The Artificial Stability of Self-Reliance in Ministry

Article by: Bridgehaven Team

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



“It also means that they will struggle to be patient with people who are messing up or have lost their way. Self-righteous people tend not to be patient and understanding in the face of the failure of others. This goes back to the reality that no one gives grace better than a person who knows he desperately needs it himself.” p. 71


How can one schooled in the sufficiency of Christ and involved in the ministry of reconciliation become hardened by self-righteousness? The perpetual drift towards autonomy is exhausting. But when ministry leaders become self-reliant while serving others, their patience will quickly be tested.

It’s ironic that we wander into independence in the midst of serving others through preaching, teaching, or counseling the grace available in Christ through faith. Our faith in Christ somehow gets transferred to our intellectual knowledge, the affirmation of others, or our supposed body of work. This reallocation of worship happens when our hope shrinks. When we begin to settle for stability and security in our ministry, as opposed to God being glorified through our perseverance in the tension of dependence on Him, we will utilize more visible means to reinforce our illusory equilibrium. Anxiety, a form of fear, is a powerful motivator, and when we are so often compelled to action in order to alleviate this undesirable state. The problem is that instead of humbly calling upon the Lord, we come up with personal strategies, self-justification projects, where we rely on our own strength to eradicate the anxiety. If we are successful in removing the fear, we end up building up our own false sense of righteousness.

One of the unique attributes of ministry is that we partake in sharing the good news of Christ, and Him crucified. We are allowed the privilege of participating in the ministry of peace. It is finished! And so we eagerly develop our competency in articulating this good news to a plethora of issues and people groups, and grow in our confidence in the means and methods of communicating the message instead of the actual substance of the message. Others of us learn how to explain the gospel so logically and systematically that we become dependent on our ideology or philosophy. Our ability to ‘understand God’ and diagnose shoddy theology becomes our source of goodness. And then some of us become puffed up from the affirmation we receive from our peers. Christ is the head of the body. Our good works are a result of the mind of Christ. Our creativity, ingenuity, charisma, or eloquence is patterned from the true image of God. But the approval from others feels good, and it is easy to succumb to the warmness their well-intentioned encouragement provides. For others, their experience over the course of time can become evidence of the quality of their man-made kingdom. We can forget the Architect, and work feverishly to construct churches and ministries shaped by our blood, sweat, and tears. Yet, these little kingdoms are hollow.

In devoting our lives to Christ, we inevitably must die to self. In so doing, we must diligently fight self-righteousness by intentionally fostering a conducive atmosphere for repentance and faithfully worshipping the true and living God. The practicing of faith and repentance is conducted within the context of the local church. In being discipled, while discipling others, we position ourselves in a healthy tension, where we are humbly learning to walk with God, and yet we are relying on the Spirit to help train up others to do the same. Prayerful discipleship, saturated in the Scriptures, is a God-designed measure to help us more accurately locate our place in the redemptive story of God, and increasingly trust in His promises daily.

If you know your pastor is struggling (or even if he is not struggling!) please feel free to refer him to our ministry.  You can also purchase the book Dangerous Calling for him to read, or email him the link to our blog series on this important book.

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.

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