Dangerous Calling

As you can see by checking the “Books I Like” column to the right, I recently came across Paul David Tripp’s Dangerous Calling: Confronting The Unique Challenges Of Pastoral Ministry.

I had never heard of either the book or its author before a friend loanded it to me.  Tripp runs in some very different theological circles than I do, having taught at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia and now serving on the faculty at Redeemer’s Seminary in Dallas. 

Both schools are founded on the kind of Calvinistic theology that we Methodists respectfully reject.  (Well, sometimes our rejection is respectful; to see a not-very-gentle treatment of Calvinism, check out what Mr. Wesley himself wrote here.)

Yet in spite of the personal unfamiliarity and doctrinal distance, Dangerous Calling was and is a gift from God to me.  I read most of it while in India and it spoke powerfully about the very issues I wrestle with the most:  pastoral identity, pastoral ego, and pastoral competition.

Here are just a few of Tripp’s gems . . . the kinds of words I wish I had read much earlier in my ministry journey:

. . . when people are your substitute messiah (you need their respect and support in order to continue), it’s hard to be honest with them about your sins, weaknesses, and failures.  (p. 38)

Pastor, no one is more influential in your life than you are, because no one else talks to you more.  The things you say to yourself about God, you, ministry, and others are profoundly important, shaping your participation in and experience of ministry.  (p. 99)

Could it be that many of the stresses of ministry are the result of our seeking to get things out of ministry that it will never deliver?  Could it be that we’re asking the ministry to do for us what only the Messiah can do?  (p. 102)

It is very difficult in ministry to give away what you do not possess yourself.  (p. 119)

You could argure that every worship service is little more than a glory war.  The great question of the gathering is, will the hearts of this group of people be captured by the one glory that is truly glorious or by the shadow glories of the created world?  (p. 138)

Another sign of the loss of your [received] identity is that your desire to master content of the Word is not coupled with a craving that your heart would be mastered by the God of the Word.  (p. 195)

I pray it will be a long time before the force of those words — be they the products of God’s predestination or Paul Tripp’s free will — leave the confines of my mind.