Dangerous Calling by: Paul Tripp

“Perhaps this is the only thing that this book you have just read is about. It is a detailed exposition of what happens in the life of a person in ministry when he forgets to preach to himself the same gospel that he gives to others. It is sad, but true, that there are thousands of gospel ministers whose lives and ministries are shaped by a functional gospel amnesia.”[1]

Dangerous Calling is aptly titled. This book is like heart surgery, only without the aid of any form of anesthesia. The ‘life of a person in ministry’ that Tripp mentions in the final pages of the book is first himself, and then every reader. From the first pages of the book, through gut-wrenching honesty and frank introspection, Tripp details the inner spiritual battle that has waged in his heart for decades in pastoral ministry. He is brutally transparent and unflinchingly direct in this text. His perspective on his personal battles, as well as his willingness to prophetically challenge all those who embrace the dangerous calling of ministry, make this text a must-read for both pastors and those who care for them.

This book is like heart surgery, only without the aid of any form of anesthesia. Click To Tweet

The book has three sections. In the first, Tripp examines pastoral culture. He starts at the beginning of every pastor’s journey through a critique of seminary culture (he taught in the seminary world for years). Through numerous personal epithets of his own heart-hardening journey and through first-hand accounts he has witnessed in his recent ministry years of travelling and pastoring pastors, he gives a strong critique of the broken world of pastoral ministry. The major thing that stood out from this section is the lack of awareness in the lives of many pastors, and churches, at the need for pastors to be pastored in their local church contexts. I kept hearing the line from Rocky IV as I read these pages (after Ivan Drago gets cut for the first time in the fight): “He not a machine, he’s a man!” Pastors are not machines, though others and ourselves often view us that way.

“[The pastor] is a member of the body of Christ who himself desperately needs the ministry of the very body he has been called to train and lead. The model [from 1 Corinthians 12:14-25] is a of a man in need of help in training people to be ready to give him the very same help.”[2]

After examining the pitfalls of pastoral culture, Tripp lays out the practical effect of such a culture in section 2: “The Danger of Losing Your Awe (Forgetting Who God Is).” In these four chapters, he puts his finger on the worship issues in the lives of many pastors. It is a dark secret in pastoral ministry, that being called to lead others in the growth of their spiritual lives, pastors often get stunted in their own. In each of these chapters, Tripp not only diagnoses the issues in the life of the pastor, but he also offers practical guidelines, hope, encouragement, and a way forward. This is a key feature of this text. Though the swift cuts of the scalpel in this book draw initial pain, the surgical procedure is meant to heal, and I think it does just that for the receptive reader.

The swift cuts of the scalpel in this book draw initial pain, the surgical procedure is meant to heal. Click To Tweet

“Let me say again: if you are a pastor or ministry leader, you are at the same time a person in the middle of your own sanctification. You are not yet free of sin and all its attendant dangers. You still carry around moral susceptibility. You are capable of giving way to disastrous things. You are capable of losing your way. You are capable of ungodly attitudes and dark desires. You have not been completely delivered from pride, greed, lust, anger, and bitterness. There are places where you are an idolater, where the agenda is being set by a desire for some created thing more than it is by worship of your Creator.”[3]

The final section is titled “The Danger of Arrival (Forgetting Who You Are).” When dysfunctional pastoral culture (environment) leads one to forget who God is (worship), a crisis of identity results. This leads to pride, what Tripp calls “arrival” in the life of the pastor. It is impossible to lead people to the glory of God, if you are concerned for your own glory. It is impossible to properly prepare to preach to others, if you aren’t preaching the gospel to yourself, or allowing others the access to preach it to you. In this final section, the pastor is called to not only work as an “instrument of grace” in the lives of others, but to remember that he is always a “recipient of that same grace.”[4]

It is impossible to lead people to the glory of God, if you are concerned for your own glory. Click To Tweet

“Ministry is a war for the gospel in your own heart. Grace enables you to be a good soldier. You and I cannot and must not allow ourselves to become comfortable with things that God says are wrong. You and I must not learn to make things work that simply aren’t working. You and I must not work to convince ourselves that our idols aren’t really idols. You and I cannot permit ourselves to live a ministry life that lacks consistency and integrity. You and I must understand that we have been called to battle for the gospel of Jesus Christ and that war begins in our hearts.”[5]

This book is about a dangerous calling. If you or someone near you has embraced that calling, I would, without reservation, recommend this painfully challenging book.

[1] Paul Tripp, Dangerous Calling, p. 222.

[2] p. 89.

[3] p. 154.

[4] p. 195.

[5] p. 204.