How Our Spiritually Unhealthy Culture Impacts Pastors

Maintaining a healthy spiritual life is critical for pastors. But just as critical are the spiritual lives of those who surround a pastor—those in a position to encourage, reprove, and restore them, as well as others in ministry leadership.

In this month’s free book, Dangerous Calling, Paul David Tripp reveals the truth that the culture surrounding our pastors is spiritually unhealthy—an environment that actively undermines the wellbeing and efficacy of church leaders and thus the entire Church body.

In this excerpt from Dangerous Calling, Tripp reveals how this unhealthy culture begins and its natural result:

When the Word of God, faithfully taught by the people of God and empowered by the Spirit of God, falls down, people become different. Lusting people become pure, fearful people become courageous, thieves become givers, demanding people become servants, angry people become peacemakers, complainers become thankful, and idolaters come to joyfully worship the one true God. The ultimate purpose of the Word of God is not theological information but heart and life transformation. Biblical literacy and theological expertise are not, therefore, the end of the Word but a God-ordained means to an end, and the end is a radically transformed life because the worship at the center of that life has been reclaimed. This means it is dangerous to teach, discuss, and exegete the Word without this goal in view. It should be the goal of every seminary professor. It should be his prayer for every one of his students. It should cause him or her to make regular pastoral pleas to the students. It means recognizing that this student’s future ministry will never be shaped by his knowledge and skill alone but also, inevitably, by the condition of his heart.

Think about it. When a pastor has left his office and is at home yelling at his wife, he’s not ignorant of the fact that his yelling is wrong. At that point he doesn’t care what is right or wrong, because something else is ruling his heart. When a pastor is responding to issues in his church in ways that are more political than pastoral, it’s not because he’s ignorant of the selfishness of this response but because he’s more committed to building his kingdom than God’s. When a pastor is eaten with envy over the ministry position of another, he isn’t giving way to envy out of ignorance of its danger but because his self-absorbed heart feels entitled to what is a blessing and not a right.

Have we accomplished our training task if we produce generations of graduates who have big theological brains but tragically diseased hearts? Must we not hold together theological training and personal transformation? Should we not require every seminary classroom to be faithful to God’s intended purpose for his Word? Shouldn’t every seminary professor have pastoral love for his students? Shouldn’t every instructor long to be used of God to produce a growing love for Christ in each of his students?

I am convinced that the crisis of pastoral culture often begins in the seminary class. It begins with a distant, impersonal, information-based handling of the Word of God. It begins with pastors who, in their seminary years, became quite comfortable with holding God’s Word distant from their own hearts. It begins with classrooms that are academic without being pastoral. It begins with brains becoming more important than hearts. It begins with test scores being more important than character. The problem with all of these things is that they’re subtle and deceptive. They don’t exist in a black-or-white world of either/or but in a messy world of both/and. Yes, every seminary professor would say that he cares about the hearts of his students. All of us would say that we want to stimulate love for Christ. The question is, does this goal shape the content and process of the theological education to which we have given ourselves?

Tripp, P.D. (2012). Dangerous Calling: Confronting the Unique Challenges of Pastoral Ministry. Wheaton, IL: Crossway.

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Dangerous Calling gives a diagnosis and offers cures for issues that impact every member and church leader, and gives solid strategies for fighting the all-important war that rages in our churches today

Along with getting Dangerous Calling for free, you can also get two more Tripp books for under $8. Redeeming Money and Sex in a Broken World are available for $3.99 each but only through July!

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