Now That I’m Called: A Guide for Women Discerning a Call to Ministry
Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2018.
Available at Zondervan.
By Jill Firth
“I have learned that the call is a journey.” At the end of ninth grade, Kristen Padilla’s call was clear, but eighteen years later, the specific direction is still being worked out. Padilla helpfully distinguishes between a call to deliver God’s word, and the shape that might take in serving the church and the world. A personal sense of call is to be tested by Scripture, our gifts, our own personal history and the wisdom of our church’s community. A strength of this book is its applicability within different church traditions, whether our tradition allows women to teach men, or limits our role to preaching and teaching to women or children.
Now That I’m Called opens with Padilla’s own journey as a Southern Baptist preacher’s daughter through university, seminary, and a job at Beeson to Divinity School, to an exploration of formal ministry within the Anglican Church. Padilla clarifies the specific type of calling she is discussing in her book, the calling to a ministry of ‘delivering the God’s Word for the benefit of the people of God.” She acknowledges the broader context of a call to God’s invitation into a relationship with himself, to other ministry appointments, or to other daily work or service, but limits the discussion in this book to a call to preaching, teaching, speaking or writing about Scripture.
The first two chapters set the scene by examining God’s call to men in the Old Testament (Moses, Joshua, David, Jeremiah) and the New Testament (Jesus, Peter, Paul, Timothy). Chapters Three and Four consider women from the Old Testament (Deborah, Huldah) and the New Testament (Mary, Priscilla, Phoebe, Junia, Elizabeth, Euodia, Syntyche and the women of Romans 16). Chapters Five and Six examine theological themes: the teaching of 1 Timothy 2:11-15 and a theology of spiritual gifts from Ephesians 4:11-13. The final two chapters consider the value of theological education for ministry and practical preparation through internships and mentoring.
An advantage of the book is the invitation to consider different points of view. This is most significant in the chapter on 1 Timothy 2, where Padilla interacts with the interpretations of Andreas J. Koestenberger, Linda Belleville, Bruce Winter, I. Howard Marshall, William J. Webb, Craig Keener, Philip Towner and Philip Payne.
Should women go to Seminary? Padilla invites women to gain the best training they can. In some church settings, male pastors have seminary degrees while women’s ministry leaders have received only informal training or perhaps a year of Bible College. Padilla says, “all who handle God’s Word must learn to handle it properly,” whether they will be teaching the whole congregation or only the women and children. Theological education can involve engagement with Hebrew and Greek, biblical subjects, church history, theology, preaching, evangelism, pastoral care. The timing will vary, as women manage their families and other commitments, and may need to study online or past time. Padilla urges face-to-face attendance at a reputable seminary, where possible. She outlines criteria for choosing a seminary, including the school’s attitudes to the place of women in gospel ministry. Sadly, most women encounter opposition at some point, whether from fellow students, church members or even strangers. In considering a seminary, prospective students are invited to notice if there are any women on faculty, and the official views on the website. They can speak to current students or graduates, and enquire to the admissions officer about policies and opportunities for learning, ministry, preaching and teaching for women in their program.
Each chapter concludes with a series of questions for reflection and discussion, making this a useful book to read with a friend or small group. Personal exercises invite the reader into deeper reflection and prayer on Scripture and their own journey. A highlight in the book is the personal stories in each chapter’s “Ministry Spotlight.” Her examples include university professors, itinerant preachers, directors of women’s ministries, discipleship coordinators, ordained ministers, writers and speakers, campus ministers and publishers. Each story is different, showing a gradual unfolding of ministry in relation to call.
I recommend this book and will be lending it enthusiastically to students of both genders and to women exploring God’s call in their lives. It should find a temporary home in libraries and pastor’s bookshelves, between being read by students and parishioners. It can find its way under Christmas trees and into the hands of beloved daughters, sisters, cousins and aunts. It can be circulated among friends, discussed in small groups or form the basis for a sermon series or adult Sunday School classes. Thank you to Kirsten Padilla for this accessible and most practical gift.
Jill Firth is a Lecturer in Hebrew and Old Testament at Ridley College. She holds a BA, an MDiv, an MA in spiritual direction, and a PhD in Psalms studies. Jill is an ordained Anglican minister and a Canon of St Paul’s Cathedral in Melbourne. With a team of women from Ridley, she organises Evangelical Women in Academia, an annual conference based at Ridley College to promote women’s scholarship.