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Paul David Tripp, Dangerous Calling: Confronting the Unique Challenges of Pastoral Leadership. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2012.Dangerous Calling is written by Paul Tripp, Executive Director of the Center for Pastoral Life and Care. Dr. Tripp has served both as a pastor and seminary professor. It was in the convergence of these two roles Dr. Tripp noticed a “disconnect between the public persona of ministry and [the] private lives” of many serving or being trained for church service. The author’s intent is very simple. He wrote a “diagnostic book . . . to help [the reader] take an honest look at [him]self in the heart- and life-exposing mirror of the Word of God-to see things that are wrong and need correcting and to help [him] place [him]self once again under the healing and transforming power of the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
Though Dr. Tripp refers to the book as “diagnostic,” it is far from dry, uninteresting and irrelevant. It’s pages do include case studies (life stories – the names are changed of course) and reviews of the issues which afflict people and their families in ministry. But, these accounts serve as vehicles of identification. For the stories the reader encounters are their journeys, or could easily be. Dr. Tripp successfully connects the issues common to those who love God and sense His call to care for His bride. In the process the author reminds the reader that, even though we mediate the Gospel, we NEVER cease to be in need of its wondrous work.
To accomplish his goal, the book, an easy read at 240 pages, is divided into three parts (he knows his audience). The first section focuses on an examination of the pastoral culture. This is the largest section of the book. Why? Because it is the expectations and parameters of pastoral ministry that create many of the issues ministry leaders and their families are caught up in. Based on his observations and interactions, the author believes the shape and expression of modern pastoral ministry is both spiritually unhealthy and disconnected from God’s intention for His undershepherds. Some of the ramifications of this that Dr. Tripp explores are: the way ministers are trained, what churches expect of pastors and their families and the conditions under which those who serve fulfill their God mandated call in a local community of faith.
The second section is “The Danger of Losing Your Awe (Forgetting Who God Is).” Those who handle things holy on a regular basis are prone to loosing a sense of wonder at the majesty and greatness of God. When this happens, the servant losses his excitement and is “left with a duty to do the business of ministry in repetitive, day-after-day, joyless obligation.” As many of us have personally discovered, we become so busy with the work of the Lord, we forget about the Lord of the work. This portion the book seeks to call those who serve as pastors back to their first love. It challenges the reader to examine his heart. The chapters also provide useful steps in reacquiring God’s grandeur through a personal encounter with Him.
On the heals of forgetting who God is, the last section warns of the danger of “Forgetting Who You Are.” This addresses the propensity ministry servants have for thinking they have arrived and are no longer one who desperately needs the daily experience of God’s grace. The chapter is a helpful tool for the reader to humble and submit himself to God. Accompanying the helpful suggestions for self-examination, the last section of the book includes some guidance for moving forward and reacquiring a vital daily experience of God’s presence while being in the midst of serving others.
I have personally found this book to be enlightening, challenging and helpful in serving God as one who continues to be in need of service from God. Its value is such that I have recommended to and provided it for individuals so they may avoid the entrapment of serving God without a regular encounter with Him. Dangerous Calling truly is one of those books that anyone contemplating or serving in ministry must read.