Fortress Press

Exploring the Life and Calling

Exploring the Life and Calling

Gary Black Jr. (Author)


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Fortress Press’s Foundations for Learning series prepares students for academic success through compelling resources that kick-start their educational journey into professional Christian ministry.
In this introductory volume for the series, Black asserts that while the primary subjects of seminary and professional church work training may dominate the interests of students, students must engage in the principal pursuit of understanding, then applying, Christian theology. Black argues that the thread of theology must be distinctly woven through each of the other disciplines of biblical exegesis, ministerial leadership, spiritual formation, counseling, preaching, and worship. 

The following books in this series provide insight into these other key components of the minister’s duties. Black, however, leads off by honoring ministers as leaders who follow in the footsteps of Christ. Just as Jesus was an expert in the issues of his day, demonstrated authority to speak on the matters he engaged, mentored other leaders in like manner, was emulated by his followers who witnessed the life he lead, and, therefore, initiated a revolution that has changed the course of human history, Black is convinced that ministers of the gospel have no less a calling on their lives today.

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  • Publisher Fortress Press
  • Format Paperback
  • ISBN 9781451488920
  • eBook ISBN 9781451489637
  • Dimensions 6 x 9
  • Pages 80
  • Publication Date December 1, 2014


1. The Calling of a Professional Minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ
2. Defining Our Praxis
3. Praxis One: The Spiritual Life
4. Praxis Two: A Life of Meditation and Contemplation
5. Praxis Three: An Embodied Faith
6. Praxis Four: Life Together in the Flock of the Good Shepherd
7. Praxis Five: Leaders as Apprentices to Jesus
8. Forging Ahead

Behind the Book

From the author:

"In my first lecture, in my first class, on my first day as a professor of theology in a Christian seminary, I took my stand behind the lectern, took a deep breath, and looked out at the eager, somewhat anxious, very devoted, and curious faces of my students and made this simple statement:

'As professional ministers of the gospel of Jesus Christ, I am of the firm opinion those of you sitting in this room represent the most important profession in the world today. And therefore, that makes you, by association, some of the most important people in the world today.”'

Then I waited, earnestly studying each student’s reaction. The non-verbal responses were many and varied. Some of the more cynically minded instantly laughed, thinking such a proclamation ridiculous, if not absurd. Others looked around quizzically at their fellow students, trying to gauge their response based on the reaction of others. Still other students were quietly skeptical, yet curious, perhaps even hopeful. Only a few smiled a knowing smile and slightly nodded their heads in agreement. What I soon learned from that first class lecture, and has been confirmed by all the students that have since followed, was that none of my students had ever heard of, or even considered, such a proposition."
Gary Black Jr.


"Gary Black Jr. has courageously pursued a thoroughly countercultural and crazy thing. He has written a book that unapologetically proclaims that the world needs professional ministers who not only have theological degrees, but who actually have the training and character to lead a community of people into a transformative encounter with the living God. In a world that increasingly views the professional minister as irrelevant or even silly, Black presents a renewed and stirring vision of theological education that is able to produce men and women who intimately know about life in the Kingdom of God. Our world is desperate for this."
—Kent Carlson, Senior Pastor 
Oak Hills Church, Folsom, CA

"Gary Black Jr. continues to plough new ground for the field of theological education. In his Exploring the Life and Calling, he challenges both those of us who teach theology and those of us who are learning theology to be changed in the doing of theology, that we might become people uniquely blessed to be ministers of God in the world."
David Fitch
Northern Seminary
“The vocation of minister has fallen on hard times. Seminaries struggle to attract qualified applicants. Students wonder how they can afford a professional degree in a field with little financial incentive and decreasing respectability. Has there ever been a time when the vocation of ‘minister’ has been under more scrutiny? In this clear and incisive book, Gary Black Jr. places the profession of ministry in the larger context of what God desires for human flourishing, recovering the important role leaders play in guiding us towards the whole life transformation promised by the gospel. If a new generation of leaders were animated by this compelling vision of spiritual leadership it would revolutionize the church and our world.”
Mark Scandrette
Founding Director of ReIMAGINE
“This book needs to be in the hands of every seminary student, seminary professor, pastor, and church staff person. In one of the most thoughtful books I’ve read in a long time, Gary skillfully reminds us of the primacy of our profession. The work of integrating the relationship between the natural and spiritual realms has never been more painfully necessary. Gary helps us take seriously the critical work of helping people and cultures thrive as a result of God’s relational engagement with both. I fully expect my copy of this book to be dog-eared and ragged over the next year.”
Nancy Ortberg
Menlo Park Presbyterian Church
"In a time when the title 'pastor' elicits more prejudice than goodwill, many wonder why God would ask them to give their lives to vocational ministry. Exploring The Life and Calling serves as an encouraging primer for those who want to understand this calling. Gary's work offers a clear look at what it means to study the divine, but more importantly, he sets a practical course for those who long to experience the fullness of life in ministry."
Rachel Triska
Executive Director, Life in Deep Ellum