Question You not Your Calling

Article by: Bridgehaven Team

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

“There are only two ways to explain the external and internal breakdown of my ministry.  Either I am attempting to do something that I was not called to do, or I am thinking and doing the wrong thing in the middle of the ministry I was clearly called to.” (p. 38)

The problem with making ministry an idol is that it defines you whether you like it or not.  Idols enslave they don’t liberate.  We think we will experience freedom by giving ourselves to them.  I’ve heard it said that idols lie.  They promise you the world and in the end leave you empty and betrayed.  Why did I start this blog with a few statements about the nature of idolatry?  It is because one of the primary themes of Tripp’s writing is that ministry begins to envelope a pastors life to the point that it becomes his identity.  That is why it is a dangerous calling.  Ministry subtly begins to replace God and we start to live for it instead of for Him.   I also think idolatry is relevant to the content of this quote.

Dr. Tripp’s eighth reason for why a pastor loses his way in ministry is due to him questioning God’s calling on his life.   Under this heading he explained that because of an inaccurate view of self and the fact that ministry has become burdensome a pastor may doubt his calling to ministry.  In the quote above is where he continues his train of thought.  Here is where the above statements beg two questions.  First, why would we attempt to do something we were not called to do?  Because we think we’re supposed to.  We cannot help to bite off more than we can chew.  This is ministry idolization at work.  We conclude that the more of the desired object we get the more satisfied we are.  We don’t know our limits.  We think we can do the things that we are not gifted or skilled in.  We see others in ministry God has graced with certain abilities that allow them to be effective in a particular area and we think that should be us.  So we attempt to be all things.  Misplaced confidence then makes us question the thing we don’t do well.  We either move on to something else we think we should be good at, dismiss the previous endeavor as not being worth our time, or vilify it.  We’re insulted by the fact that we what we gave ourselves to doesn’t give us what we want.  Idolatry creates a sense of entitlement.  It’s not just that we have to have something it’s also that we believe we deserve it.

Second, why would we be doing the wrong thing in middle of ministry?  Here is where there is a tendency to view every good thing as the right thing or best thing.  When ministry defines us everything we do goes toward it even if it doesn’t fit. We assume all of our attitudes and actions warrant a payoff from our idol.  We treat it like a barter system where whatever we bring to the table we think should get the thing we want in return.  But only a certain kind of currency is required.  This however is unacceptable to us again because the deep sense of entitlement our idols have nurtured.

The reason why many pastors begin to question whether they were called to ministry is the same reason many spouses question whether or not they should be married to their husbands or wives.  All of their hopes and dreams are funneled into one person and if there isn’t an equal return on their investment they blame their spouse rather than their poor investment strategy.  So in the same way that a spouse cannot and is not meant to fulfill every longing and desire of ours, so it is with ministry.  When we ask of ministry what it cannot provide we set ourselves up for disappointment. It will let us down like everything else other than Christ himself.

If we question God’s calling, it may be an indicator that His calling has us more than God himself.  Remember God is more concerned about being with us than he is about using us.  Christ died and rose so that the obstacle of sin that separated us from God might be removed so that His Spirit could be sent to reside within us.  God loves to be with us, to dwell and take up residence in these “jars of clay.”  Yes He will use us, but it is the product and natural outflowing of Him making his home in us.  God’s presence in our hearts is no less real and permanent if our ministry is incredibly successful (by ours and the worlds standard) or minutely.

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