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Nov 27, 2012

Dangerous Calling: An Interview with Paul Tripp

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 was that important. 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.

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Posted:November 27, 2012 at 12:00 am

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Dangerous Calling: An Interview with Paul Tripp