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There is a disheartening rite of passage every young pastor faces. And though it was almost 10 years ago, I remember my own moment clearly. "Have you heard?" asked my senior pastor when I arrived at the church office that morning. I hadn't. So he proceeded to tell me about the well-known pastor whose moral failure had made the morning headlines. I remember two things about that moment: my pastor's grief and my inability to focus the remainder of the day. Though neither of us had met the man or been greatly influenced by his ministry, this pastor's public shame still felt deeply personal.
"Have you heard?" As the years have passed I've come to dread that question, yet it—and the sad stories behind it—is frustratingly common. The hushed conversations between pastors at these moments reflect an unsettling worry: that in our discredited colleagues, we see possible reflections of ourselves. We too have known temptation. We too inhabit a church culture that can seem to hinder our own discipleship by elevating ministry production over spiritual fruit.
In Dangerous Calling: Confronting the Unique Challenges of Pastoral Ministry (Crossway), Paul David Tripp wades into these murky and hazardous waters. An author and director of the Center for Pastoral Life and Care, Tripp knows the pastoral vocation well. His years in church ministry provide the intimate knowledge necessary to write boldly and mercifully to ministers who so often feel misunderstood by anyone but a fellow pastor. Tripp has spoken to and with enough pastors to see disturbing themes emerge.
"From Belfast to Los Angeles," he writes, "from Johannesburg to New York, from Minneapolis to Singapore, from Cleveland to Berlin, I've heard their stories and felt their discouragement, bitterness, aloneness, fear, and longing. As I've told my story, pastors have felt safe in telling their stories. And it has hit me again and again that there are ...