Have you ever tried to dodge a bullet and discovered that it was really a mortar shell? Well, I think that is what was going on in my heart just before I read the book Dangerous Calling. A few months before the book released Crossway sent me a pdf file of the book. I gave the e-mail a nod, downloaded the file, and let it sit. I said to myself, “Self, this is a book I’m just going to let pass.” This says something about me and not Dangerous Calling.
Around Thanksgiving God moved in a fresh way between my wife and I. We had an honest conversation about matters pertinent to our spiritual communion. It was not that we were fighting or that we were angry with one another. This was far from the case. We have worked hard to respect and cherish one another. Rather, we discovered our need to feed one another the gospel more. We covenanted to make better use of our time together and to pour more scripture and edifying gospel-centered communion into our relationship. We resolved to spend less time logging into Netflix and more time logging into one another’s heart.
As a result of the conversation with my wife, I decided to give the copy of Dangerous Calling another look. This time I figured why try to dodge the bullet. If God has something that he wants to put to death in my life, I should let Him use this book to accomplish His work in me.
I’ve respected Paul Tripp and his ministry for some time now. In 2011, our pastoral staff went through the video series and workbook of How People Change. Quite honestly, at the time I went through How People Change I was blind to what I needed to see about myself. Moreover, I was blind to what was ahead with Dangerous Calling. What I thought was going to be a bullet turned out to be a mortar shell.
A bullet is a precision kill. It gets the job done nice and clean. A mortar shell obliterates. The result looks ugly. Both accomplish their mission, which is quite simple…death. When God wants to put something to death, myriads of means are at His disposal to mortify what He desires to mortify. In my case, He used a mortar shell called Dangerous Calling.
A social media friend asked me what I thought about Dangerous Calling to which I @mentioned, “I was undone.” What I really should have said is, “I’m laying on the ground considering extispicium – the art of interpreting entrails to determine the will of the gods – because Paul David Tripp dropped a mortar shell of the gospel on me and my entrails are hanging out.”
Dangerous Calling is not merely a book offering pastors a path for confession and recovery from years of feeding themselves fallacies that dichotomize public ministry and private living. Dangerous Calling confronts pastors for preaching an anti-gospel to self and challenges them to develop the discipline of preaching the true gospel to self. Tripp writes, “You preach to yourself an anti-gospel of your own righteousness, power, and wisdom, or you preach to yourself the true gospel of deep spiritual need and sufficient grace. You preach to yourself an anti-gospel of aloneness and inability, or you preach to yourself the true gospel of the presence, provisions, and power of an ever-present Christ (Tripp, loc. 228).”
Pastors have two options. It is that simple. They either build their own kingdom, or they build Christ’s kingdom. They either feed on their own power, or they feed off the Spirit’s power. Living into the option that brings about the end of self according to Tripp is a practice of living into the truth of the gospel in the now. Tripp says, “If you are in ministry and you are not reminding yourself again and again of the now-ism of the gospel, that is, the right-here, right-now benefits of the grace of Christ, you will be looking elsewhere to get what can be found only in Jesus (Tripp, loc. 464).” Looking elsewhere only leads to becoming kidnapped by lesser loves. “You see, it is only love for Christ that can defend the heart of the pastor against all the other loves that have the potential to kidnap his ministry (Tripp, loc. 909).”
Throughout Dangerous Calling Paul David Tripp exposes two lesser loves of pastors. In tandem these lesser loves make for a game of hide and seek that pastors play. Tripp remarks, “The gospel is the only thing that can free a pastor from the guilt, shame, and drivenness of the hide (“never let your weakness show”) and seek (asking ministry to do what Christ has already done) lifestyle that makes ministry burdensome to so many pastors (Tripp, loc. 1503).”
Dangerous Calling goes far beyond entering into the psyche of pastors. Dangerous Calling probes into the constructs that erect idolatry of self in pastors’ lives. Tripp dedicates chapters to addressing how the academy has sown big-brained but weak-hearted pastors which churches gladly reap (chapters 3 and 6).
Dangerous Calling provokes pastors to rediscover their awe of God. Here’s a little taste of awe:
“…familiarity with the things of God will cause you to lose your awe (Tripp, loc. 1725).”
“Awe of God should be the reason I do what I do with my thoughts. It should be the reason I desire what I desire (Tripp, loc. 1795).”
“Awe of God must dominate my ministry, because one of the central missional gifts of the gospel of Jesus Christ is to give people back their awe of God (Tripp, loc. 1817).”
“I am still learning what it means to be in such awe of him that I am no longer afraid of me (Tripp, loc. 2037).”
“Excellence in ministry flow from a heart that is in holy, reverential, life-rearranging, motivation-capturing awe of the Lord of glory (Tripp, loc. 2237).”
By the end of reading Dangerous Calling I knew that there was much work to be done. The mortar shell of the gospel did its ugly work of conveying what it must. Morning by morning I pause in my car before I stroll up to my office and consider the sobering reality that I may enter to serve myself or to serve Him. Each afternoon I return to my home praying that my public life would be compatible with my private love for my family.
I encourage you to not dodge the bullet of Dangerous Calling but welcome the mortar shell of the gospel that awaits. You may purchase Dangerous Calling here* at Amazon. Crossway offered me Dangerous Calling in exchange for an honest review. Read more book reviews by Joey Cochran here.
* I receive no benefit from you for following this link.