I knew the ministry was tough. Figured that out the hard way. I still love it and want to do it the rest of my life. I thank God for it, but it’s tough. This book (Dangerous Calling by Paul David Tripp) was like the ultimate gut check for me. Funny thing was that unlike what I’ve been tempted to think so many other times, the culprit of my pain was me. The biggest source of my failures? You guessed it–me.
There is hope in this, however, because in a world of things I can’t change, with Christ’s help, I can change me.
Before I tell the themes that spoke to me in this book, I must stop and thank Mr. Tripp for his transparency. Some authors throw in a watered-down criticism of themselves that is really just to show you how wonderful they are in their realness. That is simply not the case here. He takes chapter one to tell where he was at one time in his ministry. Frankly, he was an unspiritual jerk. He held little back in the telling of the story.
Why is that so helpful? Because in some details I could see myself. He spoke of how his “inner lawyer” always came out to defend him. He acknowledged that he was more or less deceived. Am I the only one who finds his discernment runs at such a lower level when the subject is me?
He takes us to task for letting the ministry define our identity. Before I am Jimmy the pastor, or Jimmy the blog writer, I am Jimmy the man. That Christian with varying levels of spirituality, that man utterly needy of Christ, that is who I am. I need to shed the illusions of grandeur where the ministry has elevated me to think something beyond who I really am.
He said: “No one is more influential in your life than you are, because no one talks to you more than you do.” I assure you I am quite the chatterbox in this area. My mind never stops! In all that talking he says “you preach to yourself an anti-gospel of your own righteousness, power, and wisdom, or you preach to yourself the true gospel of deep spiritual need and sufficient grace.” He says we quit thinking of ourselves as a needy child of God and see ourselves as the PASTOR! As if there were some special category! Later in the book he says of we in the ministry: “We are still a mess.” He talks about the fact that we are still in the middle of our sanctification. We know this is true of Mr. Tripp and Mr. Jimmy Reagan. I’m in the middle of my sanctification and still have such a way to go. What about you my pastor friends and acquaintances?
He tackles other issues. My equating my Bible knowledge with spiritual maturity. Ouch! Or how about confusing numbers with success and then riding that roller coaster? He talks about how we think we have arrived and listen to no one. He talks about the ministry overtaking my personal devotions and worship of God, and about how I will lose my awe of my Almighty God. I can walk among the treasures of the Word of God and prepare sermons and never see the sparkle of the gold.
He explains that when I go this way I am in danger of things that I would never want to do. I start separating my private and public self. I can preach against something and turn around and do it–of course anyone could do it, but my problem might be how blind I can be to how serious it is. I can too become completely ensnared by the fear of man. I preach, I speak, I lead just to gain the praise of those who haven’t figured out how wonderful I am yet. Sadly, I no longer act for the approval of One.
All of this will lead to living for self-glory. In that all of us deal with pride, this is a real and present danger. This becomes the gasoline the Enemy throws on the fire of my life to burn up what I could do for the One Whom I love, the One Who gave His all for me.
There’s more. Don’t think I gave you a good enough rundown that you don’t need this book. I need this book. I suspect all of us in the ministry desperately need this book. I’ll recommend it too for pastor’s wives to understand their husbands, and, in that your husband’s call has become yours, you ladies too could fall victim to your own hearts as well. Church members, learn here how to pray for your pastor, learn how to love him, but bring him back down to earth. You might want to give him this book as a gift saying you just heard other pastors saying it helped and blessed them. (That’s true, you heard it from this pastor).
I thank the Lord for this book, for what it means to me, and pray I allow the Holy Spirit to use it on me in the days ahead.