In Lead, Paul David Tripp provides 12 gospel principles for ministry leaders. In each chapter, Tripp covers a different gospel principle, and provides insight into how that principle should look in the lives of ministry leaders, while also addressing how that principle gets overlooked/corrupted among leaders today. The content of this book will be familiar to most people who are active in ministry-either vocational or lay, and yet Tripp writes with such insight, clarity, and practicality that the familiar topics still challenge, convict, encourage, comfort, and hold out a better vision for ministry. For the purposes of this review, I first want to highlight two of the best chapters from the book. Then I want to explain what makes the book worth the read. Finally, I want to answer the question: Who would benefit from reading this book?
First, though every chapter in the book offers compelling information that is needed for ministry, two chapters in particular are deserving of recognition. In chapter three, Limits, Tripp, explains that “Recognizing God-ordained limits of gift, time, energy, and maturity is essential to leading a ministry community well.” Every ministry leader will understand and relate to the constant desire for more time. No matter how much or how little we have to do, we always feel that we need more time. Not only that, but also we tend to overreach, to overcommit, to try to do as much as we can ourselves, often reaching beyond the scope of our abilities, gifts, and maturity level. Tripp confronts head-on the minister’s struggle with limitations, and he explains that the limitations that God has placed in our lives are actually good gifts. God knows we cannot do everything ourselves, so He places limitations. God knows we shouldn’t do everything ourselves, so He places limitations. Everybody gets 24 hours- no more, no less. The challenges for ministers is to learn how to operate within these limitations to be effective in ministry. Tripp helps us see how the gospel speaks to our limitations and opens our eyes to the goodness of limitations.
Another chapter worthy of mention is chapter four: Balance. Tripp informs that “Teaching your leaders to recognize and balance the various callings in their life is a vital contribution to their success.” Again, most ministry leaders understand how difficult balance is. We are called to be Christ-followers first and foremost, but man of us are also husbands and fathers; we are to be counselors, shepherds, pastors, teachers, friends, mentors, etc. One of the reasons so many ministry leaders desire more time is because we have so many hats to wear. The danger we all face is the danger of imbalanced schedules, prioritizing work over devotion, study over family, preparation over counsel. Tripp understands the challenge of creating and maintaining balance and addresses how the Bible speaks to the very real challenge of finding balance. With great wisdom, Tripp reveals that one of the reasons for imbalance in our lives and ministries is due to idolatry: we don’t keep things in their proper place. Insightfully, Tripp says that “In ministry, the way you pursue your idols is by doing ministry.” In addition to convicting statements throughout this chapter, Tripp also provides helpful lists: one of what a balanced attitude and approach to ministry looks like and the other of signs of a heart out of balance.
What makes this book worth reading? Three things make this book worth the read. First is Tripp’s years of experience. He writes from what he knows. He writes as a pastor who knows what pastors struggle with, the temptations we face, the criticisms we endure, and the hardships that come with leading. If you are a pastor or a ministry leader, Tripp is sure to convict you in this book because he knows what you go through, having lived it himself. Second is the practicality of this book. For each gospel principle, Tripp provides pointed and practical application. With a book like this it would be easy for an author to write in generalities, but again, coming from his years of experience, Tripp not only knows how to address the difficult topics, but also how to offer practical remedies for the challenges ministry leaders face. Third is the vision for healthy ministry that Tripp provides throughout the book. Tripp doesn’t leave people wondering what a healthy, gospel-centered ministry looks like. He clearly lays out the characteristics and qualities of healthy ministries that are rooted in and shaped by the gospel.
So who would benefit from reading this book? First foremost, ministry leaders. Anyone who is serving in a ministry leadership role, whether vocational or lay, including pastors, small group leaders, Sunday school teachers, will benefit from reading Lead and learn how to orient their ministries to be more gospel-centered. Second, every Christian can benefit from this book. Though Tripp writes specifically for ministry leaders, the principles he lays out are applicable for Christians in any setting. Parents can apply the principles to their parenting, Christian businesspeople can apply the principles to their business practices, and so on.
Tripp helps Christians center their hearts on the gospel. He provides a clear vision of what gospel-centered ministry looks like as well as provides diagnostics of what life and ministry look like when the gospel is not primary. This book is convicting, challenging, encouraging, and inspiring. I highly recommend it.
I was provided with a free copy of this book as part of Crossway’s Blog Review Program.