Book Review: “Dangerous Calling (Paul Tripp)”

dc-bookThere are some books that you read that you wish you had read sooner. I heard the hype about Paul Tripp’s book Dangerous Calling as soon as it was released but, for some reason, never picked it up. This was a mistake. In fact, this is a book that every pastor, church member, seminary student, and seminary professor should read and then re-read. Dangerous Calling is a book, along with Spiritual Disciplines of the Christian Life, that I will read once a year. It is just that powerful!

I had the privilege of attending a conference at SEBTS while I was a student in which Paul Tripp was one of the speakers. I remember being struck by his humble yet passion-filled presentation and who couldn’t appreciate a man with such a magnificent mustache? The entire time I read Dangerous Calling I felt more like I was conversing with a mentor over a cup of coffee that reading a book.

Dangerous Calling is broken down into three parts:

Part 1 – Examining Pastoral Culture

Part 2 – The Danger Of Losing Your Awe (Forgetting Who God Is)

Part 3 – The Danger Of Arrival (Forgetting Who You Are)

I wish I could say that one part was my favorite but each one was filled with gospel-saturated wisdom. Tripp is forthcoming concerning his own struggles in ministry and this book is birthed out of a desire to help change pastoral culture. He wrote, “It is the gospel of the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ that makes possible the honesty that is on the pages of this book. If all the sin, weaknesses, and failures that this book addresses have been fully covered by the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, then we can break the silence, walk out into the light, and face the things that God is calling us to face. My prayer is that this book would get a conversation started that will never stop and that it will lead to changes that have been needed for way too long.”

There were several aspects of the book that were extremely helpful for me. The most practical part of the book for me was the discussion of fear in pastoral ministry. Tripp insisted that many pastors serve in ministry consumed by fear: (1) fear of themselves, (2) fear of others, (3) fear of circumstances, and (4) fear of the future. Fear has the ability to render pastors apprehensive and ineffective. Having struggled with fear in my own ministry, I found Tripp’s suggestions extremely helpful: (1) humbly own your fears, (2) confess those places where fear has produced bad decisions and wrong responses, (3) pay attention to your meditation, and (4) preach the gospel to yourself.

One aspect of the book that I appreciated the most was Tripp’s discussion of seminary education. Even though he is a seminary professor, he bemoaned the academic Christianity that is prevalent in many seminaries. Concerning pastors, he wrote, “It is absolutely vital to remember that a pastor’s ministry is never just shaped by his knowledge, experience, and skill. It is always also shaped by the true condition of his heart. In fact, if his heart is not in the right place, all of the knowledge and skill can actually function to make him dangerous.” Seminary education tends to make the faith an academic exercise more than a heart exercise and seminary professors often focus on the head and not the heart. I appreciate so much that my professors at SEBTS and LRU were deeply concerned about my heart while they were cramming my head with knowledge and insights. I would also not give anything for the church family we were deeply connected to while we were in seminary.

There are so many more things I could emphasize in this book but that would defeat the purpose. I encourage every person reading this blog to read this book. I have no doubt I will read it again very soon!

Favorite Quotes

“The most influential pastor of ministry leader is a member of the body of Christ and therefore needs what the other members of the body need. There is no indication in the New Testament that the pastor is the exception to the rule of all that is said about the interconnectivity and necessary ministry of the body of Christ. What is true of the seemingly less significant member of the body is also true of the pastor. An intentional culture of pastoral separation and isolation is neither biblical nor spiritually healthy.”

“We all have a perverse ability to make ourselves feel good about what is in no way good.”

“Every sermon should be prepared by a person whose study is marked by awe of God. The sermon must be delivered in awe and have as its purpose to motivate awe in those who hear.”

“Autonomous Christianity never works, because our spiritual life was designed by God to be a community project.”

“The ultimate purpose of the Word of God is not theological information but heart and life transformation.”

“Bad things happen when maturity is more defined by knowing that it is by being. Danger is afloat when you come to love the ideas more than the God whom they represent and the people they are meant to free.”