Dangerous Calling (Book Review)

Since this book was released, several minister friends have suggested it. Now I know why.

My first Tripp book was Awe. So I expected the candor of his writing. But his candor isn’t meant to only cut; it is meant more to heal. If you are a minister who knows you need healing along with everyone else, this book should be in your cart.

No one is more influential in your life then you are, because no one talks to you more than you do.

When people are your substitute messiah (you need their respect and support in order to continue), it’s hard to be honest with them about your sins, weaknesses, and failures.

The big crisis of the church is not that we are easily dissatisfied but that we are all too easily satisfied.

Every person still living with sin inside is a very skilled self-swindler.

The greatest danger in my life exists inside of me and not outside of me.

You have to live with realistic expectations.

In the intersection between the promises of God and the details of your situation, what you do with your mind is very important.

Security is never to be found in our attempt to figure it all out.

Mediocrity is a heart problem.

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 into God’s wise rule.

You must think of yourself not only as an instrument of ministry but also as a recipient.

One of the scandals of hordes of churches is that no one is pastoring their pastor.

These quotes should encourage ministers to see what deep guidance, counsel, and encouragement Tripp provides you in this book. To those under ministers, you could also benefit from reading this book in order to know how to pray for them and seek to encourage them wherever and whenever it is appropriate to do so in their dangerous calling.

Advertisements

Didn’t See That Coming

In my experience, if you ask God a curious “I want what you want” question, he is happy to reply. And he often surprises you with his answer. And I believe he enjoys whispering to your heart, “Bet you didn’t see that coming.”

When I opened the winter issue of Facts and Trends a few months ago, I read about an Arkansas church that has a unique approach to engaging their community through the arts. The Article (see pages 16-19) describes their intentionality of establishing an art gallery in their new building as an avenue to connect worship and community. After reading it, I had a “Hmmmm…” moment. 

That moment was a connection between the answer to an earlier question (see It Started With a Question) and another question, “Where could this go?” The connection was the expansion of a one-time showing of work from Ballard students to an ongoing gallery that involved all facets of our community. No, I didn’t see that coming.

So I did two things. I called the church in Arkansas. Then I visited the Arts Center. Between those two things, we felt equipped and eager to follow what God seemed to be up to. Long story short, we now have a gallery that will continue to go after wanting what God wants. And pretty much all I can say is, “God did this.”

How might you incorporate curiosity into your prayer life?

What area of your life needs a “I want what you want” attitude adjustment?

When’s the last time you could only answer, “All I can say is, ‘God did this'”? What if you prayed for it to happen again?

How might you prepare to receive what you don’t see coming?

It Started With a Question

The question came last summer. I was searching for something. But it wasn’t really for me. And maybe that’s why the answer was so good.

My job as assistant pastor at a church is not normal. (Everyone said, “Amen!”) No need to get into all the possible answers to the wrong question here, so suffice it to say my job makes me ask myself a lot of questions. Last summer I asked the same question I’ve asked myself for several summers; but I was looking for something different, something deeper. And that’s why the core question I was really asking was this: “How can we go deeper?”

“We” referred to our church. “Go deeper” referred to our relationship with our ministry partner, Ballard Elementary School. This relationship has existed for five or so years. It’s very healthy, even admired by other churches and schools in our county. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t need evaluating and tweaking and improving. So to do these three things, we ask questions.

This time I got an answer that I hadn’t received before. Looking back, I believe the answer came because we weren’t asking how to improve an existing program but opening the question up by looking for other options, avenues, and pathways yet unexplored. The answer was revealing, refreshing, and certainly unexplored. That answer was, “What about connecting with the art teacher?” I dove in.

Long story short, we met and now are walking a path that is unlike anything either have experienced before. Students and their families are creating lifelong memories because an assistant pastor and an art teacher are collaborating on their behalf. And this collaboration has opened the door to a whole new ministry of the church in the form of an art gallery. Didn’t see that coming (more on that in an upcoming blog)!

But how can you see something coming when you don’t ask the question? 

How can you expect a different result when you keep asking the same question? 

How can go you deeper when you only ask questions about the surface? 

What could start in your corner of the world by asking the right question? 

What if you started by asking, “How can we go deeper?”

The Gift of Balance: Ministry and Service (Part 2)

(This is part two of the final topic in a series on the subject of balance. It being the holidays, we thought titling this series the gift of balance seemed appropriate. By “we,” I’m referring to the series contributors. Joining me in this series are Mark Stanifer and Tonya Waechter. At the end of this entry are suggested resources.)

Tonya: The million dollar question is, “How do you distinguish God’s plan?” If we are making God first and really trying to follow the Holy Spirit, one thing is to pay attention to what’s in your heart, the passions of your heart. Pray that he will open and close doors. It doesn’t mean you won’t miss the mark sometimes, but then you have the chance to recalibrate. We don’t have to go forward fearfully; we can just go forward.

John: I thought about that question by comparing my plans to God’s plans, what characterizes them. So for instance, my plans tend to be my first choice and God’s plans tend to not be my first choice. The reason for that is my plans tend to not require a whole lot of risks, they are comfortable and fit naturally; God’s plans tend to require me to trust him more and to have courage. So for me, I have to say, “Just because it looks good and looks easy doesn’t means it is God’s plan.” God’s plans tend to require me to figure out new boundaries and to step out in courage. They mature and grow me. In that talent parable concept, I shouldn’t try to hide talents as much as allow them to be worked on and developed and let God take care of wherever they go and accomplish. That’s not easy, but the more I live in it the more fulfilled I am; his work is getting accomplished, not mine.

Tonya: He doesn’t always make it easy. He likes us to stretch.

Mark: Well, it’s at that point that we are really trusting and leaning on him, not what we can manage and control on our own.

Where I am at this point about this question about my plans versus God’s plans, first, there are times when God asks us to specifically do things, and as his follower, there really is just one choice. Even Jonah ultimately got to yes. Recognizing his voice and learning to listen over time makes it easier to hear those when they come. I also think there are lots of other opportunities where we just simply love others. There’s no law on how to do that. There are suggestions and guidelines throughout the New Testament of what that might look like, but really we have a lot of creativity and flexibility in being unique by how we were designed-like what you were saying, Tonya, following the passions of our heart. He’s already given us permission, wired us with gifts and passions to do that. Loving people inside of who he’s made us to be is part of being obedient to what he wants us to do.

Tonya: God gives us room and choices. When my husband first graduated from Bible college and we were trying to choose where we were go and sending out resumes, a couple of opportunities came that made it a tough decision. Everything about them was good. I remember asking, “How do you know which one?” A pastor friend once said, “God may be saying this is the direction I have for you, but which one you choose is your choice.” So I think there are those times.  I also believe there are times he is very specific about you needing to be at a certain place. I think he gives us freedom at times in some choices.

John: As you say that, I think that may go back to personality as well. I don’t live in the idea that I have to have 100% approval before I’ll step out. I know as I’ve moved from a church position to the next church position, there’s a moment of solid peace in that process that I know I’m supposed to be there next or I’m supposed to leave this place now even if I don’t know where the next place is. I’ve learned to wait for that moment or I’m not moving yet. That’s for me. Someone else could be willy nilly and be totally fine. I need to have that peace about those big ministry movements before I’m going to move in that direction.

Mark: I can relate to that, for sure. My thinking has also expanded into what Tonya was talking about. I often have this visual of a bowling alley. There may not be a whole lot of room in a lane, but there’s room to move left and right in the lane. I think of God sometimes as the bumper guards that keep us moving down the lane. Sometimes we drift right or left, but the guard rails keep us moving in a specific direction with freedom to move left and right in that lane.

John: I feel it’s important to add that we can’t always wait for the green light. We can’t always have every little jot and tittle clear before we’ll say yes. There are times we know enough, and it’s all we need to know. God will take care of step #29. If you know step #1 and #2, go on. You’re not going to get #29 because he’s not ready to give it to you. Those moments are trust tests on my part. “He’s given me the green light. Why am I not moving?” 

Tonya: That seems to flow us into our final question we wanted to discuss, which was “What one belief best fortifies your balance?” I asked my husband that and he said, “Do it Jesus’ way.” His example was he did what the Father asked him to do. That’s it. He came and did what the Father asked him to do. He discipled people, spent time with them one on one, and he took rest. That was his example. I always love pointing out that he was in ministry three years. He discipled twelve, and eleven of them then created the church which still exists. He walked side by side. He rested. That’s my fortification for balance. Do it Jesus’ way.

John: The scripture that came to my mind for this question was 1 Corinthians 6, “We are not our own. We are bought with a price. Therefore glorify God in what we do and in our bodies.” My best fortification is to be reminded that I am not my own. You could say Jesus’ modeled that also. He gave up everything for everybody. Another way to test myself when I’m not responding well to either current ministry or something new that I feel like God is pushing me to, “What is it I’m holding onto that’s not really mine or shouldn’t be mine?” That is a challenging statement to people in our culture. There’s this tension between “it’s not about you” but “of course it’s about me.” This presents the challenge to figure it out for myself, “How do I live in a surrendered place rather than a selfish place?”

Mark: I’m thinking, John, that takes a lifetime of practice to perfect. For me, the undergirding belief is twofold. Kingdom living is full-time, whether it’s called work or service. What works for me as someone wired to be drawn toward legalism, what helps me to stay grounded is just two laws that we’ve already referenced: Love God and Love Others. If I stay focused on that, I 100% agree with what you said, Tonya, things just work out the way God wants them to work out. They may not be my plans or expectations, but certainly better because it works out the way God wants it to work out.

Tonya: Yeah, it may not always be comfortable or feel good, but in the end it’s what he’s doing. Jesus always did what the Father wanted, but it certainly wasn’t always comfortable. He had to go through torture. It doesn’t mean it’s all going to be gravy, but it is all going to be good.

 

Suggested Resources:

Mark’s:

John’s:

 

The Gift of Balance: Ministry and Service (Part 1)

(This is part one of the final topic in a series on the subject of balance. It being the holidays, we thought titling this series the gift of balance seemed appropriate. By “we,” I’m referring to the series contributors. Joining me in this series are Mark Stanifer and Tonya Waechter. This entry will be the first half of the conversation continuing tomorrow with the second half.)

Tonya: All of us as Christians are called to some kind of service, in some capacity. The service may not be within the church, but it doesn’t mean you’re not serving. The right mindset is determining what God has for me and my family to do. Like when I’ve talked about hockey, those were moments when we are able to share with other families and coaches through what God had for us. It is seasonal, so we could also ask, “What does God have for me in this season, in what capacity am I supposed to serve?” This should take into account our gifts both individually and as a family.

Mark: Kingdom work is not constrained to church work. Often there is this imbalance or perception that our service is contained within a church activity. As Jesus’ followers, we are challenged to be doing kingdom work all the time, regardless of where we are. That is a key mindset for this topic.

John: When you mention seasons, Tonya, it reminds me of teaching on spiritual gifts in church membership classes and helping people find places of ministry.  One thing that is very clear is giving them the freedom to think seasonally. Maybe right now they don’t have the time to do the ministry they would like to do for multiple reasons. It’s also possible they’ve outgrown their current ministry of involvement.  They may be ready to move into a different type of ministry or into a different level of leadership. As believers grow, ministry is probably going to look different.

To answer this question, I was drawn to Matthew 22 where Jesus answered the question about the greatest commandment by saying, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind; and the second is like it, Love your neighbor as yourself.” With that mindset, ministry is not confined to a location or an organization. My ministry mindset is to love God with all of my being. Out of that flows how I am to love others. I mess that up all the time. When I realize I’m off track, this is my marker to come back to. “Where am I off track on these two things?”

TonyaI’m a strong believer that if we really do take that first commandment seriously the rest of it all falls into place. We will truly be trying to hear the Lord, to do His will. We are going to make mistakes because we are human, but we are going to know it right away because of conviction. Everything we’ve talked about is about keeping God first and truly loving Him with our whole being. We’ll better love our spouse, our children, even the person in line at the store.

John: This has been a particular step of obedience for me this year. In thinking about what to do during my sabbatical, I had to work through what I wanted to do versus what God wanted me to do. If I had done what I wanted, it would have looked differently out of my own selfishness. When I put myself back in the space of answering who am I living for when I’m given an opportunity to do something, who am I to say no? If I do the Jonah thing and run in the opposite direction, my balance is wrong because it’s all about me.

Mark: That makes me think of a book I read earlier this year, Love Does by Bob Goff. His personality is so different than mine, so I lived vicariously through him. What he says in the book is, “God presents me with opportunities all the time, and I want to just keep saying yes. I don’t want to miss out on the adventure that he has for me.” When we say no to something God is inviting us into, we miss the adventure he wants to take us on and how he wants to love and bless us others through what he’s asked us to do.

John: So that brings up a big question. Why do some of us tend to be the “no replier” and some tend to be the “yes replier”? I tend to be the no replier. Now, once I’m in I’m all in, you know, get out of my way. Getting me all in may take a little while. Whereas other people, like what you’re describing, are on the opposite end of the spectrum.

Tonya: There’s so much that goes into that-personality, past history, so many pieces that go into that. That’s a hard one to answer.

John: Maybe we can come back to that next year after we’ve had time to think about it.

Tonya: Yeah, that’s a book, a title to a book.

Mark: Actually it is a title to a book. It’s called Resisting Happiness by Matthew Kelly. His assertion is beyond just responding to God, but certainly set in that content. We often tend toward resisting happiness; and in the context of following God, it’s being the person and doing the things He’s created us to be and to do. There’s a tendency for some of us to resist the change or the difference or the invitation or the unknown. When we lean into that is where we can find happiness. Some people may have that figured out or are wired that way, and other people, like myself, tend to struggle. My tendency is to resist at first; and then when it’s really important, God makes it very clear and then I make the decision to be all in also.

John: To be honest, I don’t look at these things as my avenue to happiness. I’d have to sit in that and marry the two together. My brain doesn’t naturally marry them together.

Mark: To play the other side, there are people who say yes all the time for the wrong reasons. They say yes looking for some validation, to earn something that can’t be earned through doing, or other emotional or psychological reasons. You can say yes out of an unhealthy place and contribute to some unhealthiness.

John: That makes me think of something that, Tonya, you’ve probably also witnessed. I have seen multiple guys really feel convinced that they were called into church/pastoral work and within a short amount of time they realized they were wrong and crashed and burned.

Tonya: Yeah, going in for the wrong reasons. Maybe they were a PK and felt expected to follow in dad’s footsteps, or the idea that they can only have impact for the Lord in ministry through church work. I had a pastor say to me not long ago that he has no passion for his people and he really despises being a shepherd. He was totally a square being pushed into a circle. He’s a professor; that’s what his passion is, not being a pastor.

John: To make that broader, you don’t have to be a church staff member to fall into that trap. Anybody can feel like they’ve been drawn into doing something and not fully aware of why they are saying yes. And once they get in, it doesn’t work, because of your analogy, Tonya, square and a circle.

Mark: My experience in this context is watching new believers say yes to everything and quickly get burned out. They were overbooked in this ministry space, and it wasn’t a good scenario for them.

Tonya: My husband was talking about this last night, how that pastors are doing so much of the work and people aren’t seeing themselves as helpers or servants. Some pastors also have a hard time giving up control in certain areas. Helping people find their gift and plugging into that one ministry, not ten, but the one ministry where they are gifted, the church that is plugged in like that, the labor is not overwhelming. People can get caught up in pleasing people instead of understanding what God has for them.

Entertainment or Service?

I heard a global ministry leader say this on a podcast (#5leadershipquestions) today:

A spiritual gift is not given for entertainment but for service.

When believers get that understanding of why God gave them what they have, then they are able to know better what to do with the gifts they have.

If you think your musical talent was given to you for applause, you will never fully achieve the service God intended.

If you pursue a teaching platform in order to draw bigger crowds to hear your great vocabulary or wit, the shallow foundation of your teaching ministry will eventually crumble.

If you use your hospitality gift to the max just for the pat on the back, your tank will run empty when the pats end.

Knowing your gifts is one thing. Knowing why you have them is quite another. Get there and the what question is much more easily answered.

How do you make sure your gifts are used for service and not entertainment? Leave a comment.