Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2020
I was given this book recently for Christmas, but wasn’t really looking forward to reading it. ‘Not another book on leadership!’ I cynically thought to myself. I think I was expecting a whole lot of practical tips on being a pastor that would leave me feeling guilty and overburdened. But I must say, I couldn’t have been more mistaken. To my great surprise—and subsequent delight—this is a book about how the Gospel empowers us to live in the joyous freedom of serving Christ. And as such, it’s a book not just for pastors, but for anyone involved in Christian service.
While the book is clearly structured around twelve central principles, it is really about applying the Gospel we preach to ourselves from a number of different angles. Ironically, and all too tragically, it’s easy to fall into all manner of spiritual pitfalls which shift the focus from finding our identity in Christ to ministry itself. As a former church pastor, Tripp is extremely well-qualified to speak into this subject. All the more so since he is currently engaged in a ministry of assisting various churches where there has been a breakdown in pastoral trust.
As I made my way through the book I just had to start underlining and marking—something I don’t really like to do unless absolutely necessary—because so much of what Tripp was saying was memorable or significant. There were a number of personal examples that Tripp gives which were especially poignant. For example, in chapter 11 on the principle of ‘Longevity’, Tripp talks about his own experience of almost leaving pastoral ministry. Tripp writes:
‘I couldn’t imagine a life of pastoral leadership anymore. It had once been a passion, a dream that seemed too good to be true, but the passion had morphed into a burden, one I no longer wanted to bear. I had found a safe landing place and couldn’t wait to put ministry behind and land there. I had made my announcement, and my heart had already closed to the present and opened up to what was ahead. I had had all of the tough conversations I thought I needed to have. I was done and didn’t want to have another awkward, quasi-judgment encounter.
When he approached me, I hoped it would be a quick, ‘Hello, we’re praying for you,’ but it was more, so much more. He said, ‘Paul, we know you’re immature, but we haven’t asked you to leave.’ Then he said, ‘Where is the church going to get mature leaders, if immature leaders run? Don’t go.’ I was frozen for a moment at the power of his words. They were gospel words, and I knew it.’
How many people would still be in pastoral ministry today if the church showed them such love and grace? This doesn’t mean that sinful behaviour should not be addressed. Tripp is at pains to point out in other chapters as how avoiding difficult conversations only contributes to future leadership breakdown. But this is a wonderful illustration of what the book as a whole is like. That the love of Christ should permeate everything we do.
There is so much more that could be said. But probably the best indication I could give about the value of this book is that upon finishing I went out and bought four more to give away. This is a terrific work that will provide great blessing and encouragement to any leader. Take and read, and then give as many copies away to those you know would benefit.