The single most accurate word that I could use in describing my experience reading Paul David Tripp’s latest book, Dangerous Calling: Confronting the Unique Challenges of Pastoral Ministry. Half way through reading the book, I excitedly emailed my own pastor recommending that he pick up a copy as soon as possible, only to later realize that he will have to wait a few weeks, as the release date is set for October 31. Aptly titled and published by Crossway, it is a breath of fresh air that will definitely provoke pastors to evaluate their role in God’s ministry, rather than hoarding over “their ministry” and asking the Lord to jump on board. However, don’t be fooled, this book has something for everyone. Those not in the pulpit can also learn better how to care for and love their pastor, who, unbeknownst to them, may be suffering under the weight of trying to carry the entire ministry on his own shoulders.
Thoughtfully divided into three separate parts (Examining Pastoral Culture, The Danger of Losing Your Awe and The Danger of Arrival), Dangerous Calling sets out to encourage pastors to view their hearts, and therefore, motives in light of the mirror of God’s Word. Thankfully, it is gospel heavy while being interspersed with disheartening anecdotes of pastors who have fallen into unhealthy habits, having lost sight of their continued need for the grace of Jesus Christ.
One of the things that impressed me most about Pastor Tripp and his pastoral call to personal diagnosis is how he held little back from his readers about his very own struggles. He bares his soul for all to see, effectively saying to pastors everywhere – I’ve been there. I know what you are going through.
Yet, I never once got the impression that a famous, well-known and successful pastor was “preaching at me.” Instead, the entire book has an easy, comfortable, conversational feel. Maybe its the way that he begins the book, “I was a very angry man. The problem was that I didn’t know that I was an angry man.”
Or, maybe it is the way that his arguments come from experience and not from a mere intellectual conclusion. Case in point. When showing us his own self-diagnosis which brought him to the ministry he is in now, Tripp writes, “No, maturity is about how you live your life. It is possible to be theologically astute and be very immature. It is possible to be biblically literate and be in need of significant spiritual growth.”
This naturally segues into the need for a tough, yet honest look into the seminary culture itself. Why are so many pastors struggling with the demands of the ministry? Was their training spiritually effectual and relevant or was it merely academic and professional? Rather than producing shepherds, if not careful, even the best Bible colleges, institutes and seminaries are capable of producing experts in a specific field – be it apologetics, church history, or systematic theology.
So, what answers does Dangerous Calling provide after revealing ministry pitfalls and their root causes? Well, I urge you to read the book, but as a bit of a teaser, I offer a portion of Tripp’s appeal to the overworked, depressed or bitter pastor, “Determine to spend a certain portion of everyday meditating on his glory. Cry out for the help of others. And remind yourself to be thankful for Jesus, who offers you his grace, even at those moments when that grace isn’t nearly as valuable to you as it should be.”
Rarely do I find books that I would consider reading again, and almost never do I read a book that I want to immediately pick back up again and read all over, but Dangerous Calling is one of those rare books, and I’m very thankful to have received the review copy from Crossway. So, do yourself or your pastor a favor. As soon as the book comes out, pick him up a copy.
If my endorsement is not enough, check out the book’s trailer below. As always, constructive comments are welcomed.