When the Word Leads Your Pastoral Search
When the Word Leads Your Pastoral Search by Chris Brauns is a unique and interesting book. It is unique because of the subject matter. Brauns tackles the very common and practical topic of how a church should engage in the process of hiring a pastor. As he points out in the book, this is often an awkward and taxing process for everyone involved. In his words, “a pastoral search parallels dating at every stage of the relationship.” This is so true! The fact that Brauns acknowledges the practical awkwardness of this process makes the book pleasantly unique.
This is an interesting book because Brauns deals with reality not with the ideal. Frequently books are written on ministry that only deal with how things work in an ideal context. This is not one of those books. Brauns acknowledges that most churches are not going to have an ideal process in place to find a pastor. Most of this book deals with how these less than ideal situations can use the Bible to move closer to being ideal. A he puts it, “As we prepare to look toward biblical ideals in this book, keep in mind that just as your church is not perfect, neither will any candidate be perfect.”
If I had to sum up the message of this book in three points–which is what preachers do–I would say that the three most helpful emphases in the book are the encouragements to 1) be biblical, 2) be humble, and 3) be practical.
Throughout the book Brauns demonstrates the need to evaluate candidates based on the standards found in the Bible. The previous pastor, the pastor down the street, or the pastor in a Christisan romance novel, are not suitable reference points for finding a new pastor. The bible is the standard by which we evaluate a pastor. Furthermore, Brauns places an appropriately high emphasis on the importance of a candidates dedication and abilities in expository preaching.
Brauns is blunt about the difficulties of serving on a pastoral search committee, and also about the fact that individuals serving on such a committee may or may not be equipped to serve in that capacity. This, among other reasons, is why Brauns strongly encourages committees to seek outside counsel in the process. As he puts it, “It is almost always a good idea to take advantage of the wisdom of people outside your local church. For one thing, they will be able to look at your situation more objectively and advise accordingly. Further, you will be able to take advantage of people who spend far more time thinking biblically about pastoral placement.”
Brauns makes a number of very practical suggestions that would be helpful for anyone trying to think through this process. From questions like “Should we pay the candidates expenses when we do an interview?” to lists of specific questions to ask in an interview, Brauns encourages practical thinking and common sense in the process.
As I read through this book I was struck by how helpful it could be to someone in the midst of this process. I was also reminded of how thankful I am to serve in an elder ruled church where some of the common pitfalls addressed in this book are avoided.