Called: The Crisis and Promise of Following Jesus Today

Called: The Crisis and Promise of Following Jesus Today

The most urgent call upon Gods people is to live as followers of Jesus.The most indicting critique against the church is as simple: its failure to do so. As the leader of an evangelical theological seminary that trains men and women as leaders for the church and society, Mark Labberton writes: "People ask many questions about how their lives relate to the world. What are o...

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Title:Called: The Crisis and Promise of Following Jesus Today
Author:Mark Labberton
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Edition Language:English

Called: The Crisis and Promise of Following Jesus Today Reviews

  • Scott

    This was truly an excellent book. The writing style was skillful, smooth and engaging. The only reason I didn't give it 5 stars was because of some repetitiveness and jingoistic wording--but it's supremely worth the read anyway.

    Labberton clarified many issues of "call" that have caused stumbling, anxiety and angst to many Christians, including myself in adolescence and early adulthood. There is the pervasive idea that all of us have a unique call from God--a particular niche that He wants us to

    This was truly an excellent book. The writing style was skillful, smooth and engaging. The only reason I didn't give it 5 stars was because of some repetitiveness and jingoistic wording--but it's supremely worth the read anyway.

    Labberton clarified many issues of "call" that have caused stumbling, anxiety and angst to many Christians, including myself in adolescence and early adulthood. There is the pervasive idea that all of us have a unique call from God--a particular niche that He wants us to find for our lives' work. But here's the catch -- it's a secret. We have to want it really bad, pray really hard, demonstrate faith and earnestness, fast...offer a bull upon the altar...find a feather from a rare bird atop a Himalayan peak...(not really). But the sense of it being a strange spirit-quest, which we may or may not complete (probably not), is the same. If we find this elusive vision, we'll be all set to marry the spouses and do the work we were divinely equipped to perform. But if we miss it, we'll fail in discovering God's best for our lives, eke out a defeated and unfulfilled life, and hope that God will find some value in the second-best path we chose. Sound familiar? Of course that all sounds ridiculous the way I hyperbolized it, but really, that's very close to the mystery we subconsciously perceive at the heart of finding God's divine and particular will for our lives. It's like searching everywhere for a burning bush in a sopping-wet rainforest in a thunderstorm. It's not likely to work.

    Labberton demystifies the concept of call in a way that I hope many will find liberating. First and foremost, nearly all we need to know about our calling is found through deep fellowship with Jesus, making our home in God's Word, living in authentic Christian community, and simply cooperating with the Holy Spirit in His work to transform us in becoming more like Jesus. It's about loving God with our whole heart, and loving our neighbors,

    This is what Labberton calls putting first things first. If we look around us, and ask what it means to incarnate Jesus' love to the real people and real situations we see, we will know God's calling upon us for today.

    As we are increasingly formed to be like Jesus, and as a faithful character takes root in us, God will lead us to be passionate about and engage with people and issues that fit with who He has created us to be. But we must not rush this process. We must, like Abraham, trust that the God who invited us on this journey has the map, and an unfailing sense of direction. He will make sure we get where we are supposed to go. All we must do is follow Him today, where we are. Then we do the same thing tomorrow. Instead of a great mystery that we are supposed to deduce, our calling becomes a place we will unfailingly reach if we trust our Father to take us there.

    Labberton engages in some serious talk about the crisis of following Jesus in our current situation. Many people, desperately searching for the light of God, seek it in the lives of those who profess faith, and discover in them the same confusion and compromise from which they are seeking escape. The difference is that people of "faith" are smug and self-righteous toward those honest enough to live how lost they are. No wonder so many outside the church want nothing to do with us.

    What people need more than anything else today is practical wisdom that will actually make a difference in their lives and direction. They see a world, a society, and their own lives, reeling with confusion and darkness, and collectively they cry out, "FIX IT!" to anyone with a solution. They give the organized church a chance, and they get only spiritual platitudes that are completely irrelevant to the pain they are experiencing. Labberton points out that spiritual knowledge and wisdom are completely different things. If there is no action, there is no wisdom. If it doesn't work for real people with real problems, there's no wisdom that will actually help them. God is calling us to offer realistic, workable, scriptural wisdom to the world. But we are so compromised ourselves, we have none to offer. We've relativized, spiritualized, and philosophized Jesus' commands that were meant to be lived out, quite literally. We didn't want to make the sacrifice of obedience. But if we haven't actually tried out Jesus' wisdom, and discovered that it truly

    , we can't help others, let alone ourselves. This has to stop. It's time for Christians to reclaim the heritage of wisdom bequeathed to us, stop living our lives a million directions at once, and start living out the practical wisdom of Jesus. Then, and only then, will we have something to offer.

    Labberton believes that we have gotten so flaccid because we have assumed such privilege and power in a Christendom, civil-religion America. We've assumed we're on top, that we have the dominant position, so all we need to do is relax and enjoy the privilege. This is what Labberton calls a "Promised Land" mindset--we have it made; the war is won. What is truly pathetic is that so many still believe this. It's astounding that so many people can continue to live in this delusion that the church is still a dominant voice in society; that we still have clout. In truth, we have been increasingly pushed to the margins for a very long time now. That isn't simply because of all those "evil, godless people" out there, by the way. We have reached a position of irrelevance, in great part, because we have made ourselves so. Labberton urges that we wake up from our "Promised Land" dream, and embrace a new mindset, based on where we are in reality. We must adopt a position of "Exile," in which we no longer arrogantly assume dominance or clout. We are, once again, but one, tiny voice in a great multitude of voices. If we wish to see others coming to find their answers in Christ, we must do so with genuine love and humility, compassion, and service. Instead of being arrogant and entitled, we must promote the new and living way Jesus proclaimed by actually living that way ourselves. It is not our job to judge or coerce anyone; it is our job to live and tell the love of Jesus, to shine our light and let others decide for themselves whether to follow that light. Instead of seeing our neighbors as evangelistic prospects, and additional parts in the ecclesiastic machinery, we see and treat them as they are -- people lovingly created in the image of God, worthy of infinite value, love and service.

    is a mindset I can get behind, a posture I can adopt, a mission I can live--because it looks, to me, very much like Jesus. I hope legions of Christians wake up, as soon as possible, and have the courage to carry out these lives of loving exile and service

  • Susan

    This is a great book for those who want to be effective believers in this present time.

    The author reminds us that we are living in exile not in the Promised Land of milk and honey. And, so how should we live?

    Lots of good things to ponder in this book.

  • Robert D. Cornwall

    Mark Labberton is the new President at Fuller Theological Seminary -- the seminary from which I received my M.Div. and Ph.D. degrees. The seminary sent my a copy of the new book -- as is true, I assume, of all alumni. I wanted to read it because I wanted to get a sense of his vision for the church and for the seminary. Fuller is an evangelical seminary, though one with a significant mainline presence. I'm always wondering where I fit into the mix.

    The book is focused on our calling to follow Jesu

    Mark Labberton is the new President at Fuller Theological Seminary -- the seminary from which I received my M.Div. and Ph.D. degrees. The seminary sent my a copy of the new book -- as is true, I assume, of all alumni. I wanted to read it because I wanted to get a sense of his vision for the church and for the seminary. Fuller is an evangelical seminary, though one with a significant mainline presence. I'm always wondering where I fit into the mix.

    The book is focused on our calling to follow Jesus in our daily lives. It is evangelical in orientation, but it is an open evangelicalism. I felt pretty comfortable with what he had to say. It is a call to live a life of divine abundance, but a calling that is rooted in following Jesus -- even in the midst of suffering and discouragement. It is an outward faith, embracing God's realm and living it in the midst of a world that is in many ways lost -- not lost in the sense of being condemned, but lost in the sense that the world is struggling to find its way forward. It is, to quote scripture, sheep without a shepherd. We are invited to participate with Jesus in the shepherding task.

    It's a good read -- and should enlighten us on what Labberton intends to be as President.

  • Elizabeth

    Not the quickest read, but a deep and important conversation about call, vocation, privilege and practice in community for those who long to follow Jesus.

  • Bob

    Mark Labberton has a vision of a church filled with people living out in daily life the call to follow Jesus and seek the flourishing of God's purposes in God's world. He sees the lack of the fulfillment of that vision expressed in lost churches th

    Mark Labberton has a vision of a church filled with people living out in daily life the call to follow Jesus and seek the flourishing of God's purposes in God's world. He sees the lack of the fulfillment of that vision expressed in lost churches that are self-absorbed, silo-ed, oppressive, invisible and often the bearers of bad news or no news. This lack is all the more urgent because he sees this church in the midst of a lost world characterized by free-floating values, disconnectedness from real community, consumeristic, and fearful--a place where the church which knows its calling could make a difference.

    Having outlined the need, Labberton then charts the path. It begins by returning to the "first thing" of following Jesus. When Jesus called people, his call was "follow me." Following means re-locating from the Promised Land of the American Dream to those who understand themselves to be exiles in Babylon. It means re-orienting by taking a hard look at how one is living out this call. It means re-focusing on who is calling and his fundamental call to character reflected in the fruit of the Spirit. It also means an embrace of wisdom, which he defines at "the truth and character of God lived in context."

    The next three chapters focus on three"ways" in which the called person lives. First is the Way of the Beloved--understanding ourselves individually and as communities as the beloved of God called to live in sacrificial love. The second is the Way of Wisdom, which is the translation of the truth and character of God into practical action that fits the needs of our context. Finally, he speaks of The Way of Suffering, in which faithfulness to Christ's call is an invitation to enter into the sufferings of others, or even to suffer for the call itself.

    Having laid out the need for a called people and the fundamental contours of the called life, Labberton turns to discerning the particular expression of calling for an individual. What is key here is keeping primary calling to Christ, to God's purposes in the world, and to character, primary. Beyond this, individual call is discerned through the work of the Spirit, evidenced in the fruit of the Spirit, confirmed by the scriptures, attested to by the community, reflected in one's spiritual gifts and strengths, and lived out in one's context--one's time, passions, work, finances and more.

    The epilogue comes back to "first things" and challenges us with the idea that who we are as followers of Jesus is far more critical than what we do. All work that isn't illegal or immoral is honorable and may be done unto the Lord. Opening ourselves up to pursue Jesus and listen to his call will lead us individually and together into well-lived lives and church communities that are salt and light in the world.

    Each chapter concludes with a "Practice" section, allowing the reader to reflect on and put into practice the chapter content.

    I can think of at least three audiences for which this book would be of value. First, church leadership teams could use this to great benefit to reflect on what it might be like to lead their churches in following Christ and hearing his call. Second, this could be helpful in adult ed contexts, particularly where the idea of "calling" is thought of as something for a special class of "saints". Finally, this is a good gift for college students on the front end of discerning calling in their own lives.

    The book size lends it to gift giving, and the short chapters and "Practice" sections lend this to use with groups. I would hope for wide circulation of this book, that Labberton's vision of called people and renewed churches might be realized in many communities. Granted, that will take more than a book, but one never knows what the biblically-rooted vision found in this book under the grace of God might accomplish!

  • Wavey Cowpar

    This book was given to me when I was in Fuller (it is written by the President of the college) and I've only read it now.

    It's a great book. Talks a lot about how we Christians think we live in the Promised Land but we're actually in Exile and need to reorient our thinking to match our reality.

    The main point: follow Jesus! What a great point. Love it

    Next main point: make the first things first. Those things like following Jesus should be our concern. I don't think he quotes it but a good summary

    This book was given to me when I was in Fuller (it is written by the President of the college) and I've only read it now.

    It's a great book. Talks a lot about how we Christians think we live in the Promised Land but we're actually in Exile and need to reorient our thinking to match our reality.

    The main point: follow Jesus! What a great point. Love it

    Next main point: make the first things first. Those things like following Jesus should be our concern. I don't think he quotes it but a good summary might be "Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added onto you also."

  • Mike Graef

    "Follow Me," says Jesus. Even when "Exile" is the new situation in life, in times like these when we celebrate the change from "spiritual but not religious", when the big church builder days seem to be over, and yet when the "call" is stronger than ever -- Mark Labberton's book is centering, freeing, encouraging and empowering -- for individual Christians and for the Church. This book will be tremendously helpful -- either to one or to a congregation.

  • Jen Bradbury

    In the church world, people talk about being “called” a lot. But what exactly does it mean to be called? Mark Labberton attempts to answer this very question in his book, Called: The Crisis and Promise of Following Jesus Today.

    According to Mark, the “primary call of God that creates and defines the church” is to follow Jesus. He expands upon this idea by saying “The heart of God’s call is this: that we receive and live the love of God for us and for the world.”

    I love how all-encompassing Mark’s

    In the church world, people talk about being “called” a lot. But what exactly does it mean to be called? Mark Labberton attempts to answer this very question in his book, Called: The Crisis and Promise of Following Jesus Today.

    According to Mark, the “primary call of God that creates and defines the church” is to follow Jesus. He expands upon this idea by saying “The heart of God’s call is this: that we receive and live the love of God for us and for the world.”

    I love how all-encompassing Mark’s definition of being called is, especially since even though I’ve worked in professional ministry for my entire adult life, I still encounter people who regularly believe only ordained pastors are called. But as Mark explains, “Calling…is about God’s desire for all of our lives as ambassadors of God’s kingdom.”

    Like others who have written about vocation, Mark describes two categories of call, one universal call for all followers of Jesus to “belong to and live for the flourishing of God’s purposes of the world” and a second, more specific call that “includes direction in relation to such things as jobs, gifts, relationships, and more.”

    One of Mark’s unique contribution to the vocation conversation is his discussion of relocating - where he wrestles with the place to which we are called. This is an important aspect of vocation because as Mark writes, “The church can’t live its vocation if it doesn’t know where it lives.”

    According to Mark, “Many in America believe they live in the Promised Land.” But Mark reminds readers that the “premise of God’s Promised Land to Israel was not that it was a place to pluck God’s benefits. It was rather where God’s people were to thrive in the grace of living out the call to be God’s people. For Israel, blessings were not the goal; they were the encouragement along the path of living God’s way.”

    Mark, however, challenges these assumptions. He believes “the people of God live in exile. Exile – life as strangers in a strange land – is our context.” He again uses Israel’s example to flesh out what this means for us, saying “The point of exile of Israel: They were to seek the shalom of the city in which they were oppressed for in its shalom they would find their shalom.” What this means is that “an exilic community offers much less and invites you to bring all you can to the community itself.” That’s a very different paradigm than many American churches are used to operating under.

    Another rich contribution that Mark makes to the conversation about vocation is his emphasis on the church and in particular, on community. As a youth pastor, I’ve seen far too many people be convinced God was calling them to do something only to realize their gifts did not support that calling. Mark suggests, “If we think God is guiding us, but no one in the body of Christ that best knows us can stand alongside us and affirm it, that sense of guidance is likely doubtful and may be worth reconsidering before acting.”

    Although people who are well-versed in vocation will recognize many of the themes Mark discusses in Called, this is still a very worthwhile read for anyone interested in this topic. In fact, it’s worth reading Called simply for Mark’s treatment of location as it relates to vocation. That alone will challenge most readers to think very differently about their calling – and that of their church.

    **********************************************************

    Disclosure: I received a free copy of Called from InterVarsity Press in exchange for a fair and honest review.

  • Jeff

    I found Labberton's writing style difficult--I think these may be sermons that have been brought together into a single volume. There's something disjointed about the project as a whole and I cannot say that I particularly enjoyed the book. There were some significant insights buried in the book:

    For example, Labberton's identification of our first vocation as "to be the beloved" (100) Locating our beloved-ness as a first order priority is a significant insight that other books on vocation overl

    I found Labberton's writing style difficult--I think these may be sermons that have been brought together into a single volume. There's something disjointed about the project as a whole and I cannot say that I particularly enjoyed the book. There were some significant insights buried in the book:

    For example, Labberton's identification of our first vocation as "to be the beloved" (100) Locating our beloved-ness as a first order priority is a significant insight that other books on vocation overlook. I also appreciated his invitation out of a "promised land" sense of vocation into an exilic vocation. The two are different and for those in exile measuring life by the yardstick of the promised land leads to frustration and bitterness.

  • Samuell Bennett

    This book rather feels like Labberton really wants to write a remarkable book to mark his ascendancy as president of a seminary, so he is trying to redefine a lot of things to make it seem new. An example would be let's call faith "wisdom" instead.

    I was required to read this book as part of a seminary course. The assignment was to also write a paper on the author's assertions where there was sufficient Biblical support and assertions where there was not. Assertions where there was insufficient

    This book rather feels like Labberton really wants to write a remarkable book to mark his ascendancy as president of a seminary, so he is trying to redefine a lot of things to make it seem new. An example would be let's call faith "wisdom" instead.

    I was required to read this book as part of a seminary course. The assignment was to also write a paper on the author's assertions where there was sufficient Biblical support and assertions where there was not. Assertions where there was insufficient Biblical support abound. Assertions where there is sufficient support are lacking. I read the book ten times to complete the assignment.

    Overall, the author rambles on saying the same thing over and over using fluffy language and literary devices. To boil it down: Christendom (the author arbitrarily defines Christendom as when Christianity was "in vogue" or controlled the government and society) has fallen and Christians find themselves living in exile (which he compares to the Babylonian exile of the Hebrews) and we are called to love God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength and love others by being in community. That is the summary of what he is saying. No new thoughts or ideas, just a lot of words.

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