In his book, Dangerous Calling, Paul David Tripp shares three factors that crept into his personal life and ministry. In a very transparent and compelling manner he shares how the Lord helped him see the problems and make changes.
Tripp describes how he later realized the same three factors he experienced were very common in pastoral culture. There are many obvious parallels in our missionary culture. Pastoral and missionary ministry share many common elements, so it is not surprising that the same stumbling blocks that trip pastors up in ministry do the same to mission workers.
Missionary Success: Blessing or Problem?
The third factor Tripp outlines in Dangerous Calling is success in ministry. He writes that he, “Confused ministry success with God’s endorsement of my lifestyle.” The Lord helped him recognize that his attitude and understanding of ministry success was a problem.
Tripp pastored a church that was growing in size and spiritual maturity. The church experienced many changed lives and made a good impact in the community. They launched a successful school and developed a core of leaders who were equipped for ministry.
These ministry accomplishments led to a false sense of God’s blessing on the pastor. One sentence vividly describes Tripp’s realization and regret for his misunderstanding of his personal ministry success.
The success of a ministry is always more a picture of who God is than a statement about who the people are that he is using for his purpose.
It is all too easy for ministers of all types to fall into the trap of thinking it is their own success. When things are going well and good results, praise and we feel blessed, it is easy to forget it is not our work that brings success. Sometimes it is hard to remember it is God who works through us. We all know better, but simply get swept up by our emotions and the way our fleshly nature responds.
Missionary Culture and Success
In missionary culture, this third factor or stumbling block is seen in individuals, teams, and at the agency or organizational level in a wide variety of ways. Related to pride, this is one of the most subtle and insidious means the enemy uses to set believers up for a fall.
As I struggle to write this post without getting preachy or sounding like it doesn’t apply to me (trust me it does) an email popped into my inbox which is a perfect example of the grace of our Lord. It is his grace that helps us reconnect with reality and what is important.
Here’s the article that email pointed me towards… it is another successful minister’s testimony of God’s blessings and grace. I think that testimony says it better than I am able right now. Read it and think about it…
How has missionary or ministry culture affected you?