I’m getting hammered these days. First, I’m reading a book called Dangerous Calling: Confronting the Unique Challenges of Pastoral Ministry. If you’re a pastor, seminary student, or seminary teacher, I strongly urge you to get this book. It’s been confronting me about the dangers inherent in my own soul in ministry, and it’s been taking me to the grace of Christ. It’s rare to find a book like this, and I’m soaking it in. I agree with Steve McCoy: it’s an “excellent, and devastating, and grace-giving book.” You should read it.
But then I also heard Charles Price speak yesterday. Charles is pastor at Peoples Church in Toronto. Charles spoke on presumptuous sins in ministry from Psalm 19:13:
Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins;
let them not have dominion over me!
Then I shall be blameless,
and innocent of great transgression.
Here are some of my notes from his talk:
- Pastoral ministry is fertile ground for a sense of entitlement, which leads to presumption and bitterness.
- Ministry is about the Word and prayer, but the ministry of Word must flow out of prayer, or else it will simply be truth without power.
- We are wise to avoid the things that we as pastors have privileged access to, such as favors, privileges, and gifts from members of the congregation (reflecting on 1 Corinthians 9).
- We fool ourselves when we think that we can control our sin. Sin will control us.
- Don’t underestimate your capacity for sin and self-deception.
- Be careful if there is anything you want to protect or keep secret.
- Many people in the Bible didn’t finish well, and it’s a danger for all of us.
- One of the saddest verses in the Bible is 1 Samuel 15:26: “the LORD has rejected you from being king.” This could be said of us tomorrow as pastors.
- You can be approved by men and disqualified by God. Paul saw being disqualified as a very real danger (1 Corinthians 9:27).
- There are trains that can lose power and go on for 30 miles before stopping, and ministry can be like that too.
- Guard against wanting the right thing at the wrong time.
- You can be disciplined without godliness, but you can’t be godly without discipline.
It was a powerful talk, and I hope he gives it again. I’ll be thinking about what he said, as well as the book Dangerous Calling, for some time.