I think there are only three types of books out there: those that entertain you, those that educate you, and those that expunge you. In case you were wondering, Paul Tripp’s Dangerous Calling is most assuredly in that last group. From beginning to end, Dangerous Calling expunges, exposes, and radically refocuses everything you thought about yourself while simultaneously eradicating any confidence you might have in yourself.
I was recommended to read Dangerous Calling by my dad, a senior pastor in South Carolina. And after reading it for myself, I can’t give this book higher praise than simply, it’s one of the best books I’ve ever read. That’s not hyperbole. What Tripp endeavors to do is expose those ministers and teachers and shepherds of grace who’ve become too lax or comfortable in their positions. He reckons this issue arising out of a lost of personal awe. He states, “Awe amnesia is the open door that admits mediocrity.” (Tripp, 141) Losing your awe of God and His grace for you opens you up to all manner of pitfalls that derail and destroy, not only ministries, but marriages and lives.
And this is where Jesus intervenes. As Tripp says, “One of the central missional gifts of the gospel of Jesus Christ is to give people back their awe of God.” (Tripp, 117) What Jesus came to do was re-inspire the awesome worship, praise, and adulation of God the Father for all generations of man. Your hope in ministry, in whatever capacity that entails, isn’t found in anything else save for the Person and Work of Jesus Christ, and your continual, personal awe of that work, that is, the gospel. Tripp continues:
“Excellence in ministry flows from a heart that is in holy, reverential, life-rearranging, motivation-capturing awe of the Lord of glory.” (Tripp, 142)
This awe allows you, through the power of the Spirit, to see yourself — your true, terrible, sinful self — and then bask in the glorious grace of the Redeemer that fuels an ever-burning passion for the Father. True awe and worship of God allows you to see yourself as the desperate sinner that Jesus came to deliver, not as the righteous rule-follower that has everything together.
Any ministry won’t last long as long as the leader of said ministry isn’t aware of his own desperation. “Self-glory causes you to think that you’re more essential than you actually are and more necessary than you will ever be,” notes Tripp. (162) This stems from a lack of awe and personal worship of the Savior King who condescended to earth for you!
What Tripp so expertly does throughout Dangerous Calling is cut you open like a surgeon, and, with delicate, meticulous, sometimes painful expertise, expunge and expose all the mediocrity, self-glory, and pride that’s been festering.
If you don’t come away convicted and changed from reading Dangerous Calling then you didn’t really read it. There must be a heeding of this book, as well as reading — it inspires a response. This is definitely a life-changing book. It has certainly altered my ministry-focus, as I know it has done my dad’s as well. As Tripp delineates, it comes from personal experience, Jesus saving his marriage. Perhaps, He can save yours, save your relationship, save your ministry, save your life! Read this book, and pray for Christ’s grace to see yourself on every page, in dire need of His inexhaustible mercy.
Notes & References:
Paul Tripp, Dangerous Calling: Confronting the Unique Challenges of Pastoral Ministry (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2012).