Living out the call
'It is not enough to be called – the call needs to be lived out'. Paul Beasley-Murray introduces his new, four volume guide for pastors that draws on his 43-year career in ministry
Hockey can be a tough game. People can get hurt. I vividly remember getting hurt in a school hockey match – blood was streaming from my mouth and the pain was intense – but the headmaster who was refereeing the match simply shouted to me ‘Play on Beasley-Murray, play on!’, and play on I did.
Ministry too can be tough. People can get hurt. Most ministers go through at least one bad patch in their ministry.
Indeed, for me the first seven years of my ministry at Chelmsford were pretty lean – whereas in my first church in Altrincham everything I had touched seemed to turn to gold and as a consequence the church turned round and began to grow.
In Chelmsford everything I touched seemed to turn to dust and the church continued to decline. It was tempting to give up, particularly when there was misunderstanding and even rejection. In that context, however, somebody simply shouting ‘Live out your call, Beasley-Murray’ would not have helped. I needed people around me to help me live out the call.
This is what motivated my writing Living out the Call. It is intended to be a positive resource to those who have been in ministry for a while and are perhaps finding the going tough. Hopefully the lessons I have learnt over of 43 years in stipendiary ministry, 34 of which were spent in leading two local churches, will prove of help to some.
Hopefully too some of the thoughts and ideas will encourage and revitalise pastors in living out the call.
But Living out the Call is not just for seasoned pastors. It is also for those who are just beginning ministry. They need to learn that it is not enough to be called – the call needs to be lived out – and that is a constant process. Hence the present participle – ‘living’ out the call.
Although primarily for pastors, I would like to think that this guide to ministry will be of interest to others – and not least to deacons and elders and others engaged in helping lead a church.
My initial intention was to produce just one book. However, my enthusiasm for ministry ran away with itself, so that in the end it became necessary to publish Living out the Call in four volumes, which in total came to over 243,000 words!
It’s difficult to sum up Living Out the Call in a few words. The first volume, Living for God’s Glory, tackles the themes of professionalism and spirituality, arguing that pursuit of professionalism in ministry is a form of spirituality.
Leading God’s People deals with issues relating to leadership, such as vision and passion, maintaining that the team leader must also be a team-player; it also deals with the challenges of managing people and ourselves.
Reaching Out to God’s World brings together effective preaching with the Gospel in view and leading a missionary congregation through developing a wide variety of appropriate strategies. Serving God’s People has a particular focus on the relationship between new rites of passage and the exercise of pastoral care.
One thing I wish to emphasise is that Living out the Call is not an instruction manual. I am very conscious that there is no one way to do ministry. Every individual is unique; and what may be appropriate for one pastor may not be appropriate for another.
Likewise every church has its own individual character, and its own particular mission to fulfil. God is not in the business of cloning! This does not mean that individuals and churches cannot learn from one another.
Indeed, perhaps we can find a Scriptural basis for this, for according to Proverbs 18.15: “Intelligent people are always eager and ready to learn” (GNB), which the Living Bible translates: “The intelligent man is always open to new ideas. In fact, he looks for them”.
Over the years I have greatly benefited from seeing how others operate, and subsequently adapting the insights gained to my own church. But do notice, there is all the difference in the world between ‘adapting’ and ‘adopting’. To ‘adopt’ an idea from another church fails to recognise the unique character of each church. Each church has its own special calling to be church. We can learn from one another, provided we do not slavishly imitate.
Living Out the Call is in many ways the most important of all my writings. If you go to the Amazon site, you will see that on all four books there is an image of a baton being passed on. I have deliberately chosen this image because through the writing of Living out the Call I see myself passing on what I have learnt to younger generations in the hope that this will make them even more effective in the ministry to which Christ has called them.
All my previous books have been published conventionally. However, I decided to publish Living Out the Call in electronic form – and as a result it is only available in a Kindle format.
I am conscious that in so doing I have taken a risk – after all, not everybody has a Kindle. On the other hand, there are great advantages: these four books are now immediately available all over the world; and what is more what could have been four ‘heavy weight’ volumes are now just ‘light-weights’’.
Perhaps even more significantly, the format means that I can sell these books just for £2.25 each or £9 in total – for students in the developing world this is important. Hopefully in choosing this format I can bless many more people.
Praise for Living out the Call:
Brian Harris, the Principal of Vose Seminary (the former Baptist Theological College of Western Australia)
Living Out the Call is an impressive four volume collation of insights gained from 43 years of ministry. Clearly written, each volume is perceptive, warm, enthusiastic and motivating. Its sweep is truly impressive, as is its contemporary relevance. Coming at the end of a successful ministry I worried that it might lapse into sentiment and nostalgia. It doesn’t. Informed by the past, it has a clear eye towards both the present and the future. It deserves to be widely read both by those entering ministry, and those who need a reminder of what it means to live out the call.
David Coffey, a former General Secretary of the Baptist Union of Great Britain
This is unquestionably an Aladdin's cave of treasures for a life time of ministry. It is rich in foot notes, biblical expositions and choice quotes… Paul, this is your magnum opus! An A-Z of ministry. It's not a 'one sitting read' but an anthology to be regularly consulted.
Derek Tidball, a former Principal of the London School of Theology
Paul Beasley-Murray has distilled immense reading, judicious reflection and long personal experience into a work that covers the essential aspects of ministry in a lively way and yet which is grounded in day-to-day realities. While the reader may feel that not all immediately applies, or even that they agree with it all, this work is certainly worth both reading and then keeping to hand to serve as an indispensable reference point. This is the most comprehensive practical introduction to ministry currently available.
Mike Thornton, the Chair of the Ministerial Recognition Committee of the London Baptist Association:
Having known the author for over 20 years and experienced pastoral life with him, I can affirm that these books come from a life given to passionately exercising pastoral ministry and seeking to constantly learn and grow in that practice. The sharing of that journey with a wider audience is a gift to the church.
Paul Beasley-Murray began his ministry serving with the BMS in Congo/Zaire. He pastored churches in Altrincham, Cheshire, and Chelmsford, Essex. He also was Principal of Spurgeon’s College.
In his ‘retirement’ he continues to be active in ministry, and amongst other things is Chairman both of Ministry Today and of the College of Baptist Ministers.
He writes a weekly blog, ‘Church Matters’, to which people are welcome to ‘subscribe’ by entering their email address on his web-site www.paulbeasleymurray.com. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org