5 Subtle Pastoral ‘Treasure Shifts’ to Beware

As I continue to work through Paul Tripp’s highly-diagnostic book, Dangerous Calling: Confronting the Unique Challenges of Pastoral Ministry, the Spirit sheds light on areas of my heart and life where biblical truth needs to be applied. Chapter Seven is entitled War Zones because it confronts the kingdom battle taking place in the pastor’s heart. In this chapter, Tripp exposes five treasure shifts that commonly take place in the pastor’s heart without him being aware of it. First, Tripp identifies the treasure shift; then he explains what he means and, finally, he applies it to himself. Each of us will profit greatly by following his example.

  1. IDENTITY: Moving from identity in Christ to identity in ministry. “In pastoral ministry, it is very tempting to look horizontally for what you already have been given in Christ. It is possible to be a pastor and a functional identity amnesiac….Rather than the hope and courage that come from resting in my identity in Christ, my ministry becomes captured and shaped by the treasure of a series of temporary horizontal affirmations of my value and worth.”
  2. MATURITY: Defining spiritual well-being not by the mirror of the Word but by ministry. “It is tempting to allow a shift to take place in the way that I evaluate my maturity as a pastor. Rather than living with a deep neediness for the continued operation of grace in my own heart, I begin, because of experience and success in ministry, to view myself as more mature than I actually am.”
  3. REPUTATION: Shifting from a ministry shaped by zeal for the reputation of Christ to a ministry shaped by hunger for the praise of people. “My ministry should be functionally motivated by the glory of Christ, that his fame would be known by more and more people, and that together we would all know practically what it means to submit to his lordship. Instead, my ministry becomes seduced by the treasure of my own reputation.”
  4. ESSENTIALITY: Moving from rest in the essential presence of Jesus the Messiah to seeing oneself as way too essential to what God is doing. “Where once I viewed myself as one of many tools in God’s kingdom toolbox, I now begin to see myself as too central, too important to what God is doing in my local setting. Rather than resting in the person and work of the Messiah, I begin to load the burden of the individual and collective growth of God’s people onto my own shoulders.”
  5. CONFIDENCE: Shifting away from a humble confidence in transforming grace to overconfidence in one’s own experience and gifts. “We are all capable of becoming too confident in ourselves. A confidence shift begins to take place from the treasure of humble confidence in the power of rescuing, forgiving, transforming, and delivering grace, to rest in my own knowledge, abilities, gifts, and experience.”

The Treasure of the Relentless Grace of Jesus – Tripp then exhorts us to never lose sight of our highest prize. “In each area it is tempting for my ministry to be shaped by a shift from confidence in the treasure of relentless grace of Jesus, the redeemer, to hope in earthbound treasures, which he reminds us (Matt. 6:19-34) are temporary in nature and have no capacity to deliver what we are seeking.”

If you are a pastor, I encourage you to get yourself a copy of Dangerous Calling. If you are not a pastor then please consider also reading it as it will help you know how to pray for your pastor(s) more effectively. Consider getting a copy for the man/men called to shepherd you.

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