Book Review Dangerous Calling Confronting The Unique Challenges of Pastoral Ministry

Posted by on Oct 31, 2012 in Reviews

Book Review Dangerous Calling Confronting The Unique Challenges of Pastoral Ministry

Thousands and millions of books are written every year, and every year I regularly read over one hundred books but very few of those books published and even fewer of those that I read are diagnostic books that punch you in the gut (in a good way to bring conviction of sin) by pointing out the weaknesses in pastoral culture and church life in order to help pastors see clearly their blind spots and point them to growth in the grace of God. Thankfully Dr. Paul Tripp a seasoned Pastor and counselor knows this which is why he wrote Dangerous Calling Confronting The Unique Challenges of Pastoral Ministry.

One of the more important trends I see happening in Christian publishing is an emphasize on Gospel centered growth in the grace of God. Added to this emphasis is a recent resurgence in books being published that emphasizes how the Pastor should be growing in the grace of God. Often such books on spiritual formation are written for the lay person so it encourages me when I see publishers like Christian Focus (who recently published Pastoring the Pastor) and now Crossway publishing Dangerous Calling addressing this issue in a way that doesn’t burden Pastors but confronts them with the Truth of God’s Word in order to help them see themselves as they are desperate needy sinners in need of Jesus and His grace.

There’s an epidemic happening in pastoral ministry. In seminary future pastors are given a lot of information about theology, doctrine, church history and more to help equip them to preach, teach and minister to God’s people. Sadly this emphasis on information focuses only on the head (knowing right doctrine is vital, so don’t hear me arguing against that, my point is larger than this). My point is quite simply that Pastors are first Christians. The classical pastoral writers from the early church to the Reformation to the present have always focused on the character of the man which involves knowing right doctrine, but also being transformed by the doctrine we believe. In other words put more simply, sound doctrine leads to right living. What we believe has consequences so believing right doctrine should affect the way we live our lives before the throne of God’s unending, everlasting grace.

Dr. Paul Tripp has personally experienced pastoral culture as a Pastor, as a pastoral counselor, seminary professor, and conference speaker. Having read most of Dr. Tripp’s books one of the things I appreciate most about his style of writing is his goal to take Christians beneath the surface of our lives in order to point out indwelling sin and point out to the One in Jesus who longs for us to die to our sin, and turn from our sin to Him who can kill our sin and help us grow in the grace of God.

Paul Tripp’s diagnosis is not only spot on about pastoral culture in Dangerous Calling but is confirmed by The Schaeffer Institute’s [http://www.intothyword.org/apps/articles/default.asp?articleid=36562] who did research on this issue. Their research pants a disturbing picture: 50 percent of the ministers starting out will not last 5 years. Over 1,700 pastors leave the ministry every month. 70 percent of pastors constantly fight depression. 80 percent of pastors believe that pastoral ministry has negatively affected their families.

Pastors read many books that fill their minds but not many that challenge them to take an honest assessment of where they are spiritually. Dangerous Calling was written to help diagnose your spiritual life and point you to the Lord Jesus. Dr. Tripp notes that with writing this book he has “launched myself on a ministry career direction to get help for pastors who have lost their way” (12), I applaud Dr. Tripp for this and pray the Lord blesses him and increases his tribe as he ministers to hurting Pastors.

At the heart of this book is the contention that “you are constantly talking to yourself about your identity, your spirituality, your functionality, your emotionality, your mentaility, your personality, your relationships, etc. You are constantly preaching to yourself some kind of gospel. You preach to yourself an anti-gospel of your own righteousness, power, and wisdom, or you preach to yourself the true gospel of deep spiritual need and sufficient grace. You preach to yourself an anti-gospel of aloneness and inability, or you preach to yourself the true gospel of the presence, provisions, and power of an ever-present Christ” (21). The main point that Tripp makes is that “no one celebrates the presence and grace of the Lord Jesus more than the person who has embraced his desperate and daily need of it” (23).

Now that you have some flavor of the direction the book the book takes let me share with you how this book ministered to me. I’ve written quite a bit in the past year about my own struggles with burnout in the past and how the Lord lead me through this season to grow in the grace of God. Since I’ve graduated from seminary this past May (May 2012) the Lord has by His grace increased my love not only for His Word (which I’ve been reading more regularly) but also for His people. Along with this desire for more of His Word and loving His people has come a desire to be more like Him. See what I just said there? The more we long for Jesus, the more we are in His Word the more we are going to long to be like Him. At the heart of the problem of pastoral burnout is the lack of wanting to be like Jesus. The reason why many seminary students struggle to grow in the grace of God is because they have become so focused on what they “know” that they miss the point and object of their faith—Jesus Christ and growing in His grace. As a seminary graduate I not only know this temptation myself, but have fell victim to it time and time again. Dr. Tripp also knows this temptation which is why he wrote Dangerous Calling.

Whether you are a seminary student, seasoned Pastor, Professor or whatever your station in life is, you need to read this book. Yes, this book was written to diagnose pastoral culture, but by extension, I believe this book addresses a rising epidemic that is occurring in the church. We have become a people focused on what we know about God but not about how He is transforming us. Again, I will note that I am not saying that what we know isn’t important, as I’ve already stated that right doctrine is important but not ultimate. Knowing right doctrine ought to lead to right living. The reason this book was written was not to correct doctrine but to correct the false dichotomy between just living as if doctrine matters without being affected by it. It’s the being affected by the doctrine we believe that Dr. Tripp is concerned about, and I agree with him. This is also why I believe that Dangerous Calling is a must read book for every Christian not just Pastors, because we all need to see ourselves as we are, in light of Jesus Christ and His perfect righteousness.

In conclusion (if its not already clear by the length of this review), this is a book I believe every Christian and Pastor must read. It’s not often that I read a book that punches you in the gut (to lead you to repentance) and point you to the Lord Jesus Christ with balancing pastoral insight, biblical doctrine and practical application all in one book. Dangerous Calling is such a book which is why this book is hands down winning not only my favorite book of the year but is also the most convicting, encouraging and edifying book I’ve read all year. I highly recommend you get Dangerous Calling and as you read (as I did) I believe you will find the same as I did that Jesus will be at work in you (and through you) pointing out your sin and showing forth the beauty and glory of the Lord Jesus Christ through the writing of Dr. Tripp.

Title: Dangerous Calling: Confronting the Unique Challenges of Pastoral Ministry

Author: Paul Tripp

Publisher:  Crossway Books (2012)

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the Crossway book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Joel Beeke was a Failure the First 3 and 1/2 Years of His Ministry . . . or Maybe Not?

Posted by on Oct 29, 2012 in The Gospel and the Ministry

At the Desiring God Conference “The Powerful Life of the Praying Pastor: In His Room, With His Family, Among the People of God” there was a panel discussion involving Jerry Rankin, Francis Chan, Joel Beeke, John Piper, and Paul Miller.  Concerning this question:

A lack of specific answers to specific prayers seems to be lacking for many pastors. So what do you say to the pastor who is convicted about prayerlessness and unbelief in regards to prayer?

Joel Beeke answered:

Go home after this conference and think back over your life. Make a list of all the prayers you can think of where they have been answered. You may be surprised to see how many really have been answered.

I thank God for unanswered prayer. I learn more about God and myself through unanswered prayer, through the hard times. In the first three and a half years of my ministry I saw no conversions. And I look back, that was the best thing for me; if there would have been a lot of conversions, I would have become so boastful.

If God is real, continue to preach the gospel until you’ve witnessed every sinner in the world confessing Christ as Lord.  Don’t put a time table or number on conversions as some sort of “calling evaluation.”  Instead, preach the gospel regardless the response.  Base your ministry on faithfulness to God’s Word, not on some western revivalistic quota.  Lay your ego to the side and preach until all nations bring Him glory through faith alone in Christ alone!  Onward Christian soldiers!

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Weekly Roundup 10/21-10/27/2012

Posted by on Oct 28, 2012 in Resources

This is our weekly roundup of posts for 10/21-10/27/2012. If you have any feedback on how we can serve you our readers better, I would appreciate it.  Thank you for reading and allowing us to minister to you throughout this past week through these posts.

Sunday 10/21-  Book Review The Creedal Imperative Reviewed by Dave Jenkins http://servantsofgrace.org/2012/10/21/book-review-the-creedal-imperative/

Monday 10/22- Book Review When your husband is addicted to pornography healing your wounded heart by Vicki Teade http://servantsofgrace.org/2012/10/22/book-review-when-your-husband-is-addicted-to-pornography-healing-your-wounded-heart/

Tuesday 10/23- Dealing with unforgiveness by Dave Jenkins http://servantsofgrace.org/2012/10/23/dealing-with-unforgiveness/

Wed 10/24-  Self-Deception, Darkness and the Light of Jesus Christ by Dave Jenkins http://servantsofgrace.org/2012/10/24/self-deception-darkness-and-the-light-of-jesus-christ/

Thursday 10/25-   Guilt, Condemnation, Shame and the Gospel by Dave Jenkins http://servantsofgrace.org/2012/10/25/guilt-condemnation-shame-and-the-gospel/

Friday 10/26-  Review of Popologetics by Dave Jenkins http://servantsofgrace.org/2012/10/26/book-review-popologetics/

Saturday 10/27- 10 Things You can Do To Make Your Pastor’s Sermons Better by Jared Moore http://servantsofgrace.org/2012/10/27/10-things-you-can-do-to-make-your-pastors-sermons-better/

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Book Review Ethics For A Brave New World 2nd Edition Updated and Expanded

Posted by on Oct 28, 2012 in Reviews

Book Review Ethics For A Brave New World 2nd Edition Updated and Expanded

Within our lifetimes developments in technology have brought staggering changes to the way people can be conceived, born, healed or die. And prospects for the future are as mind-boggling as what has already happened. Ethics intends to set forth what ought to be, not what is. But it should help us evaluate the rightness or wrongness of what is and tells us how to act in light of it. Unfortunately changes in what is in modern life have far outdistanced reflection upon how we ought to live in such a time. This seems to be especially true among Christian ethicists, though even secular ethicists disagree about how we should live in this changing world. Into this culture, Drs. Feinberg have written the 2nd edition of the classic Ethics For A Brave New World that addresses topics such as moral decision making and the Christian, abortion, euthanasia, capital punishment, birth control, homosexuality, genetic engineering, stem cell technology, divorce and remarriage, the Christian and war and the Christian and the secular state.

The authors take their queue not from secular philosophy but from the Word of God. Christians are commanded to love their neighbors. In fulfilling that obligation one will undoubtedly consider whether a specific act in a particular situation is just and benevolent to the neighbor– to do so seems necessary in view of what it means to love someone. But what makes the loving act morally good is not that it is benevolent or just but that God commanded it. What makes an act an act of love is at least in part that it exemplifies benevolence and justice. What makes such a loving act moral is that it obeys God’s command to love. The authors contend that the “example of Christ ought to compel us. It is unthinkable that while on earth Christ never confronted a situation where two duties conflicted so as to make it impossible to do both. In fact Scripture says he was tempted in all points as we are (Heb. 4.15), and since we face such situations, he must have, too” (39). Since Christ was without sin as the God-man by the grace of God and through the empowering work of the Holy Spirit Christians living as sojourners in a sinful world as saints and sinners will confront moral decisions and through them develop a biblical worldview and increasingly reflect God and His glory by obeying God and His Word in an increasingly hostile and pagan culture.

Ethics For A Brave New World 2nd Edition is essential reading for anyone who wishes to engage the moral collapse of contemporary culture with  truth of God’s Word. Readers of this book will come away informed about the issues, conversant with the debates that swirl around these challenges, and equipped and inspired to engage them in a way that glorifies God.  This will be a resource I turn to often whenever I’m writing or thinking through ethical issues. I highly recommend this book for  Bible College, seminary students for use in their training for future ministry and for Pastors, Sunday school teachers and Professors as they prepare to engage an increasingly hostile culture and proclaim the truth of God’s Word to it.

Title: Ethics for a Brave New World, Second Edition (Updated and Expanded)

Authors:  John S. Feinberg and Paul D. Feinberg

Publisher:  Crossway Books (2012)

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the Crossway Books book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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10 Things You Can Do to Make Your Pastor’s Sermons Better

Posted by on Oct 27, 2012 in The Gospel and the church

1.  If your pastor is currently doing something ministerial that is not biblically pastoral in nature (primarily praying and teaching), then either you do it, or find someone else who will.  Imagine if your pastor had five or ten more hours to prepare each of his sermons per week.  Of course they will be better!  You will be amazed.

2. Listen attentively as if your listening is an act of worship, because it is.  When you listen to God’s Word in submission, you are worshipping God.  Whenever you don’t, you’re not worshipping God; and yes, it is sinful for you to ignore the Word of God when it is being preached or taught regardless if he is keeping your attention or not.

3. Remember that the sermon is not another media outlet for you to feed your thirst for entertainment.  Don’t “turn the channel” because you’re not being entertained.  Furthermore, don’t expect your pastor to do in 10 or less hours of preparation a week what television stations spend millions of dollars on, and hire teams to accomplish: keeping your attention.

4. If possible, get a good night sleep on Saturday night.  Do you know how hard it is to engage a zombie?

5. Pray for your pastor periodically; and let him know on a regular basis that you pray for him.  It will encourage him.

6. Don’t keep looking at the cute baby while your pastor is preaching.  Don’t you know that a baby is less-interesting than the Word of God?  Can you not play with the baby after worship?  Your pastor can see you!  Furthermore, don’t be talking during the sermon; and if someone walks in late, don’t look at them!  Focus on the Word of God.

7. If you have an issue with your pastor, or another issue that he will not enjoy, then wait until after he is finished preaching before you bring it to his attention.  He needs to focus on his most-important task: feeding Christ’s sheep.

8. Evaluate the sermon based on the Bible’s criteria for a sermon, not what your criteria or someone else’s criteria might be.  Share with your pastor if you believed that he faithfully preached the Word; it will encourage him.  If your pastor is like me, he will feel like a failure over 90% of the time that he steps out of the pulpit; and the other 10% of the time that he feels good is because of arrogance.

9. Attend church consistently.  Whenever you miss church, even periodically, the thought crosses your pastor’s mind that you are not there because of him or his preaching.  If you know that you will miss a Sunday beforehand, let him know.  It will help him focus more on preaching instead of considering thoughts crossing his mind concerning why you’re not at church.

10. Don’t go to sleep.  Get up and leave before you go to sleep if you cannot stay awake.  Your pastor can see you; and the people around you can see and hear you.

What do you think?

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