If you are a regular reader of this blog then you have already read several posts making mention of Paul Tripp’s highly-diagnostic book for pastors, seminarians, and all those who have given their lives to the gospel ministry. Today’s post continues that pattern. It is directed at us, as pastors, but certainly contains wisdom for every believer to consider.
Part Two of Dangerous Calling: Confronting the Unique Challenges of Pastoral Ministry provides another heart-searching opportunity for self-counsel. Its focus is on the ease at which we are prone to lose our awe of God by forgetting who He is. As a result, we begin to think of ourselves more highly than we ought to think (Romans 12:3), and forget who we are, resulting in the development of distorted views of ourselves. Tripp writes, “we are all susceptible to having our definition of ourselves formed by the carnival mirrors that are in every ministry person’s life. Remember, no mirror that you look into to know yourself will ever show you with the clarity and accuracy of the mirror of the Word of God.” The author then suggests four “carnival mirrors” that we as pastors tend to look into.
- THE MIRROR OF MINISTRY KNOWLEDGE: “Biblical knowledge is a vital, essential, and irreplaceable thing; but it must not be confused with true faith or personal spiritual maturity. Faith is deeply more than what you do with your brain. Knowledge is an aspect of faith, but it doesn’t define faith. Ultimately, faith is an investment of the heart that leads to a radically new way of living your life. Spiritual maturity is more than maturity of knowledge. You can actually be mature in your understanding of God’s sovereignty but live a life of fear, because in your immaturity you have attached your security more to your control than to God’s wise rule.”
- THE MIRROR OF MINISTRY EXPERIENCE: Here Tripp means “that pastors tend to go through good and bad seasons of ministry. So all of this experience makes you feel that you’re mature; but it can be a dangerous and distorted mirror to look into….If all that was needed to form maturity was a certain amount of experience, not only would there be many more mature people, but Jesus would not have had to come. Experience will teach you some things, but it simply has no power to make you holy.”
- THE MIRROR OF MINISTRY SUCCESS: “If our human ministry efforts are not propelled by God’s powerful grace and applied by the Holy Spirit, they will be for nothing. It is Christ and Christ alone who builds his church. This is humbling stuff because it requires us to admit that we have no power whatsoever to change anyone…So ministry success always says more about the Lord we serve than it does about us.”
- THE MIRROR OF MINISTRY CELEBRITY: “The people who are exposed only to your public ministry persona, your books or Internet blogs, and your voice when it is in a conference or on a DVD are functionally incapable of giving you an accurate view of yourself. You must take their congratulatory words as well mean but lacking in accuracy and, therefore, spiritual helpfulness.”
Tripp concludes with this warning to us: “Pastor, do you examine yourself daily by humbly placing yourself before the one mirror you can trust, the mirror of the Word of God? Or have you fallen into the habit of looking into carnival mirrors that will only ever give you a misshapen view of where you are in your personal spiritual journey?”
All of this reminds me of Paul’s ministry conclusion in 1 Corinthians 15:10, “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.”