This book is, simply put, a must read for any individual who desires to enter full-time, part-time or lay pastoral ministry. I would actually go so far as to say that this book would be an eye-opener for anyone in the church because many people in the church do not truly understand everything a pastor faces in his life and ministry. Paul David Tripp does an amazing job of capturing the dangers and temptations that face not just the pastor, but his family as well. Dangerous Calling takes a long, in-depth look at pastoral ministry and reveals what could be considered a darker side of ministry.
Before reading this book, I was only vaguely familiar with Paul Tripp and his ministry, and most of my exposure was through Twitter and a couple podcasts. I must confess that I am pleased I went with the recommendation to review Dangerous Calling. As a part-time youth pastor for the last two years, I have faced only portion of what many pastors have faced throughout their ministry. However, everything I read in Tripp’s book was presented in a clear and understandable way. What Paul writes in this book makes perfect sense and was not only a challenge to me, but also an encouragement because it shows that I am not alone in my struggles, nor will I ever be alone.
From the very beginning of the book, you see that Paul Tripp is not trying to hide behind a façade of seemingly perfect ministry. He is more than willing to share his own personal stories of struggle and weakness as a pastor that God brought him through and used in his own life and ministry to bring him to where he is today. He helps the reader understand that he is not above them looking down on them, but trying to walk alongside of them to encourage them and help them so they do not make some of the same errors he has made. He also uses stories from pastors who have come to him for help and encouragement. However, all of these stories and examples and insight are meant to bring us to the understanding that pastors still need the same grace we preach just as much as those we preach to need it. Pastors have not arrived at a certain level of holiness that has allowed them to become a pastor. Pastors are not above the gospel. Pastors are not at a place in their spiritual walk where they need something besides the gospel to keep them going. The hope of glory according to the Bible is Christ IN us, not Christ AND us. So the gospel includes everything we need to live a life that brings glory to God and leads us into a more intimate relationship with the Lord. This gospel is the same for everyone, from the newest follower of Christ to the most seasoned and battle-worn disciple. We are all saved by the same grace and are all called to make disciples. The temptation thought that faces many pastors today is the idea that they have arrived and they are somehow above those they are preaching too. This could not be further from the truth. Paul Tripp does an amazing job at explaining this in a way that helps humble a pastor but yet encourage them and push them towards the gospel.
I believe this book would do well in the hands of any seminary student as well and would be a very beneficial and insightful text for any would-be-pastor. In one part of the book, Paul shares stories from different seminary classes he has had the opportunity to teach and how it opened his eyes to how seminary is a very beneficial tool to help train ministry leaders, but it can also be extremely dangerous as well if the student’s heart is not truly where it needs to be. This topic is discussed in chapters entitled “Big Theological Brains and Heart Disease” and “More than Knowledge and Skill.” Being a pastor takes more than just theological knowledge and communication skills and counseling wisdom. Being a pastor takes a heart that seeks to chase and follow after God’s heart step by step. If the heart is not in it, the person filling the pulpit will do little to truly fill the role of a pastor in their local church. Dangerous Calling served as a great reminder and heart check for me in my ministry. Many times I have found myself falling short of my calling and with how I respond to and love people and this book brought me to an understanding of how I daily need God’s grace and to preach the gospel to myself in order to give me a heart after God’s own heart. The heart is the key to any ministry position and if our heart is left to wander, our ministry will wander as well.
Here are a couple noteworthy quotes from the book:
“In pastoral ministry, it is very hard to keep what God says is important, important in your heart.”
“It is critical to understand that your ministry will always be either propelled by or victimized by what you treasure.”
Being a pastor is much more than just a position to hold or a profession to seek. Your life is always under pressure from both the internal and external. Internally you have a battle raging as a follower of Christ and as someone attempting to lead and shepherd other Christians. You also face external pressures from those very people within your church as well. These pressures can eventually lead a pastor to crack, especially if their heart is not in the right place.
There are so many other quotes I could include or points I could make that I drew from this book but I am just going to strongly encourage you to actually pick up a copy of the book as well and read it for yourself. I highly recommend reading it as your eyes will be opened to the dangerous calling that pastors face. If you are following God’s leading in your life to be a pastor, this book will be great. Or, if you simply want to understand how you can minister to your pastor, this book would be well worth your time.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Crossway in exchange for this review. Thanks for taking the time to read this review and feel free to leave comments or questions.