Thursday, January 3, 2013

Dangerous Calling by Paul David Tripp

Hey pastor, you need to read this book! I do not know how else to say it. If you are a full-time pastor; if you are a part-time minister; if you are an elder; if you are closely associated with someone that is in ministry--you need to read this book. It just might end up being the most helpful thing you do in 2013 for yourself or the person you care about in ministry.

I have often thought that pastoral ministry is one of the most dangerous jobs in the world. Regardless of the jokes that are told of how easy it is being a pastor (since they only work one day a week), there is a hazard that exists which is very unique. In Dangerous Calling, Paul David Tripp identifies these hazards and calls those in pastoral ministry to come face to face with them. 
"This is a diagnostic book. It is written to help you take an honest look at yourself in the heart- and life-exposing mirror of the Word of God--to see things that are wrong and need correcting and to help you place yourself once again under the healing and transforming power of the gospel of Jesus Christ . . . This is a book of warning that calls you to humble self-reflection and change. It is written to make you uncomfortable, to motivate you toward change" (11-12).
Those words are very scary for a pastor. They are probably scary for anyone. Let's be honest, who really wants to be honest with themselves as to where they are at spiritually? Most people prefer to pretend that they are better off than they actually are. Pastors included. That is why this book is so important. It is a call for those in leadership to remove the masks and to be real with themselves in diagnosing their spiritual health. But it is also a call for those who are not pastors to be patient, realizing their pastors have the same needs as you do.
"Ministries are derailed because leaders begin to think they have arrived and don't do the protective things that they warn everyone else to do. It's naive to think that pastors are free from sexual temptation, fear of man, envy, greed, pride, anger, doubt of God, bitterness, and idolatry. It is vital to remember that every pastor is in the middle of being reconstructed by God's grace" (68). 
Or maybe this statement by Tripp might drive home this point even more candidly:
"Is it safe to assume that your pastor is loving his wife, children, and extended family well? Is it safe to assume that he is using his time and money well? Is it safe to assume that he is honoring God with what he does in his most private moments? Is it safe to assume that he is as committed to the opportunities and responsibilities of his calling as he should be? Is it safe to assume that he works to make sure that there is living agreement between his public proclamations and his private life? Doesn't every member of the body of Christ need the ministry of the body of Christ, including the pastor?" (79)
I could go on and on with what I learned in this book. I have markings on just about every page. My highlighter took a hit during this reading. But if I were to identify the one aspect of the book that really touched a chord with me, it was in his calling for pastors to be pastored. He says,
"Pastor, it is plain and simple: you and I need to be pastored. One of the scandals of hordes of churches is that no on is pastoring their pastor. No one is helping him see what he is not seeing. No one is helping him examine his thoughts, desires, words, and behaviors. No one is regularly calling him to confession. No one is delineating where repentance is appropriate. No one is reaching into his discouragement with the truths of the presence, promises, and provisions of the Savior. No on is confronting his idolatry and pride. No one is alerting him to places of temptation and danger in his life . . . Here's the bottom line: do we live as though we really do think of ourselves, who have been called to pastor others, as people in need of pastoring?" (210-212)
This has been the longing of my heart for years. I have desired to be truly shepherded in almost every ministry I have been a part of and found myself lacking. And when I took my first Senior Pastorate, I reached out to several pastoral friends, asking them to stay involved in my life. One by one, they have lost touch with me. I get it. Life is busy. And they have no inherent calling or responsibility to be my pastor, even though this is what I have needed. 

But maybe what I have wrongly thought is that it needed to be someone outside of my church. Maybe the best person to shepherd me is someone inside my church. Maybe it's several men inside the church. I need the same body of Christ that I continually call our people they need. I need the church to be the church for me. It is this one area that I am currently trying to put feet into action.

Pastoral ministry can be very lonely. But I am not content with that, and neither should other pastors.  We have all been created longing for community and my prayer is that God would use this book as a catalyst for my spiritual growth. And that it would help others as they live their dangerous calling.

I received a copy of Dangerous Calling from Crossway in exchange for a review.

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