Thursday, August 18, 2016

Book Review: Dangerous Calling

A couple of months ago I completed a book written by Paul David Tripp entitled, Dangerous Calling: Confronting the Unique Challenges of Pastoral Ministry. I read this book after it was recommended to me by a pastor friend, and thought that as a new pastor it would be helpful for me to consider some potential challenges in the ministry that God has called me to. Plus, I had heard about Paul David Tripp and read some articles written by him, but had never read any of his books.

I really appreciate Tripp's ministry as the executive director of the Center for Pastoral Life and Care in Fort Worth, Texas. He obviously has a heart for taking care of pastors, and this really showed in the pages of this book. One of the most helpful aspects of Dangerous Calling was Tripp's openness and willingness to share his own struggles as a pastor, especially in regards to his relationship with his wife. These struggles are in part what motivated him to begin his ministry to pastors. His openness about these things challenged me to consider and evaluate some of my own heart attitudes, both in my marriage and in my calling as a pastor. Am I proud? Do I fail to listen? Am I quicker to react in anger than to listen in love? These are all questions that I had to ask myself and answer honestly. It was a reminder that being a pastor does not mean that I have "arrived" spiritually, but I need to continue to grow spiritually.

And that brings me to the second aspect of Dangerous Calling that I appreciated: Tripp's emphasis on the Gospel. The Gospel is irrelevant for no one, including a pastor. For those of us who have been saved a while it is easy to forget about the Gospel and move on to more "meaty" topics in Christianity. But it is the power of the Gospel that saved us (2 Tim. 1:8-9), and it is the reality of the Gospel that has called us and motivates us in ministry. Let's not grow weary of the truth that Jesus Christ died for our sins, was buried, and was then raised from the dead (1 Cor. 15)! As a pastor, I must not only never fail to continue preaching the Gospel to others, but also to myself. To be daily reminded of the Gospel is to be daily reminded that I am dependent upon God, that I am a sinner, that it is by God's grace through faith that I am saved, and that it is by faith that I must follow Christ now that I am saved.

One of the horrible side affects of failing to regularly remind myself of the Gospel is that I will lose my "sense of awe": "What is the danger? It is that familiarity with the things of God will cause you to lose your awe. You've spent so much time in Scripture that its grand redemptive narrative, with its expansive wisdom, doesn't excite you anymore. You've spent so much time exegeting the atonement that you can stand at the foot of the cross with little weeping and scant rejoicing... It's all become so regular and normal that it fails to move you anymore; in fact, there are sad moments when the wonder of grace can barely get your attention in the midst of your busy ministry schedule." (pg. 114-115) I have begun to pray and ask God to help me keep my sense of awe of His beauty, majesty, and greatness. And one practical application that I began as a result of reading Dangerous Calling is to begin memorizing Psalm 145. What a beautiful psalm of God's greatness!

I was disappointed by certain elements of this book. For example, it struck me as a highly repetitive book: after the first several chapters, it seemed like Tripp was just repeating the same theme over and over again. He referenced the Gospel several times without actually defining or explaining it, which gave the book a somewhat shallow feel. And there was very little Scripture about what God desires in a pastor of His church. Overall, I would recommend Dangerous Calling to pastors and even seminary students who are considering the pastorate as it encouraged me and served as a good reminder of what I have written about above. But I do believe there are better books on pastoral ministry.

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