When People Become Projects

Article by: Bridgehaven Team

Counselors Reflect on Dangerous Calling by Paul Tripp
A Series to Care for the Care Takers of God’s People



“All right, Professor Tripp, we know that we will have these projects in our churches.  Tell us what to do with them so we can get back to the work of ministry!” page 44.

 This quote was a comment that a student made in Paul Tripp’s class on pastoral counseling when he was teaching at Westminster Theological Seminary.  It was spoken in the context of Tripp sharing stories from his own pastoring experience in hopes that his own initial immaturity and lack of readiness might help create a more robust vision for pastoral ministry in these young students.  His desire was to help students to understand how vitally important it is to not just teach theology to the people they minister to, but to actually do theology.  As pastors, Christian leaders and missionaries these students (and us) are called to make an invisible Christ visible in the lives of those they came across in their congregation or area of ministry.  Yet, this student, and perhaps others (like you and I), could only see these people as “projects” and not as people.  Somehow the idea that these people were a significant part of their ministry had escaped him.   In fact, these people are the point.  Jesus came to set them free and he has called us a pastors, workers, and missionaries to be the conduit of his love and mercy toward them.  They aren’t projects but they are people.  They are sheep that need a shepherd to lead them ever toward the Great Shepherd.

Tripp says, “Bad things happen when maturity is more defined by knowing than it is by being.  Danger is afloat when you come to love the ideas more than the God whom they represent and the people they are meant to set free.”  This shift in our thinking is rarely done in malice and is most often a subtle shade of grey that begins to overtake us as slowly and subtly as the setting of the sun.  But, if we’re not careful and, indeed vigilant, it can lower the temperature of our heart to such a degree that we become numb to those God has called us to shepherd.  And that’s a tragedy.  Our knowledge of theology can overtake our heart for the people of God.  We can’t miss the forest for the trees by redefining what ministry really is.  Let me suggest four ways to help keep us attentive to the same thing God is attentive to.

  1. Make sure you devotional life is a priority.  You can’t give what you don’t have.  Perspective comes from reading the map. 
  2. Ask the Lord to give you a heart for the people.  The old adage says, “people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” 
  3. Invite a friend or a group of friends to be thoroughly honest with you.  Isolation can keep us insulated. 
  4. See people not as projects but as people who are desperately in need of the gospel just like you.  The gospel is not just the diving board into the pool of God’s grace, but it is the pool itself.  You and your people need to preach the gospel to yourselves.

If this is something you struggle with don’t worry.  You are in good company! We’re all in process but we can rejoice that his mercies never end.  Let’s trust him for great things as we minister to his people!  He can take care of the projects.

Please join us each week as we explore Paul David Tripp’s Dangerous Calling.  The blog series summary can be found at www.bridgehavencounseling.org/dangerouscalling.


535826: Dangerous Calling: Confronting the Unique Challenges of Pastoral Ministry Dangerous Calling: Confronting the Unique Challenges of Pastoral Ministry By Paul David Tripp / Crossway Books & Bibles