Ministry Diagnosis Questions

Country Doctor

As a pastor it is not only requisite to be a student of God’s Word, but it is also essential to be a student of the people to whom I preach and teach.  This is true for any church or ministry leader.  If we do not know the Bible, and sound doctrine, we have nothing to offer. But even if we have voluminous knowledge, if we do not know the people with whom we are called to share these truths, then we will not know how to apply these truths.  It would be as ineffective as a medic possessing all the medicines but without enough biological understanding to make a valid diagnosis.

In a recent post, 9 Questions for Ministry Leaders, Paul Tripp identifies nine helpful questions to ask ourselves, and to discuss with the other leaders in our churches or ministries, as we attempt to become effective students and exegetes of our people:

  1. What are the cultural idols that are particularly attractive to my people?
  2. Where do they tend to buy into an unbiblical worldview with its accompanying hopes and dreams?
  3. Are there themes of spiritual struggle that I need to speak to?
  4. Where do they tend to get discouraged and need the hope of the gospel?
  5. What is the level of their biblical literacy and theological knowledge?
  6. How many of them are actively involved in service, and how many are “ecclesiastical consumers”?
  7. What do they tend to struggle with in the workplace?
  8. What do they wrestle with at home?
  9. What are they reading, watching, and listening to, and how are they influenced by it?

Birdwatching: Medicine for My Soul

Osprey with Fish

I love this perspective from Paul Tripp:

“When you are struglling with anxiety, look at creation. Embedded in the physical world are constant reminders that God does not abandon the work of his hands.”

Tripp appropriately spiritualizes something that I have experienced but had never really contemplated sufficiently.  My tendency has long been to retreat into creation – whether it be the mountains of Tennessee, or the forests and river beaches here in Hampton Roads, or wherever – just to regain a sense of peace. I am reminded of God’s greatness and presence in such places.  And while I have long understood, advocated, and preached that standing on a mountain top or on the ocean shores can offer a sense of God’s awesomeness and beauty, I don’t know that I have really given adequate thought to the the practical theological principle behind the practice that relieves angst.  

I am reminded of Jesus’ counsel in Matthew 6:

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you,O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.

As Tripp suggested: “Bird watching is good for the soul.”  

Despite what relatively little knowledge I have about ornithology, I now see how beneficial it can be to periodically spend some time quietly watching the birds go about their business and their play.  Not only does it provide for tranquill moments, bird watching offers a much needed and refreshing reminder: If birds live stress free lives, how much more should I.  For while the birds were created to bring pleasure to the Creator, I am one made after the image of God; and as a consequence of the union I have with Jesus, through faith in his redeemeing work, I am one who is (admittedly undeservedly) among those who are the objects of the Father’s affection. If God loves the birds, how much more those who are in Christ – even me!

What Did You Expect?

Here is a preview and overview of one of the best books on marriage I have read: What Did You Expect?.   In this video, the author, Paul Tripp, introduces the root of almost any marriage conflict or emotional distancing: The heart.

This is not a book I recommend for pre-marital counseling – not that it would be a bad thing.  There are many other good ones for those prepping for marriage.  But I do wholeheartedly recommend this book to those who have been married for any length of time, no matter how strong or how strained the marriage is.

What Did You Expect

5 Gospel Perspectives That Shape Lives


Tim Lane & Paul Tripp, in their helpful book How People Change, suggest that there are 5 Gospel Perspectives that shape lives.  In other words when we understand these principles, and regularly consider our own lives in relation to them, we see change.  These principles, considered collectively,  cultivate the best conditions to see fruitful sanctification.

  1. The need to recognize that God calls for ongoing and continual growth and change in all of us.
  2. The need to understand the extent and gravity of our sin.
  3. The need to understand that the heart is central; that behavior and attitude is a reflection of the heart.
  4. The need to understand the present benefits of Christ.
  5. The need to live a Lifestyle of Repentance & Faith

If you are curious, you might want to check out an interview with Lane & Tripp, where they describe their motivation for writing the book, and explain how to apply the gospel to real life to bring about real change: Interview

Paradoxes of Grace

In his excellent, perspective shaping book, Broken-Down House, Paul Tripp reflects some of the amazing paradoxes of the gospel.  Take some time to ponder these; feel the tension. This is what genuine grace is and does:

So grace is a story and grace is a gift. It is God’s character and it is your hope. Grace is a transforming tool and a state of relationship. Grace is a theology and an invitation. Grace is an experience and a calling. Grace will turn your life upside-down while giving you a rest you have never known. Grace will convince you of your unworthiness without ever making you feel unloved.

Grace will make you acknowledge that you cannot earn God’s favor, and it will remove your fear of not measuring up to his standards. Grace will confront you with the fact that you are much less than you thought you were, even as it assures you that you can be far more than you had ever imagined. Grace will put you in your place without ever putting you down.

Grace will enable you to face truths about yourself that you have hesitated to consider, while freeing you from being self-consciously introspective. Grace will confront you with profound weaknesses, and at the same time introduce you to new-found strength. Grace will tell you what you aren’t, while welcoming you to what you can now be. Grace will make you as uncomfortable as you have ever been, while offering you more comfort than you have ever known. Grace will drive you to the end of yourself, while it invites you to fresh starts and new beginnings. Grace will dash your hopes, but never leave you hopeless. Grace will decimate your kingdom as it introduces you to a better King. Grace will expose your blindness as it gives you eyes to see. Grace will make you sadder than you have ever been, while it gives you greater cause for celebration than you have ever known.

Grace enters your life in a moment and will occupy you for eternity. You simply cannot live a productive life in this broken-down world unless you have a practical grasp of the grace you have been given [in Christ].

Broken-Down House: Living Productively in a World Gone Bad

I began reading Paul Tripp’s Broken Down House earlier this week. I had read it before, or rather I should say I skimmed it before, but did not take the time to allow Tripp’s poignant insights to resonate in my soul.  I raced through it last time, getting the general gist, but not digesting much in the way of spiritual nourishment.  That’s a mistake I am carefully avoiding this time through.

In Broken Down House Tripp uses the analogy of a home in serious disrepair as a reflection of our life in this world.  In the video above he introduces the themes he writes about.

The Need for Silence

Wise words from Paul Tripp about… not speaking words.

I have learned this lesson well over the years. My words, both spoken and written, are far more tempered than they were even just a few years ago. But as almost anyone who knows me can attest, my natural deficit in this area is so great that what I have learned is as nothing when compared to what I have still to understand.  As I too often demonstrate, I am in regular need of this reminder from Paul Tripp.

5 Life Changing Gospel Perspectives

There are 5 perspectives from the gospel that, when embraced and frequently pondered, shape lives:

  • The need to recognize that God calls for ongoing and continual growth and change in all of us.
  • The need to understand the extent and gravity of our sin.
  • The need to understand that the heart is central; that behavior and attitude is a reflection of the heart.
  • The need to understand the present benefits of Christ.
  • The need to live a Lifestyle of Repentance & Faith.

Source: How People Change by Tim Lane & Paul David Tripp