Ephesians 4 says, "And He gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God."
Today, I welcome author and speaker Paul Tripp to the blog. Paul is professor of pastoral life and care at Redeemer Seminary in Dallas and the executive director of the Center for Pastoral Life and Care under the auspices of the Association of Biblical Counselors.
His latest book,Dangerous Calling, reveals the truth that the culture surrounding our pastors is spiritually unhealthy. This environment actively undermines the wellbeing and efficacy of our church leaders and thus the entire church body. It is a book that both diagnoses and offers cures for issues that impact every member and church leader, and gives solid strategies for fighting the all-important war that rages in our churches today.
Paul will be hanging around the comments on the blog today, so if you have a question about the book or the interview, feel free to ask them below.
You say that you couldn't not write this book. It wasthatimportant. Why do you feel this book is so needed?
As I have traveled around the world I have had hundreds of pastors tell me their stories. I have been concerned and saddened at the numbers of pastors who somehow, someway have lost their way in the middle of their own ministry story. To add to this, the temptations they have been dealing with are so subtle and deceptive that most of them didn't know what danger they were in until it was too late.
Like me, through all of your travels and speaking opportunities you meet a lot of pastors. How would you describe the state of the pastoral culture? What seems to be the biggest dysfunction?
Isn't it ironic that in many situations no one receives less regular heart exposing, transforming and encouraging ministry than the one who gives leadership to the ministry of the local church-- the pastor? It is quite normal for pastors to live in a culture of isolation and separation. One pastor cogently captured it for me this way as he said, "Everyone else in the body of Christ can confess sin, but if I do I'm done." The reality is that every pastor is a person in the middle of his own sanctification. A pastoral culture of silence and separation simply can't work. Is it workable for a pastor to live in isolation from the essential sanctifying ministry of the body of Christ?
You're very candid about your own identity struggle as a pastor. How were you tempted and deceived in this identity struggle? How did you come to realize and repent of it?
I was seduced into thinking I was someone I wasn't because of my academic sucess, my theological knowledge and my leadership gifts when actually I was an angry man who was on the way to destroying my life and ministry. In a remarkable moment of powerful rescuing grace, God used a conversation with my brother, Tedd, to open my eyes. The next few months were very painful. I wasn't zapped by lightning, becoming immediately anger-free. No, rather I saw the anger that had gripped me everywhere. But the pain was the pain of grace; a principal tool in God's work of rescue and turning.
You mention 3 themes that can lead to spiritual blindness, even as a pastor. What are those themes?
If sin blinds, and it does, then as long as sin still lives inside of me there will be pockets of spiritual blindness. What is so dangerous about spiritual blindness is that unlike physically blind people, who are aware that they are blind, spiritually blind people tend to be blind to their blindness. So, it's tempting for the pastor to move through his ministry thinking that no one has a more accurate view of him than he does. The fact is that his view of himself has been distorted by the fact that he is in ministry, his maturity has been redefined by biblical literacy and theological expertise and he has confused ministry success with God's endorsement of his character and lifestyle.
Why do people often misdiagnose biblical maturity? What does real biblical maturity look like and how can a pastor cultivate it?
Ministry gifts, knowledge, experience, and success are able to tempt a pastor to think he is more mature than he actually is. Maturity is being humbly aware of your continuing need for grace in a way that causes you to daily run to God for help, consume the rescuing wisdom of his Word and determine by grace to live as God has commanded.
What would you say is wrong with the way that we seek to prepare people for ministry in the local church?
I think it is quite possible in the academic Christianity of the seminary environment to forget that a person's ministry is never just shaped by his knowledge, gifts and skill. It is also inescapably shaped by the condition of his heart. I think we need to be more functionally committed to pastoral academics.
What deficiencies do you often see in the hiring process of a pastor?
We cannot allow ourselves to call pastors to local church ministry who we essentially don't know. We must be interested in the whole man not just in the degree of his theological knowledge and agreement, his ministry track-record or his leadership gifts. In ministry it is very hard to train others to live with passion, humility and courage when you yourself don't have those qualities.
Paul will be interacting in the comments today. Feel free to make a comment or ask him a question.
SPRING Messianic Conference Yevpatoria, Crimea April 23-25, 2013
I want to thank Paul David Tripp for his outstanding book ‘Dangerous Calling’ for the ideas applied to this conference and especially the following points of discussion adapted from his study guide. I am following this blog with an interview he had with Ed Stetzer.
Points of Discussion
1. DANGERS OF MINISTRY - there are many!
God’s grace is always available but sometimes painful as we become honest with our condition before God.
The culture surrounding ministers is often spiritually unhealthy. It can become an environment that actively undermines the health of it’s leaders and thus the entire messianic body.
Sound doctrine should lead to more than knowing facts but in right and holy living.
Our minds are being filled with truth but the question we must ask is, where are we spiritually in our walk?
You are always talking to you about you. No one speaks to you more than you do. Your inner voice speaks about your identity. Spirituality. Function. Emotion. Mentality. Personality. Relationships.
Unhealthy leaders preach their own version of the gospel that becomes a distortion of true righteousness, power, and wisdom.
Unhealthy leaders have a hard time believing the message they preach applies to them as well.
Healthy leaders believe and preach to themselves, the true gospel of deep spiritual need and sufficient grace bringing healing and victory to their lives.
Unhealthy leaders find themselves preaching to themselves, an anti-gospel of aloneness and inability.
Healthy leaders believe and preach the true gospel of the presence, provisions, and power of an ever-present Christ.
In ministry you are expected to be perfect, fully mature, and able to personally see and deal with your own sin. This alone causes great conflict within the leader’s life.
Ministry does not protect us from the temptations of sin or excuse us from the need of God’s grace and our continued sanctification.
Your ministry is never shaped by just your knowledge, ability, and experience, but is also shaped by the true condition of your heart.
Ministry has two principal dangers: 1) The danger of becoming familiar with God and 2) The danger of thinking because you are in ministry you have arrived.
2. BECOMING FAMILIAR - towards God and our walk.
We were made to live in awe and reverence of God not taking Him for granted.
Theology must never be held as an end in itself; theology should lead to an awe of God and result in a holy life.
Spiritual maturity must be more than just attaining theological knowledge.
God gave us His Word and gives us His grace to restore our awe of Him.
The ministry of the Word of God should result in renewing an awe of God and, therefore, must be prepared and given in awe of God.
We all have an awe problem—we replace an awe of God with awe of other things or people.
Ministry characteristics flow from an awe of God as we affirm that the Written Word reveals the Living Word in our midst.
3. FEARS - when we lack character.
A deficient or diminished awe of God can result in fear.
Fear will make a mess of you and your ministry.
Decisions made out of fear, you will tend to regret.
Ministry is war between things that fight for control of your heart.
Ministry will provide multiple opportunities to fear, but a proper awe of God’s power, sovereignty, and grace will keep them from ruling our hearts.
4. MEDIOCRITY - just doing enough, no culture of excellence.
A true awe of God should lead us to want to represent God well by ministering with excellence and not mediocrity.
The stresses, fears, and temptations of ministry bring the need to seek refuge either in God or some other way.
God will not reject you when you look at yourself with honesty, confess your sin, and cry out for help.
5. THE DANGER OF ARRIVAL - I’m the leader and I’ve arrived.
The Bible is shockingly honest about the brokenness of this world but is also gloriously hopeful showing God’s willingness to work in the midst of a messy world.
Since the Bible is honest and hopeful, we should be the most open and honest community.
There is a danger of identifying or defining ourselves and each other by positions of ministry.
Effective ministry requires an intentionally intrusive, Yeshua‐centered, grace‐driven, redemptive community based on humble approachability and loving honesty.
We are all tempted to live according to the lie of autonomy and the lie of self‐sufficiency.
The greatest problems and temptations of life lie inside of us and not outside which means I need the grace of God in me much more than I need changes in situations.
6. ISOLATION - we walk alone without spiritual mentors.
When you begin to believe that you have arrived, you will be unprepared for the violence of grace. God will bring the grace of refinement and rescue to reclaim your heart.
God wants you.
Ministry can lead to the temptation of isolation.
Sin blinds, and therefore, we will have an inaccurate view of ourselves and will not be able to repent of sins.
7. THE DANGER OF SELF-GLORY - personal pride.
Through ministry we can build God’s glorious Kingdom, or we can attempt to build our own glorious kingdom. The DNA of sin is always self-centeredness.
Your actual position in ministry is God’s ambassador; as such, we are called to incarnate the King.
8. BE RECONCILED - separated from God heart. Hard hearted.
We must continually be reconciled to God.
Ministry is only made effective, safe, and attractive when it is fueled by our own devotional life.
9. THE DANGER OF SEPARATION - living alone in ministry.
One of the dangers of arrival is that you become comfortable with a disconnect between who you are in public ministry and who you are in private.
Spiritual warfare is being waged in the little moments of life within our hearts.
Since all of life is ministry, we are always in the role of ambassadors of Yeshua and His kingdom.
10. REMOVING PRETENSES - remove all that deforms what God is conforming in the image of His Son.
We will blame situations or people for the separation we may have between our public ministry and our private lives.
We all experience a loss of awe and feelings of arrival, but we can fight these temptations by:
Remembering your place: Humble yourself under the mighty hand of God
SPRING Messianic Conference Yevpatoria, Crimea April 23-25, 2013
Foundation Scripture: Hebrews 3:12-13
12 Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. 13 But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.
Vital Truth: The deceitfulness of sin in the life of a leader must be dealt with before there is a falling away.
God’s Word is meant to be ‘diagnostic’ so we can honestly assess where we are at in our walk.
Like going to the doctor’s office for a check up and he asks us questions about our health. We must be honest with him about our symptoms.
Our talk tonight will be more than explanation, more than encouragement, more than instruction, more than exegetical or theological...all these are good but tonight it will be diagnostic...a spiritual check-up.
We, as leaders, have a responsibility to be good stewards of what Yeshua has called us to do. We can only accomplish His will His way.
Leaders need to be honest with themselves and the condition of their heart.
We must get past our desire to impress others with our biblical knowledge, visions and/or our ministry plans.
We need to find a place that is safe to talk about our struggles, where we recognize conflict in our private and public lifestyles.
Are we one thing at home and another in the congregation?
Do we experience times of depression, anger, bitterness? If yes, how are we dealing with it?
Are we becoming weary in ministry? Are we talking to ourselves about quitting? Unable to deal with the pressures of ministry? Don’t want to prepare another sermon? Want to run away? Leave the area in which you serve? Even leave your family to be alone? Are you tired of pretending, acting, playing the part of a preacher but growing weary in it? Have you ever said “I’m done?”
These are all symptoms of being unhealthy and we must deal with them before we destroy ourselves, families, and ministries.
Yeshua emptied Himself and became a servant to His Father, His disciples and lived to seek and to save that which is lost...ministry is vitally important to God and should be to us.
SPRING Messianic Conference Yevpatoria, Crimea April 23-25, 2013
Foundation Scripture: Colossians 1:15 - 23
Vital Truth: Our identity is now in Yeshua before God and men.
Yeshua is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the congregation. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. 21 And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22 he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, 23 if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.
Our Identity must be in Yeshua to avoid the pitfalls of having our identity in ourselves or in our ministry.
In this session we will choose to stop and ask ourselves penetrating questions.
To look at some of the scriptures in the Brit Chadasha that talk about who we are in the Messiah and contrast them with what we say to ourselves.
In his book 'Jesus Among Other Gods', Ravi Zacharias summarizes the meaning of Yeshua’s I AM statements perfectly: “He (Yeshua) was identical with His message. ‘In Him’ say the Scriptures, ‘dwelt the fullness of the Godhead bodily.’ He did not just proclaim the truth. He said, ‘I am the truth.’ He did not just show a way. He said, ‘I am the Way.’ He did not just open up vistas. He said, ‘I am the door.’ ‘I am the Good Shepherd.’ ‘I am the resurrection and the life.’ ‘I am the I Am.’” (Zacharias, Ravi. Jesus Among Other Gods, Nashville, TN: W Publishing Group, 2000, p. 89)
Am I letting ministry define who I am, or, am I letting my relationship with Yeshua define who I am?
Pastors need pastoring. Ministers need ministry.
We need to be pastored and have someone care for our soul in the way that we care for the souls of others.
Personally, I need pastoring...I need to receive from fellow ministers ( I meet every Thursday morning at home in Canada for breakfast with a great group of area pastors )
I must learn to turn off my inner lawyer (Pharisee) and open my heart to those who love me.
Am I living the scriptures I preach to others?
How is my personal devotional life?
What is the quality of my marriage and family life?
How are things among my leadership?
How healthy is the congregation I serve?
We must be delivered from thinking that our biblical knowledge and ministry skill are evidence of our maturity.
Maturity is best measured in how we live when we are away from the pulpit...at home especially.
Ministry is not who we are but rather the overflow of our walk with Yeshua, our spouse and family.
As messianic believers, let us rejoice in all the outward symbols as pointers to our Saviour, Yeshua.
SPRING Messianic Conference Yevpatoria, Crimea April 23-25, 2013
Foundation Scripture: 1 Peter 5:6‐11
Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, 7 casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. 8 Be sober‐minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 9 Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. 10 And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. 11 To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.
"No one celebrates the presence and grace of Yeshua more than the person who has embraced his desperate and daily need of it." Paul David Tripp
Session One of Four
Foundation Scripture: James 1:23-25
Vital Truth: The Word of God is like a mirror enabling us to see ourselves as we really are. He calls us to be honest with what He is showing us about our lives.
God is the master sculptor conforming us to the image of His Son. He knows what He is doing as He removes from us those things unlike Yeshua.
The sculptor begins with a block of marble or any other material and knows exactly what he wants to create. He simply takes away material not needed in the final masterpiece.
Sunlight shining on material.
Identical sun, radiance, warmth but a different interaction depending upon the material. Imagine your heart being wax or clay. Does God’s Word soften or harden you?
On wax, the sun softens it.
On clay, the same sun hardens it.
The mirror of God’s Word enables us to see ourselves accurately.
James 1:23-25 is an important scripture because it shows us our real selves. Unless it is a trick mirror, which God’s Word is not, what you see is what is.
Thoughts to ponder...
Leaders must remember that they too are followers of Yeshua before they lead others.
He is the Shepherd and we are His sheep. We live our lives unto Him.
Leaders must always focus on character before ministry. If not, they will put themselves and their people in danger.
Unhealthy ministers have unhealthy ministries and do damage in God’s kingdom.
Correct doctrine is required but it is not enough. We must put it into practice, through yielded and healthy hearts, and live the truth of the gospel message.
Do I really understand the gospel I preach to others but fail to apply to myself?
The true gospel message sets us free from sin of any kind but a false gospel often puts limits on forgiveness and restoration.
When a leader is in sin, pain, brokenness, he/she is called to believe the gospel he preaches to others in the same condition.
In unhealthy ministry, while in pain, we end up believing what we are saying to ourselves about ourselves rather than what God says about us.
In healthy ministry we end up believing God regardless of the facts that limit all God can do.
The example of Abraham
Romans 4:18 reminds us that rather than grow weaker as the promise of God was delayed, Abraham grew strong in faith.
He didn’t deny the facts of old age and being past the time of reproducing...rather, he believed that God, who promised, was faithful to fulfill his promise. Big God!
He was called to wait on God for 25 years until the promise was realized in Isaac even after the failure of Ishmael - the son he had with Hagar when he went ahead of God and took things into his own hands. Think of all the things that people do in ministry when they are simply called to wait.
We fail the patience lesson as we see strife, division and broken relationships due to our unwillingness to wait on God.
He calls us to repent and believe His gospel by coming to His Throne of Grace to find all we need to be restored - Hebrews 4:16.
It is the peace of God that must rule in our hearts as we seek His guidance - Hebrews 13:20-21.