A Review of Paul Tripp’s, Dangerous Calling, a great resource for those in and considering seminary!
There are many books currently available for pastors: how to preach better sermons, raise money, grow your congregations, etc. Paul Tripp writes a different sort of book. He looks at the pastor, not merely as the shepherd but as one of the sheep.
His claim: that pastors are just as messed up and broken as the people inside of their congregations.
He organizes the book into three parts. (Continued below the video)
First he examines the pastoral culture. Here he discusses how pastors are viewed – by their congregations, family, other pastors, the world and by God. One of the main issues he draws out is the lack of community for pastors. Often they become segregated within their own churches – as if they are above the body. They aren’t. Pastors need community as much as any other believer; a place to be vulnerable, to struggle, and to seek encouragement when needed. Tripp writes that people are not just looking for a role model in the pulpit. They want to see another human being.
Tripp retells a number of stories from his time counseling pastors. Many of them are heartbreaking. For many of these people, if they had read their story outside of this book – guessing that they were a pastor would have been the furthest thing from your mind. And partially it is that shame which keeps them from being known; from being honest with the people they serve with and minister to.
Second, Tripp writes about the danger of losing our awe in God. This plays out in a number of ways.
- Allowing us to become overly familiar and unenthused by Scripture
- Our hearts become cold to the Gospel, and our mercy towards others dries up
- We let fear rule our lives and decisions
- Our ministry becomes characterized by mediocrity
- We play the comparison game – both with other pastors and with people in other careers (imagining the grass is greener)
- We slip into sin
Remaining in awe of who God is and what he does is not something that comes easily to us as human beings. When something is new and unfamiliar it’s easy for us to be fully engaged and excited. Overtime that interest wanes and we find other things to excite us. As minister’s that really shouldn’t be an option for us. Yes, it is our privilege to preach Christ – but even more so it is our reason for being alive to delight in him. Once we begin to slack in our cultivation of awe, or lose it all together, our ministry suffers. The role of pastor doesn’t make sense without God, so don’t try to do it without him.
Third, Tripp calls this the danger of arrival or how pastors forget who they are. This was an extended discussion about how easily pride seeps into the life of a pastor and how destructive it can be once it takes root. Even though pride tells us we are in control, it puts us at the mercy of so many things: circumstances, other’s opinions of us, our own weaknesses, and sin.
Although the author spends the majority of his time calling out problems, there is clearly a voice of hope throughout the pages. The good news is that many more pastors are honest with their struggles. This book is a call for those in ministry to drop their walls, to be vulnerable – and it will affect your ministry in ways you wouldn’t imagine.
As far as other qualities of the book go:
Writing style: Very readable. His language comes across smooth and conversational. I enjoy this sort of writing, when I feel as if the author is directly across a table from me explaining everything that is on his heart and mind.
Length: At just over 200 pages it’s a good sized book. Although I feel as if it could have been shorter (by about 40 pages or so). There tends to be more repetition than I like in portions of the book.
Audience: It’s very clear he is writing to the evangelical crowd. And his message communicates clearly with both those who have been in ministry for sometime and those who have yet to get their feet wet.
Lasting power: Will you pick this book up again after you’ve read through it once? I believe so. It’s a timely word to a human problem. Go ahead and add it to your library.
In summary, the role of pastor is indeed a dangerous calling. It comes with incredible burdens but it can also be an opportunity for incredible joys. Do not take your calling lightly, at times it will seem as if the entire world is against you. But take heart, the one you labor for has overcome the world.