One of my favorite books is Unpacking Forgiveness: Biblical Answers for Complex Questions and Deep Wounds
by Chris Brauns. Brauns is a writer with a sharp theological mind. Combine that with a sharp wit and good writing skills, and you can see why I like his book.
Last year Chris’s new book came out. It’s a book that’s meant to help churches as they look for new pastors. It’s called When the Word Leads Your Pastoral Search: Biblical Principles and Practices to Guide Your Search
. This isn’t just a book for search committees; I’ve found it helpful in my own ministry. In fact, I use it quite heavily in a preaching class that I teach.
Brauns was kind enough to answer some questions I had about his book.
What made you want to write about pastoral transitions?
Even though I knew that it’s a limited market, I wrote a book on pastoral transitions because I believe that the local church is as much God’s plan for this age as the Ark was for Noah’s. Admittedly, because pastors like me shepherd local churches, the local church is a leaky vessel. But it’s the only boat God has in the water at this point in salvation-history and the Lord Jesus Christ is the Head!
Practically speaking, within local churches, the most strategic decision made is the call of a pastor. Of course, I don’t mean that the pastor is more important as a person. But strategically nothing has greater bearing on the future of a local church than the pastor called.
When I began to review the resources that are available (and I have a list of recommended resources in the book), most of them were written from more of a procedural or management point of view rather than a biblical one. Those resources are needed, but we also need one that builds a biblical foundation.
I know I am rambling a little, but I would encourage readers to stop and think about the importance of pastors even in reading this post. Given that I’m a pastor, it’s good for me to think about the importance of the pastoral call even in writing it. I need only think about recent days here in my pastorate. In the two weeks before Christmas this year, two ladies in my church were very close to death. One of them survived and on December 23 I was with her at a nursing home where she is coming to grips with the fact that she will probably never live independently again. I met with her, and we talked about the Christmas story, and I prayed with her.
The other lady did not survive and I officiated at her funeral a few days before Christmas. Of course, at the same time, I was preparing sermons, putting together a Christmas Eve service, and thinking about proposed improvements of our church doctrinal statement.
And you know, none of that is too unusual in the life of a church and pastor. I tremble when I think of the responsibility of it all. And churches should tremble at the responsibility of calling a pastor.
Have you had feedback from churches that are using your book?
I have heard from a number of churches that use my book. And I have met with several as well. Churches really like the suggested questions for interviewing. They also appreciate the biblical foundation. I have also heard from churches who appreciate the material available on the web site, http://www.pastorsearchresources.com/.
One piece of constructive feedback that I received from a few people was that I should have been more explicit in the sermon evaluation form about sermons being “gospel-centered.” My thinking in writing it was that if sermons are truly expository, then they will be gospel-centered by definition. Having said that, I think it’s good feedback and if I issue another revision, I will write more about being gospel-centered.
(I also hope to publish a Canadian version of the book which will have suggested questions for interviewing U.S. candidates: What Nova Scotia native stomped on U.S. hearts in the 2010 winter games? How do you determine if you are hanging the flag upside down? Whose fault was the Northeast power grid failure of 2003? When is the 4th of July in Canada? Who is the “great one”? A pastoral candidate could really get in trouble answering that question in Canada. Important stuff like that.)
Your book contains a lot of great material on preaching, which is one of the reasons I think pastors need to read this book. How can congregations benefit from learning about how to evaluate sermons?
All churches want good preaching. The problem is that they don’t necessarily agree about what constitutes good preaching.This quickly leads to churches that are divided about candidates or that gravitate to personality or some other criteria rather than really evaluating if the pastor is preaching biblical sermons. So one of my goals in my book is to lay out what constitutes good preaching along with a suggested evaluation form for evaluating sermons.
I’m a big fan of your writing. Can you tell us a little about what you’re writing next?
I am currently working on a book with Zondervan and the manuscript is due way too soon. The working title of this book is “The Principle of the Rope,” and in it I am focusing on how we are roped together as people. The technical name for the principle of the rope is “solidarity.” The ultimate negative example of the principle of the rope is original sin. When Adam rebelled against God, we were all roped to him. The ultimate positive example of the principle of the rope is union in Christ. But the reality of solidarity also has foundational implications for church, family, state, and our relationship to the created world.