I want to encourage you to avail yourself of two resources. I hope to do that by assembling several quotations for you to read. They come from Paul Tripp, a minister who reaches deep and hits bedrock issues in our lives. In his life, ministry, and teaching he moves in the deep realities of sin, Christ, God’s word, and the recesses of the human heart. Listen to some examples. Then see the end of this article for my bottom line.
In light of the fact (Genesis 1-2) that we were created to be revelation receivers and life interpreters:
If it is true that all human beings are constantly trying to make sense out of life, then all of life is counseling or personal ministry. Counseling is the stuff of human life! We are always interpreting and always sharing our interpretations with one another. This “sharing” ultimately amounts to advice or counsel about how to respond to life (45-46).
On the need for grassroots Christians to share the Word with grassroots Christians (Eph. 4:15):
[W]hy does it seem right to say “preach the Word” but odd to say “counsel the Word”? From a biblical perspective, both public and personal ministries base their hope for change on the Word of God. They are simply different methods of bringing the Word to people in different contexts (21).
On misusing the Bible in ministering to others:
If you try to use your Bible as God’s encyclopedia, you will either conclude that it has little to say about some crucial issues of modern life or you will bend, twist, and stretch passages to suit your purposes Either way, you are not getting from the Word what God intended. This misunderstanding underlies the frustration many people feel with Scripture…. If I handle Scripture topically, I will miss the overarching themes at the heart of everything else God wants to say to me. These themes give me a sense of identity, purpose, and direction that will fundamentally alter the way I think, desire, speak, and act. They will go to the root of my problem, producing change that lasts (26-27).
On the potent and ever present dynamics of idolatry in our hearts (Ezek. 14:3):
Imagine that someone places his hand up to his face so that he is looking through his fingers. What will happen to his vision? It will be seriously obstructed, and the only way to clear it is to remove his hand. In a similar way, an idol in the heart creates a stumbling block before the face. Until the idol is removed, it will distort and obscure everything else in the person’s life. This is the principle of inescapable influence: Whatever rules the heart will exercise inescapable influence over the person’s life and behavior. This principle has obvious implications for personal growth and ministry (68).
On the centrality of the human heart in a Biblical strategy of grassroots church ministry:
Every human being is a worshiper, in active pursuit of the thing that rules his heart. This worship shapes everything we do and say, who we are, and how we live. This is why the heart is always our target in personal ministry (73).
Bottom line: two resources that will take you into the deep issues of life and ministry. (1) Read Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands: People in Need of Change Helping People in Need of Change (P&R, 2002), from which I took these quotes. (2) Come to district conference to hear Paul Tripp teach on the dangerous calling of local-church ministry.