When he was only about 4 years old, the Rev. Jon Ashley went on a fishing trip with his dad.
“We had such a fun time together,” Ashley said. “He taught me how to put a worm on a hook, how to cast with a fishing pole — and he acted so proud of me when I caught more fish than he did.”
Ashley didn’t know then that — someday — he’d become what Christ calls a “Fisher of Men.”
For more than seven years, Ashley has served as senior pastor of The Presbyterian Church of Fremont.
Now, he’s also the author of a workbook called: “My Life Purpose: How to Discover God’s Call.”
The book is designed to help people, who are curious about their purpose in life, gain a Biblical understanding of who they are and who they’re called to be.
“It’s easy to read and written in everyday language intended to help people connect with real-life lessons from the Bible and apply them to their own personal life,” Ashley said. “It can help somebody who’s trying to get a better understanding of their life purpose to be able to describe what that purpose is.” The workbook, which came out on Amazon on Feb. 1, has a retail price of $18.95. It can be purchased for $17.96 on Amazon Prime.
Ashley hasn’t scheduled book signings yet and may wait until April when a narrative version of the workbook comes out.
His book-writing endeavor began about a year ago when he was contacted by David Tullock, executive publisher of Parson’s Porch Book Company in Cleveland, Tenn.
Tullock said he’d seen videos of Ashley’s sermons on Facebook and was interested in having the pastor submit a series of sermons that would be published in a book.
“I was surprised and I was excited for the opportunity,” Ashley said.
Ashley researched the company and found it has published hundreds of books, available on Amazon. Most of the books had been written by pastors.
“I knew that would be a big project to pull together,” he said.
And at the same time, Ashley was planning for a Clergy Renewal Sabbatical he would take in the summer of 2018.
So Ashley planned on making an outline for a sermon series he could submit for the workbook.
What would he write about?
Throughout the years, Ashley’s had many people ask: “How do I know what God’s call is for me? I don’t know what my purpose in life is.”
“I’ve wrestled with that myself and looked into the Bible and discovered there are a lot of answers there,” he said.
During his 90-day sabbatical, Ashley reflected on how he’s come to understand that call.
He thought of several Bible verses that helped him discern God’s call on his life.
The workbook delves into these Scriptures and asks how they apply to the reader’s understanding of God’s call for his or her life.
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Ashley said the workbook includes the manuscripts for a nine-week sermon series he preached at the church in October and November 2018 after he returned from his sabbatical.
The book also includes a reflections page after each sermon that encourages readers to consider how a particular Scripture applies to their lives and sense of call and can journal their thoughts.
Included in the book is also what Ashley calls the “Hope-Filled Formula,” which is “Need + Gifts + Hunger + God’s Call.”’
When trying to determine the possibility of God’s call on their lives, readers are asked to consider these things:
- What need in the world has God put in your heart?
- What gifts do you have that can help address that need?
- Has God given you a spiritual hunger to use those gifts to meet that need?
“When all three elements converge, there’s a good chance God’s call is there,” Ashley said.
In his book, Ashley explores: The Call to Follow; The Call to Faith; The Call to Fellowship; The Call to a Special Function; and The Call to Be Fruitful.
Each of these topics includes a primary Scripture passage that helps illustrate the call and helps readers apply to their lives.
Additional messages include: “Your Unique Vocational Call” and “How to Discover God’s Call.”
“One of the best parts about writing this book was the opportunity to reflect on my own life story and experiences, to tell those stories and connect those experiences to God’s word and its application in our lives,” Ashley said.
The book includes personal illustrations of how Ashley has come to understand God’s call in his life through:
- Studying God’s word;
- Conversations with others;
- Lots of reflection and prayer.
One of Ashley’s illustrations includes a story about fishing.
After Ashley and his dad returned from their fishing adventure, his father took a photo of the young boy holding up a stringer of fish.
“When I became a father years later, I couldn’t wait to teach our firstborn child how to fish,” he said.
The Ashleys were living in California at the time and Ashley took their daughter, Mikaela, to a lake.
“She was about 4 years old at the time and she was the smallest person on the lake,” he said. “She had practiced casting at home with her bright green Tweedy Bird fishing pole. So once we got the bait on her hook, she cast it out about 50 feet and within a matter of seconds a fish struck.”
Ashley had his daughter reel in the first catch of her life — a 3-pound rainbow trout.
“I love fishing,” Ashley said. “I’ve taught all my four daughters how to fish.”
But he’s discovered something: There’s nothing as rewarding as fishing for souls.
And Ashley noted something else:
“One of the great things about this project is that the nonprofit Christian publishing company supports a homeless outreach ministry in Tennessee so a portion of the proceeds from the book helps put bread on the table — literally.”