Being somewhat under-equipped

Struggle in relationships is everyone’s story. None of us has ever had a relationship completely free of struggle. All of us have had moments when we were discouraged by the effort a good relationship requires. Each of us has dreamed that those relationships would magically become easier. We’ve all wished for the power to change another person – and
many of us have actually tried to remake someone in our own image. All of us have allowed inconsequential actions and habits to get under our skin and argued for a personal preference as if it were a moral absolute. And each of us has tried to be the Holy Spirit in another person’s life, trying to work spiritual changes that only God can accomplish.

[Relationships – a mess worth making, Lane & Tripp, 55]


Trinitarian unity

Paul grounds our unity in the unity of the Trinity, not in our ability to get along. We get along because Father, Son, and Spirit have allowed us to do so. We can give grace because we have been given grace. Jesus humbled himself. The Father gently and patiently works out our salvation. The Holy Spirit forbears and abides with us even in the face of our sin, convicting and correcting us, but never condemning. Father, Son, and Spirit were torn apart so that we might be united with them and with each other.

[Relationships – a mess worth making, Lane & Tripp, 46]

What shapes my ministry?

Paul Tripp’s new book, Dangerous Calling: Confronting the Unique Challenges of Pastoral Ministry, is now available here.

There’s an extract from the book here, which includes the list below  of 29 heart issues that shape a pastor’s ministry as much as if not more than knowledge, experience and gifting.

Read the list carefully, it should not only be helpful to pastors but also to people who are committed to praying for their pastor.

  • What does he really love?
  • What does he despise?
  • What are his hopes, dreams, and fears?
  • What are the deep desires that fuel and shape the way he does ministry?
  • What are the anxieties that have the potential to derail or paralyze him?
  • How accurate is his view of himself?
  • Is he open to the confrontation, critique, and encouragement of others?
  • Is he committed to his own sanctification?
  • Is he open about his own temptations, weaknesses, and failures?
  • Is he ready to listen to and defer to the wisdom of others?
  • Does he see pastoral ministry as a community project?
  • Does he have a tender, nurturing heart?
  • Is he warm and hospitable, a shepherd and champion to those who are suffering?
  • What character qualities would his wife and children use to describe him?
  • Does he sit under his own preaching?
  • Is his heart broken and his conscience regularly grieved as he looks at himself in the mirror of the Word?
  • How robust, consistent, joyful, and vibrant is his devotional life?
  • Does his ministry to others flow out of the vibrancy of his devotional communion with the Lord?
  • Does he hold himself to high standards, or is he willing to give way to mediocrity?
  • Is he sensitive to the experiences and needs of those who ministry alongside of him?
  • Is he one who incarnates the love and grace of the Redeemer?
  • Does he overlook minor offenses?
  • Is he ready and willing to forgive?
  • Is he critical and judgmental?
  • Is the public pastor a different person from the private husband and dad?
  • Does he take care of his physical self?
  • Does he numb himself with too much social media or television?
  • If he said, “If only I had [                      ],” what would fill in the blank?
  • How successful has he been in pastoring the congregation that is his family?

Aiming for awe

What are the goals for our ministries?  To build bridges, to get people in, to share the gospel of Jesus Christ, to teach to living Word of God, to encourage the fellowship that already exists in Christ, to bring disciples to maturity.   Over here Paul Tripp reminds us that whatever other goals our various ministries have, we are to aim for nothing less than awe filled worshippers of the living God.  Tripp concludes:

a church must turn people back to the one thing for which they were created: to live in a sturdy, joyful, faithful awe of God.

This means 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. Children’s ministry must have as its goal to ignite in young children a life-shaping awe of God. The youth ministry of the church must move beyond Bible entertainment and do all it can to help teens see God’s glory and name it as the thing for which they will live. Women’s ministry must do more than give women a place to fellowship with one another and do crafts. Women need to be rescued from themselves and myriad self-interests that nip at their hearts; awe of God provides that rescue. Men’s ministries need to recognize the coldness in the heart of so many men to the things of God and confront and stimulate men with their identity as those created to live and lead out of a humble zeal for God’s glory, rather than their own. Missions and evangelism, too, must be awe-driven.

Whose kingdom are you building?

Following on from previous posts, here and here, Paul Tripp gives a series of principles to help examine the motivations of our hearts here.  How can we determine whether we’re laying up treasures for God’s kingdom or for self?

Tripp gives the questions below as a helpful diagnostic.

  • The absence of what causes us to want to give up and quit?
  • The pursuit of what leads us to feeling over-burdened and overwhelmed?
  • The fear of what makes us tentative and timid rather than courageous and hopeful?
  • The craving for what makes us burn the candle at both ends until we have little left?
  • The “need” for what robs ministry of its beauty and joy?
  • The desire for what sets up tensions between ministry and family?

Success is not God’s seal of approval

More Monday morning wisdom from Paul Tripp here directed to pastors in ministry but applicable to all Christians.  In particular Tripp writes from experience on his wrong understanding that success in his ministry had to be taken as a sign that God was happy with the way he was living his life.

It’s easy to fall into the temptation of assuming that observable blessings – growth in numbers, commitment, desire for the souls of the lost, must be God’s seal of approval on the way I’m living my life.  In reality we need to continually cry out to God

Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!Psalm 139:23-24

Tripp writes of his own experience,

I confused ministry success with God’s endorsement of my living. Pastoral ministry was exciting in many ways. The church was growing numerically, and people seemed to be growing spiritually. More and more people seemed to be committed to be part of a vibrant spiritual community, and we saw people win battles of the heart by God’s grace. We founded a Christian school that was growing and expanding its reputation and influence. We were beginning to identify and disciple leaders.

It wasn’t all rosy; there were painful and burdensome moments, but I started out my days with a deep sense of privilege that God had called me to do this ministry. I was leading a community of faith, and God was blessing our efforts. But I held these blessings in the wrong way. Without knowing that I was doing it, I took God’s faithfulness to me, to his people, to the work of his kingdom, to his plan of redemption, and to his church as an endorsement of me. My perspective said, “I’m one of the good guys, and God is behind me all the way.” In fact, I would say to Luella (this is embarrassing but important to admit), “If I’m such a bad guy, why is God blessing everything I put my hands to?”

God did not act because he endorsed my manner of living, but because of his zeal for his own glory and his faithfulness to his promises of grace for his people.

Ministry that identifies with

Paul Tripp has written another insightful article on ministry for pastors here, but the paragraph below is helpful for all of us as we seek to disciple one another.

You are most loving, patient, kind, and gracious when you realize you desperately need every truth you could give to another. You are most humble and gentle when you realize the person you are ministering to is more like you than unlike you. When you have inserted yourself into another category that tends to make you think you have arrived, it is very easy to be judgmental and impatient.

The most dangerous prayer

Paul Tripp outlines why a line found in the Lord’s Prayer,  which we’ve all no doubt said perhaps hundreds of times, is probably the most dangerous prayer any pastor could pray.

It’s a thought provoking, heart searching article and I’m sure what Tripp says could apply just as much, not only to pastors but to all of Jesus’ disciples.

“Your kingdom come
Your will be done
on earth as it is in heaven”