We too must guard our lives and doctrine, and diligent study is an important way of doing this.

A calling to ministry is a calling to grow. Our people need our commitment to growth in both holiness and doctrinal clarity. There’s simply too much at stake for us to choose leisure over study! In fact, if I’m reading 1 Timothy 4:16 correctly, there is a direct connection between our growth as pastors and the spiritual maturity, and even ultimate salvation of those we lead. Piper said it well, “…the fight to find time to read is the fight for one’s life [and ministry!].”

It’s easy to become settled in ministry. For the first five to ten years, we’re sharp. We push ourselves because we’re trying to establish our identities and ministries. We want to make our mark in the world of pastoral ministry. But once we start to see fruit and success, a new enemy stalks us: the stagnation of comfort! I’m talking about relying on past growth rather than fighting for future growth.

Listen to the scathing remarks John Wesley issued to a man whom he felt had become stagnant in ministry:

What has exceedingly hurt you in time past, nay, and I fear, to this day, is want of study. I scarce ever knew a preacher read so little. And perhaps, by neglecting it, have lost the taste for it. Hence your talent in preaching does not increase. It is just the same as it was seven years ago. It is lively, but not deep; there is little variety; there is no compass of thought. Study only can supply this, with meditation and daily prayer. O begin! Fix some part of every day for private exercise. You may acquire the taste which you have not: what is tedious at first, will afterward be pleasant. It is for your life; there is no other way; else you will be a trifler all your days, and a pretty, superficial preacher. Do justice to your own soul; give it time and means to grow. Do not starve yourself any longer. Take up your cross and be a Christian altogether. Then will all the children of God rejoice (not grieve) over you.

Wesley’s words should appropriately sober us, without condemning us. May it never be said that with the passing of time we’ve neglected growth in our preaching, or counseling, or worship leading. Study fights stagnation.

PRACTICAL STEPS FOR GROWING IN STUDY

At this point you may be saying, “Okay Dave, enough already! I get it! I need to read. How should I start?”

  • Don’t be afraid to read good books more than once. Sometimes we think that a completed book is an exhausted resource. But good books, particularly classics, are always fresh with insight. Our growth changes what we need from what we read. That’s why an old book you once read can feel very new.
  • Consider designing your study regimen under the headings of this article. Which books would best shape me right now? What titles would feed and protect me? Invite your pastor to recommend some selections.
  • Don’t choose to read certain books in order to impress someone else. Instead, choose books by how they might shape you.
  • Choose to read books written by someone who has built what you want to build. For example, if you’re being called to replant a church, Church Planting is For Wimps by Mike McKinley might be a good go-to resource. If you’re a young pastor looking to build a local church, familiarize yourself with Jared Wilson, Kevin DeYoung, or Daniel Montgomery – all guys who started pastoring as younger men.
  • Read books with pen in hand. Interact with what you read. Take notes, markup passages, etc. Books are meant to be used, not kept in pristine condition. I typically place a mark before and after each sentence or paragraph that crisply states a point or summarizes a section. Once I’m done with the book, I ask my administrative assistant to type out all those sections. That rather simplistic approach has yielded me 28 years of rich summaries and quotes from great books.
  • Choose one person from history and spend a season of concentrated study on that person. Learn from Newton, Augustine, Bunyan, Simeon, Lloyd-Jones or Hodge. Sit at their feet and peer at your problems through their eyes. Biographies sharpen perspective.

Here’s the heart of the matter: leadership is an inside out kind of thing. The effectiveness of our public leadership is directly tied to our private growth in the knowledge and grace of Jesus Christ. I think the KJV’s take on 2 Tim 2:15 sums up the whole matter pretty nicely, “Study to show thyself approved unto God.

Posted in: Am I Godly?
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If You Want To Be A Leader, You’ve Got To Be A Reader

By on September 12, 2014

You’re a pastor, aspiring pastor, or church planter, which means you’re busy. Not to go all DeYoung on you, but you’re “crazy busy!” If you’re already pastoring, then you’ve got stuff to do, people to see, sermons to prepare, meetings

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Calling Questions: He’s Ready To Launch Into Ministry…But Should He?

By on September 10, 2014

In light of the overwhelming response to the Am I Called podcast, we decided to create something we’re calling “Calling Questions”, in which Dave seeks to answer common questions men have regarding pastoral calling and pastoral ministry. In this episode, Dave addresses the question: A

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Going From Megablogger To Pastor – An Interview With Tim Challies

By on September 4, 2014

In the latest episode of the Am I Called podcast, Dave interviews Tim Challies. Tim is the force behind the uber popular Christian blog, Challies.com, as well as the co-founder of Cruciform Press. He is a pastor at Grace Fellowship

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Preventing Pastoral Car Wrecks

By on September 2, 2014

Last year I had a tie rod on my car go bad. By going bad, I mean it busted in a very ugly way. If you’re like me and clueless about tie rods – which, by the way, is the