These days I'm re-reading Paul Tripp's book Dangerous Calling: Confronting the Unique Challenges of Pastoral Ministry. It's assignment #1 for our new pastoral intern. He needs to count the costs involved in a life of vocational ministry, if and when the call comes.
Early on in the book, Tripp tells one church's story of calling a pastor. The man possessed the right theology, preaching skills, ministry philosophy, and pastoral experience. But with all that promise, things ended badly. He resigned from their church far sooner than anyone ever dreamed.
The conclusion? "We didn't know the man we hired."
Tripp asks, "What does knowing the man mean? It means knowing the true condition of his heart (as far as that is possible)."
Here is a battery of questions he suggests asking a pastoral candidate with a view to avoiding such a costly mistake.
- What does he dearly love and what does he despise?
- What are his hopes, dreams, and fears?
- What are the deep desires that fuel and shape the way he does ministry?
- What are the anxieties that have the potential to derail or paralyze him?
- How accurate is his view of himself?
- Is he open to the confrontation, critique, and encouragement of others?
- Is he committed to his own sanctification?
- Is he open about his own temptations, weaknesses, and failures?
- Is he ready to listen to and defer to the wisdom of others?
- Does he see pastoral ministry as a community project?
- Does he have a tender, nurturing heart?
- Is he warm and hospitable, a shepherd and champion to those who are suffering?
- What character qualities would his wife and children use to describe him?
- Does he sit under his own preaching?
- Is his heart broken and his conscience regularly grieved as he looks at himself in the mirror of the Word?
- How robust, consistent, joyful, and vibrant is his devotional life?
- Does his ministry to others flow out of the vibrancy of his devotional communion with the Lord?
- Does he hold himself to high standards, or is he willing to give way to mediocrity?
- Is he sensitive to the experiences and needs of those who minister along side him?
- Is he one who incarnates the love and grace of the Redeemer?
- Does he overlook minor offenses?
- Is he ready and willing to forgive?
- Is he critical and judgmental?
- Is the public pastor a different person from the private husband and dad?
- Does he take care of his physical self?
- Does he numb himself with too much social media or television?
- If he said, "If only I had _______________," what would fill in the blank?
- How successful has he been in pastoring the congregation that is his family?
May the Lord protect us from calling a man whose heart condition we don't know as much as we possibly can.
That would be dangerous.