Tuesday, November 27, 2012

PLEASE buy this book for your pastor--but don't read it yourself!

I've known for many years that being a pastor is a tough job.  For most of my life, I've known that only from the outside, watching many of my pastors succumb to various forms of death.  It's obvious that Satan knows the "smite the shepherd and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered" principle very well.

You have probably seen the frightening statistics about the number of pastors who bite the dust.  If you've been a Christian very long, you probably have seen it first hand in your own church.  Only 1 pastor in 10 will actually retire as some form of minister. 

But since I became a lay elder in my church a year and a half ago, I've gotten to know the temptations and pressures of pastoring from the inside.  Granted, the pressures I've experienced are very low compared to what vocational pastors face, or even what a lay elder at a larger church might encounter.  Still, this position has exposed areas of sin in my own heart that other life challenges didn't.

That's why I have been profoundly touched by Paul Tripp's latest book, Dangerous Calling.  Not only does he expose, with scalpel-like precision, the very sins I have been wrestling, and not only does he explain in horrifying detail where those sins will lead if unaddressed, but he also gives great hope and encouragement by pointing back to the cross where my sins were conquered by Jesus.

Paul Tripp was a pastor for a number of years and fought the sins and pressures his book describes.  Then he taught in a conservative Christian seminary, and became alarmed at the way young men were being sent out into the ministry unprepared for the heart-battles they would be facing.  He now believes his mission is to be "a pastor to pastors".

This book is both stringent and kind, both passionate and compassionate.  He writes personally, talking directly to his reader ("you", not "they") and sharing many sins from his own life.  You can tell it's the product of tears.  The urgency in his tone, the realization that in his eyes this is life or death stuff he's writing about, keeps you turning the pages.  It's kind of like a long letter from your dad.

Dangerous Calling from Crossway on Vimeo.

The title of this blog post is not a joke.  Please, please, please, whether you think your pastor walks on air or whether you think he's a jerk, give him this book.  (Or, if he's not a reader, get him the DVD set.)  It may very well be the instrument God uses to save your pastor's marriage, children, or ministry.  It might even be the salvation of your church.  (Before you object to my terminology, look up 1 Timothy 4:16.)

But as strange as it sounds, I would recommend that you not read this book yourself. You want to be able to tell your pastor when you give him the book, "I haven't read it, but I heard it is really good."  If he knows you read it first, it will ruin the whole book for him.  He'll wonder whether you gave it to him because you saw in him the sins the book describes and he'll see your face staring at him from every page.  Also, it would be easy for a non-pastor to become more jaded towards his pastor after reading this book.  One reader described this book as "bathing in razor blades".  Congregation members who emotionally abuse pastors could use this book to tear their pastor apart even worse.  Trust me, the Holy Spirit does not need your help to rub the message of this book in.  If your pastor can read this book and remain unmoved, you probably should look for a different church.

Buy the book, give it to your pastor, and ask God to bless him with repentance and you with compassion.

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