Dangerous Calling: Chapter 1

In the opening chapter Tripp lays out his own personal transformation from an angry, self-righteous pastor to one who seeks to rely upon God’s grace in his daily life. He begins by laying out three diagnostic symptoms for pastors to evaluate their own lives and ministry to see if they are spiritually blind.

First, pastors can allow their ministry to define their identity. The temptation exists to define ourselves as “pastor.” Our faith can become a professional calling instead of a relationship with God. This tends to lead to inserting oneself into a different category than others in our life and not understanding other’s situations. Pastors then can foster unrealistic expectations of others.

Second, pastors can allow their intellectual knowledge to define what spiritual maturity looks like. But maturity is how we live our lives, not what we can do with our intellect. However, sin is not first and foremost an intellectual problem. Tripp says sin is about breaking a relationship with God, which in turn leads to breaking rules. But “intellectual maturity” cannot solve a sin problem that is rooted in the heart—a heart which ignores God’s kingdom for trying to build one’s own kingdom.

Finally, pastors can easily confuse ministry success for an endorsement by God of our lifestyle. Yet God acts because of his zeal for his people. Success in ministry is always more about who God is than what we’ve done.

It is clear from the get go that Tripp is interested in our relationship with God. In various ways, he implies that everything else in our ministry will stem from this relationship.

Offering belief in suffering

Kumalo said, 

…so in my suffering I can believe.

How? In the face of what he had suffered: a child condemned to death, a sister forsaking hope for sin, starvation among his people, how could he believe?

Kindness and love can pay for suffering.

The body of Christ rose up and held his hand, supported his frail body and disturbed mind—with kindness. The body of Christ did what God designed it to do. They accepted their pastor and his family’s failures and allowed him to grieve. And they loved him in the process. What about me and you? Are we being the body of Christ today? Can kindness and love guide our actions? Or are we angry? Are we self-absorbed? Can we forsake our agenda for someone in need? 

And I come to believe that he [Jesus] suffered, not to save us from suffering, but to teach us how to bear suffering. For he knew that there is no life without suffering. 

The friend offers these words to Kumalo. They bring him joy for he knows that his friend understands that suffering is not to be shunned, not to be explained away, not to be trivialized. He knows his friend will not encourage him to just put a smile on his face and pretend all is OK for the sake of others. Kumalo knows he can suffer—and still be loved.

And he gave some as…pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ. Ephesians 4:11-12

Make no mistake. The body of Christ in Ndotsheni would not have acted this way unless Kumalo had taught them how. The actions of the community upon his return testifies to his Godly pastoring. And so the charge is laid at our feet, those of us who have children, employees, congregants. If God has placed someone under your care, are you equipping them to be the body of Christ? We must not disciple for selfish reasons, but we must disciple in a way that those whom we are seeking to equip understand the truths of suffering and kindness. If not us, someone will need them.