Counselors Reflect on Dangerous Calling by Paul Tripp
A Series to Care for the Care Takers of God’s People
“Joe (a pastor) was convinced of something that I (Tripp) have heard many pastors say to me as well: he was convinced that everyone else in the body of Christ could confess sin, but he could not and must not.” Page 77.
When I was in college I had an old car that my parents gave me. It wasn’t a pretty car and definitely wasn’t a cool car, but it got me from point A to point B. Some of my friends told me later that they couldn’t imagine me driving anything else. I’m not sure what they meant, but it had a subtle twist to it that felt uncomfortable. It was also an ugly car.
Nevertheless, it was functional and gave me more freedom than many of my friends who didn’t have cars. But because it was merely functional and had little true value to me (because I was unappreciative) I treated my very functional ride with a certain distance and disdain. For example, when I heard unfamiliar and unwelcome sounds come from within the engine I would take care of them in a rather unique way. It would make perfect sense that you would want to take your car to a mechanic and find out what the noise was all about. After all, it might be a significant issue! But I didn’t feel like I could afford the time and the effort because it may be an issue that I couldn’t afford to fix. And I never thought it might be unsafe, though it could have been. I was too naive and presumptuous to find out what might be wrong. Instead, I used music. When I heard those clangs or sputters in my engine I merely turned up the radio. In other words, I ignored the sounds, and hoped I could get away with it.
I was very fortunate in that my unusual technique for car care never caught up with me in big ways like being stranded on a lonely road in the middle of the night. “Turning up the radio” doesn’t really work in real life, though. In fact, it can be downright fatal to live this way as a pastor. Choosing to live authentically and allowing others to speak into our lives is the only way we can thrive over the long haul. Living otherwise is simply prideful and quite dangerous. It creates an increasingly desensitized life and distances one from the body of Christ. These are, after all, the very people God has provided for us to minister to and to receive ministry from. But some pastors feel so unsafe in their role that the mere mention of such a life seems entirely implausible. What can such a pastor do?
First, recall that the Lord calls us to walk humbly before him. Micah 6:8 says it well,
“He has told you, O man, what is good: and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”
Humility takes precedence as we approach God and as we serve others. It serves as the most life giving posture that we can take in life and service. Pride, on the other hand, can take many faces. It can look arrogant and rebellious, but it can also cloak itself under quiet passivity. Fear usually accompanies it, but James 4 reminds us that, amazingly, as we humble ourselves before the Lord, he actually lifts us up.
Secondly, leaders in the church must have a community of safe friends. You, in particular, as a pastor need to have trusted friends where you have freedom and can feel cared for. Without such, you can begin to become so self-inflicted that you can become blind to your blindness. That’s when you begin to listen to the lies and, worse, partial truths, that you hear in your head. Some of the lies are, “nobody really cares or understands.” “If I am honest about my struggles I will lose my job.” “Maybe I was not really called to this role.” “If my people really knew what I a poser I am they would hate me.” After those thoughts rumble around in your head for a while you start to give the proverbial stiff arm to those around you. Then you are in real trouble because you seek out “soothing” in places that aren’t healthy, like fantasies, illicit relationships, power, or even substance abuse.
Thirdly, it can become easy to treat the gospel as something you offer to others. The Bible becomes a book for those in your congregations and you begin to read it from afar with few life giving qualities for yourself. Your devotional life ceases to happen and a dangerous disconnect occurs between your head and heart that is similar to “unplugging” yourself from the very powerful truth that you need. In fact, it is your only real connection to purely objective truth. To numb yourself from its message places you on increasingly thin ice. It won’t be long until you plunge beneath the dark, icy waters of isolation and false living.
Pastor, consider these words carefully because you are needed by your congregation to live genuinely and authentically. You must navigate the balance of appropriate grace and truth but you must be honest with yourself and your people in order to be in the healthiest position to thrive and live. When you sense something is awry, don’t turn up the music. Pull over and see what’s going on under the hood.
Join us as we explore “Dangerous Calling” by Paul David Tripp.
To order a copy of your own of Paul Tripp’s book click on the link below.
|Dangerous Calling: Confronting the Unique Challenges of Pastoral Ministry By Paul David Tripp / Crossway Books & Bibles