Review: Dangerous Calling: Confronting the Unique Challenges of Pastoral Ministry
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I liked this book for pastors (I’m sort of a pastor). I really did. It’s an excellent book. But it gets three stars because, searching my heart of hearts, I can’t honestly say—as Goodreads requires for four stars—that I “really liked” it. I also can’t call it “amazing” (five stars). I felt like Tripp kept saying the same thing over and over. That thing was a good thing. A very good thing. But I got a little tired of it… I also (all criticisms are coming in the first paragraph—sorry) couldn’t help but wonder how this book will sound when “gospel-centeredness” marks books for their early 2010’s origin as suredly as “The New Age” marks books for their 80s (was it? I can’t remember) origin. I’m gospel-centered, but it has become the new auto-pilot for Christian writing. Let’s all just agree to stop.
All criticisms done. Back to this (otherwise) excellent book.
I mostly listened to this book, and I mostly did it in circumstances which did not allow for easy note-taking (i.e., driving). So let me offer a different kind of book “review” from my usual. These are the thoughts that stuck with me after reading the book:
- There is a crisis in American pastoral culture.
- Every pastor is in the process of sanctification just like his people and needs the ministry of the body just like his people.
- Don’t prep to preach on Saturday. Let the text marinate for several weeks instead.
- A pastor who says yes to too much is guilty of simple pride: you think you are necessary; you think you can do it all.
- A pastor is meant to be a glory advertiser calling others to the glories of Christ, not to his own glories.
- Pastors are ambassadors for the king, not kings themselves setting up their own kingdoms.
- A lot of pastors are blind to the failure of their own spiritual growth. (Their wives probably aren’t.)
- We all have to be desperate for grace, even and especially as pastors.
- Don’t pick up the Bible in order to prepare good meals for others without picking it up to nourish your own soul.
- Don’t be driven by a desire for theological expertise and biblical knowledge more than a desire for the God of the Word.
- Don’t pastor as one who has “arrived,” but as one who still personally needs grace.
- Listen to your wife, you idiot. (Tripp didn’t use the word “idiot” that I can recall; that was my gloss.)
Tripp made the best case I know of for two things I’ve commonly heard older pastors deliver advice on:
- A pastor’s sermon preparation and his personal devotions must be kept separate.
- A pastor and his people must not be kept separate.
The first of these is stated a bit more baldly than Tripp ever stated it. His argument is really more that preaching ought to flow out of personal feeding on the words of God. So I perhaps should have added the word “conceptually” at the end.
But the second statement is, I think, accurate. A pastor needs the ministry of the body and should seek and develop friendships among that body (perhaps especially among the leaders?). I’ve definitely heard pastors say the opposite on this. And perhaps there are other ways to have close friendships with Christian men who can provoke you to love and good works. But I lean toward Tripp on this and plan to do what he recommends.
A small note: I appreciate it that Tripp did not tell any stories (I can recall) of adulterous moral failure. We all know that happens among pastors, too. But it was nice to read stories in which the pastor realizes his error, repents, and by God’s grace changes. That, in fact, is Tripp’s own story.
I was stirred, challenged, and convicted by this book. May God give me grace to obey the scriptural truths expounded in it.
Thanks to Crossway Publishing, NetGalley, and Christian Audio for two complementary copies of this book for reviewing purposes. I wasn’t, quite obviously, required to say anything nice.