Author: Mark Labberton, Publisher: IVP Books, 2014
Intervarsity Press Publishers sent me this book upon its release, and I was delighted to review it after having read Labberton’s “The Dangerous Act of Loving Your Neighbor” and using it as a mentoring resource.
Who Should Read Called:
Any Christian who wants to reflect on their life in relation to the church and work God is doing in the world.
What’s in Store for You:
This book was birthed out of Labberton’s pastoral heart. This is a gift of wisdom and profound thought from a person who clearly loves Jesus and his church.
Labberton does not want us to forget that the primary call of the church is to follow Jesus. Following includes loving, learning from and obeying Christ. These are the marks of a true disciple or follower of Christ. The call to discipleship requires that we recalibrate our lives so Jesus is the center from which everything else flows. Following Jesus is a call to live differently, to live as God’s beloved.
Following Jesus is also a call to flourish. “The people of God, by the power of the Holy Spirit, are meant to be the hope of the world, the model for all humanity and the apologetic—the living defense of the faith—that God is present and that God’s loving purposes will come to pass.” We can make a difference because of what Christ has already done on the cross to redeem the world. “When God’s people fail to live our call, the church buries the gospel.” This is problematic because the gospel is the only true hope for the world. The gospel is the only way the people and communities can truly flourish.
Labberton paints a picture of a lost church in a lost world—a church in exile. Because we are in exile, suffering is inevitable. There is many images to consider for the church that is lost: a self-absorbed, invisible, oppressive, siloed, bad-news, or no-news church. A church that loses its way cannot be salt and light in the world, but there is an alternative. We can answer the call to become a good news church in a lost world—a church that is filled with joy in the midst of our suffering.
As a flourishing, good news church, God calls us to reconsider our location. As an exiled people, are we (as Christians) more invested in expanding God’s kingdom or building America and the American Dream? To what are we called?
- We are called to first things. First things can include seeking God’s will, prayer, making disciples, cultivating Christian character, etc. This is the primary profession of all Christians.
- We are called to next things. Next things cause us to contemplate what matters at the moment. Next things could be putting dinner on the table, paying our bills, going to school, or taking care of a sick child. These in the things in life that must be done.
“We are meant to pursue and develop first things as we go about next things; we do this simultaneously, remembering that first and next things are not the same.”
Disciples of Christ are called to lead or influence others with the decisions made, words spoken, and actions taken. Transformative Christian leaders are those with vision, hope, commitment, energy, and wisdom.
Labberton gives the reader an opportunity to explore purpose and the inner workings of the heart. It is a work of spiritual formation where readers are encouraged to write, pray, and contemplate their work.
My personal take-aways?
I love this small but insightful book. I often reflect on the crisis of the American church and it is always good to have a reminder of the promise and hope that we have in Christ. Christ has not abandoned his church or his creation. Thanks to the work of the Holy Spirit, he has not left us without help to accomplish his good work in the world. I particularly enjoyed the spiritual formation practices at the end of each chapter. I am sure to revisit them again and again.
Twitter-worthy: Follow the hashtage #CALLEDtofollow
“The heart of God’s call is this: that we receive and live the love of God for us & for the world.” #Called @MLabberton
“God’s primary call is for us to belong to and live for the flourishing of God’s purpose in the world.” #Called @MLabberton
We are CALLED to Love: “…since our family backgrounds shape our abilities and inabilities to empathize and to love. We need the help of other followers of Jesus to teach us how to love and how to serve beyond our basic skills.”
We are CALLED to Grace: “The work of grace is to move us to become people whose inner and outer lives bear witness to the mercy and truth of God’s love and justice—made whole, healed and renewed.”
Official Website: For book contents and features view IVP Called.
© Natasha Sistrunk Robinson 2014