Dangerous Calling (book review)

The unique challenges of pastoral ministry
By Paul David Tripp
IVP. 227 pages.
£11.99 ISBN 978 1 844 746 026
A friend recently began saying ‘sorry prayers’ with his young daughter. ‘It felt awkward and embarrassing that I, the adult, the Christian, the one in ministry, had to say sorry to God for things.’ This story would fit well in Tripp’s latest book, which helpfully highlights, and painfully examines, specific temptations in the life of the gospel minister. Dangers addressed include: an academic approach to Christian work which sees messed-up people as ‘distractions from the real work of ministry’, isolation and lack of accountability in the pastor’s life, and the idea that the pastor has ‘arrived’ and doesn’t have the same dire need for grace as those he is preaching to.

Not alone

Use of real stories from his own life and of many pastors he has spoken with fills out the reality of Tripp’s writing. Those who haven’t fallen prey to these dangers might otherwise consider Tripp’s diagnoses exaggerated. Similarly, those who see themselves in the chapters can know they aren’t alone, and, rather than burrowing further into a disjointed ‘private’ and ‘ministry’ life, may be enabled to confess secret sins, turning from them back to God and his calling.

Pastor sees himself

This is an uncomfortable book. You may not see yourself in every chapter, but you will in some of them. Thankfully, Tripp prescribes and applies the gospel to every failing of the minister, as we are constantly reminded that we need the same gospel we preach to others. This book is immensely valuable to me as I hope to begin Bible College. It alerts me to potential dangers of ministry life at every step. If you are beginning, or are early on in ministry, read this book prayerfully, asking the Lord to continually deliver you from its dangers. If you are established in ministry, read this book prayerfully, asking the Lord to help you see how you have been shaped by unhelpful aspects of ‘pastoral culture’. If you are a church member, read this book prayerfully, asking the Lord to help you see ways you have isolated your pastor, or set him up for a fall. My friend finished his story by encouraging us that his ‘sorry prayers’ have helped his daughter understand grace more clearly. As the Spirit blesses, this book will help pastors live lives which enable congregations to see more clearly the grace of Jesus in his saving and transforming power.

Richard Baxter,  apprentice at Carey Baptist Church, Reading

Neil Powell of Birmingham City Church shares on his blog ‘A Faith To Live By’ that this book is the ‘highlight of [his] summer reading’.

This article was first published in the May 2013 issue of Evangelicals Now. For more news, artciles or reviews, subscribe to EN or contact us for more information. http://www.e-n.org.uk 0845 225 0057