When a Gift Becomes a Liability

Article by: Bridgehaven Team


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


“He was a very approachable guy who was at the same time very skilled at failing to heed the warnings that God was giving him through faithful members of the body of Christ.” p. 37.


There is something disarming about some people.  They can smile, talk and do their job with little effort and seem to remain composed and productive.  And perhaps they can do so authentically.  That is how you would describe Rod, a pastor of a mid-sized congregation that was experiencing great growth.  New families were starting to come and the dynamic nature of Rod’s personality was helping draw singles, as well.  He was being faithful in sharing the gospel each week and doing so with tremendous and sincere fervor.  

He was a very likable man and seemed to carry himself well.  He had a pleasant smile and would look you in the eye when talking to you or when listening to you.  It really felt like you had his ear when he spoke with you and that felt reassuring.  His hearty laugh could fill the room and when he spoke from the pulpit he wasn’t one to look over your head.  He had a great gift at catching different people’s eyes and it always felt like the connection he had with his audience was amazing.  It was like a personal conversation, which left you feeling like you heard from the Lord (or that Rod was talking directly to you).  His way of adding the personal touch was admirable.  His public image was very robust and well liked.  No doubt, Rod was a gifted, genuine and giving pastor.  But those who knew him best could mention subtle concerns that they had.  It was always difficult to place your finger on it and because he was so good at engaging you, it could make you feel disloyal for bringing those things up.  It was almost impossible to tell if the problem was you because you were being too nit-picky or with him because the issues were real. The challenge to discern between the two could be maddening.  But it, nevertheless, required persistence and grace.

Guys like Rod are always hard to approach because they are such nice guys.  You really can feel disloyal and suspecting when you see red flags in great men and women.  They are very approachable, but it may be that they have developed an unhealthy stealth that requires some brave (and loving) member of the body to address some persistent issues.  Admittedly this can be difficult to do, but that person’s growth may well depend upon it.  It may be that the Lord has chosen to use you to bring this up to him.

On more than one occasion I have had someone approach me to tell me I am either negative, insecure, self-deprecating or at times a bit manipulative (not at the same moment!).  At the time of the conversation I didn’t appreciate it, and, as you can guess, I responded negatively, insecurely, denouncing myself in subtle and manipulative ways.  I wrangled for more respect and behaved “offended” at their words.  But, after thought, consideration and honest prayer, I have become deeply, deeply appreciative of their words and their bravery in stepping up.  Sadly, I have noticed that the older I get the less likely people are to approach me.  It might be because they think I might have it figured out or that as an older man I am more wise then them.  Or it might be because I haven’t grown as much as I would like to say I have grown.  Nevertheless, I invite such authenticity and honesty because I am greatly in need of grace.  The reality is that I have been accepted by what Christ did for me, but that doesn’t mean I have “arrived.”  It means I am in process.  Like you.  And like men and women like Rod.

Approachability is a great asset, but it can’t be at the expense of dodging warnings that the body of Christ offers us.  “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.”  How great is our God to speak gracefully to us through His body.  Let’s listen.  Our ministry may depend upon it.

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