A Review by Dwight A. Moody
Once upon a time in the worship services I made a practice of attending, the invitation always included something we don’t hear any more.
We still have the invitation to baptism as a new Christian, and we still have the appeal to join the church–or “make this your church home” as the phrase went. I have done a good bit of both of these with varying degrees of success.
But rarely do I hear (or speak!) that third component of gospel call: to publicly announce your desire to become a minister–or, to use the vernacular, “surrender to the full time ministry”.
This triple invitation was as standard in our worship services as the right hand of Christian fellowship or public prayer or the sermon itself. You hardly felt like the service was complete unless there was an altar call inclusive of these three invitations.
But no more. I can’t tell you when I heard a preacher in any setting issue a public invitation for people to surrender themselves to full time Christian service. And I can’t tell you when the last time I did that at the conclusion of a sermon.
But somehow God manages to get into gospel work the people that need to be there, and this small book is a good testimony to that fact.
Here are 42 testimonies–to use another old word–of ministers who describe their experience of the call.
Not many (at most, ten) describe the post-sermon invitation or altar call that pulled them out of a pew to the front of the sanctuary, there to announce their surrender to the gospel ministry. But with rare exception, the ministers contributing to this book did have three things in common: a church youth group that shaped their spirituality, a college Christian ministry that gave them opportunities, and a few people that gave them the attention they needed to discern their call in life.
This last one stands out as the most imporant in this collection and must surely be the core of any strategy to identify and disciple those whom God is calling into full time Christian work. Sometimes these “few people” were parents, sometimes professors, sometimes pastors, and sometimes all three–but this is the overriding take-away from these call narratives: we all had people who saw something in us before we saw or felt it, people who were present to speak a word of suggestion and to hear a word of confession, people who tapped us on the shoulder and pointed us to an opportunity in ministry.
This is surely my own testimony: parents Tom and Reita Moody, now gone to their reward, were ever present to encourage me; pastors H. C. Childs and Walter Price immediately and consistently nudged me forward in the ministerial call; and professors Joe Lewis and Dale Moody poured into me more time and energy than I realized while it was happening.
One other thing appears in these all stories from time to time: the influence of a peer testifying to a call to preach or serve and lead in the cause of Christ. These have great impact on friends and acquaintances. And the chief impact of this small volume may just be to encourage every other minister of the gospel, young and old, to tell their own story–in print, in person, in the pulpit. Stories beget stories; ministers beget ministers; preachers beget preacher.
We need another generation of young adults hearing and responding to the voice of God. May this volume (and even this review) pull our Christian communities in that direction.
Thank you, Barry Howard, witness and editor and, most of all, minister of the gospel.