Dangerous Calling: Tripp on Pastoral Ministry

Every time I read or listen to Paul Tripp, one liberating message consistently resounds in my head and heart:

As desperate sinners we can be ruthlessly honest about our need for grace, because the very grace we so desperately need is available to us–right now–in the person and work of Jesus Christ.

I was recently encouraged, as I opened my email inbox, to find some exciting news from Crossway in the form of an advanced-copy PDF.   In his forthcoming book, Dangerous Calling: Confronting the Unique Challenges of Pastoral Ministry, Tripp recounts some of the most trying experiences within his own life and ministry in order to provide a “diagnostic” that will help pastors honestly face and wisely navigate the challenges, temptations, and potential pitfalls frequently facing those in pastoral ministry.  I’ve only begun to flip through the pages, but it is clear that Tripp powerfully demonstrates how the liberating message of grace is needed as much by the pastor as it is by the parishioner.

Divided into 3 parts, Tripp begins by “Examining Pastoral Culture”.  In this section, Tripp uncovers the common dangers that pastors face when they lack community and personal accountability, refuse to listen to those around them, face relational difficulties within their own marriage and family, allow their identity to be defined by their ministry, only approach the Scriptures with an academic bent (or as only applying to the lives of others), form misconceptions about ministry “success”, and fail to consistently preach the truth of the gospel to themselves.

Tripp moves forward to examine the ramifications of forgetting who God is.  In a section entitled “The Danger of Losing Your Awe (Forgetting Who God Is)”, Tripp examines how, as Warfield stated, “constant contact with divine things” can result in complacent theological familiarity and a loss of awe for the power, presence, and person of God.  Forgetting who God is results in sinful fear, secrecy, complacency and frustration.

Part 3, “The Danger of Arrival: Forgetting Who You Are”, takes aim at the dangers of forming a magnified view of ourselves that is selfish, sinful, and altogether unbiblical.  Tripp notes that when we choose to become the objects of our worship we prideful, defensive, disconnected, overtly self-confident, and always desiring to make ourselves known in an unhealthy way.  Tripp notes how choosing to worship God personally and privately, will allow us to encounter the glory of God in such a way that it will then allow us to see ourselves for who we truly are, stripping us of our self-focus, self-righteousness, self-sufficiency, and more…in turn allowing us to truly experience life.

In each section, Tripp never leaves you guessing as to how God’s grace reaches into each situation with its healing power.  The strength of Tripp’s writing lies in his ability to surgically, and thus often uncomfortably, address the infections and wounds of sin within the life of the believer, and in this particular case, the pastor.  He then wisely notes how our sinful hearts often try to cover over these wounds, or out rightly ignore them, which leads to increased damage to our hearts and destruction in the lives of those around us.  Again, he never leaves the person with a sense of despair, no matter how deeply the sin has permeated one’s own heart and life.  God has given Paul Tripp the ability to speak the Good News of the gospel of God’s grace toward us in Christ with such clarity and effective soul application that even the most desperate person, who chooses to believe, will rejoice in the light of the availability and liberating power of God’s grace.

As a young minister who has served in various pastoral capacities over the last 5 years, even in my quick reading of this book, Tripp has already uncovered many of the sinful tendencies I see and struggle with in my own life.  Thus, I can confidently say, for the young pastor or the seasoned one, this book is a must read!  Pick up a copy, be personally and ministerially honest, and glorify God by applying and reveling in the now-available grace of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Dangerous Calling is expected for publication on October 31, 2012.  Until then, you can pre-order a hardback copy at Amazon for $11.86 (48% off the cover price of $22.99).  You can also check out the info page at Crossway for endorsements and additional details.

NOTE: I was provided with a complimentary advanced-copy PDF of this title from the publisher for the purpose of review, and was under no obligation to offer a positive review.

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