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Dangerous Calling


Every now and then you come across a book that stops you in your tracks. My most recent read, Dangerous Calling by Paul David Tripp is without reservation the best book I read in 2012. Tripp spent the early years of his ministry career in pastoral ministry in the local church. Today he serves the Body of Christ through consulting and counseling pastors and people with the goal of helping them develop healthier lives and ministries.

Over the course of the next several weeks I want to interact with some of the provocative material he presents for a couple of reasons. For one, it helps me work through it personally. Every vocation has a dark side, filled with subtle temptations and challenges. Pastoral ministry is no different. Interacting with Tripp’s book as you look over my shoulder will help keep me from sticking it on a shelf alongside a multitude of other books I’ve read.

The other reason I want to do this is to help those of you who are faithful to Christ and his church understand a little more about your pastor. While this book is by a pastor for pastors, I believe some of the best support a pastor can receive from the congregation he or she serves is understanding; the proverbial mile in my moccasins, if you will. Maybe you will be so inspired that you would even consider purchasing a copy for your pastor. It could be a gift that your pastor would find to be life changing, if not life saving.

The opening pages of the book begin with the author sharing his personal struggles in ministry. I anticipated that he was going to unpack a series of stories about some terrible sin he committed and then write about other pastors who committed scarlet letter sins. But the book isn’t about those pastors we hear about on the news that got caught stealing money or violating their marriage vows or trapped in the snare of addiction or substance abuse.

To the contrary, Tripp didn’t focus on the gross public sins of pastors. He went to the heart of the matter, dealing with the private, personal issues that fester deep within. Yes, sometimes those personal challenges do manifest themselves into public scandal. But they also can slowly simmer, causing pastors to wither away in spiritual atrophy. How does this occur? As Tripp sees it, the major problem pastor’s face is the disconnect that exists between their public ministry and their private life. How does this occur? According to Tripp, the problem develops because three temptations are not dealt with.

Temptation #1: Allowing ministry to define one’s identity.
Pastors face the ongoing challenge of differentiating their profession from their personhood. When pastors see their profession and their personhood as one in the same, they begin to neglect applying the truth they offer to others to themselves. Pastor’s offer grace to others without seeing their own need for the same.

Temptation #2: Allowing biblical literacy and theological knowledge to define the depth of one’s ministry. According to Tripp, “Maturity is not about what you know it’s about how you live your life. There’s a difference between growing up and growing old.” If pastors are not careful, the truth they affirm with their brains will cease to impact their hearts.

Temptation #3: Confusing ministry success with God’s endorsement of one’s life.
Or, in everyday language, “How can I be so bad? Look at how God is blessing my ministry?” Obviously this line of logic has led and continues to lead many down slippery slopes toward self-destruction. Pastors can never forget that God will always honor his word and advance his own kingdom and often does so in spite of His human servants. God is first and foremost bound to honor his Kingdom and advance its purposes. He is not obligated to advance my kingdom or anyone else’s for that matter. Therefore large does not equal legitimate.

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